Today Mihiretu was rummaging through our dresser and pulled out the little pink satin box that contains my dad's wedding ring and dog tags.
Mae, Mihiretu and I sat on the living-room floor surveying the treasures as I attempted to explain to Mihiretu that Grandpa Paul (who died long before any of the kids were alive) was my daddy.
I'd say, "Mommy's daddy", holding up the ring, and he'd say, trying to fit it on my thumb, "No, my daddy." I couldn't quite convey that I wasn't trying to lay claim to Ben as my father. You don't want to get in the way of Mihiretu and his daddy. The idea that there is more than one daddy in the world is incomprehensible.
Mae was studying the dog tags. Printed on them were my dad's name, social security number, AF for Air Force, his blood type and "no religious preference".
Mae proclaimed triumphantly, "I have a religious preference!"
Inwardly, I groaned. Someone, somewhere, it seemed, had been proselytizing. Ben's parents (they number four when you include steps) are all church-goers. Sometimes the kids go along. Hell, sometimes I go along and their brands of religion, live and let live, inclusive versions, are, for a girl like me who grew up with science revered in the place of god, accessible. I'm often struck teary, which admittedly, isn't a reaction that's very hard to elicit from me. But the gatherings of these people, who sit quietly and search together to answer the questions and needs of their souls, it's touching. Ben's folks aren't into recruiting others into their way of thinking. But there's a whole world out there of people who are passionate about their religion, so who knows what's penetrated my girls' heads.
"What", I asked, dreading the answer, "is your religious preference, Mae?"
Proudly she proclaimed, "Puppy stickers!"
Turned out someone at school was really into puppy stickers and had converted Mae, at least in concept. Mae has no real affinity for puppies or stickers.
"Lana has a religious preference," she informed me.
I carefully returned the ring to the box. "What's that?" I asked.
"She's Christian," she said, twirling the dog-tags nonchalantly.
Somehow that made sense. I fear that Lana might be the Alex Keaton of our household. While the rest of us are loose and lean to the left, Lana loves the rules. Mae quit Daisies, the pre-Brownie Girl Scout program, after two meetings. I, too, flunked out of Brownies as a kid. As much of an overachieving student I was, the rules of that organization (and most organizations) tend to awake the anarchist within me. Lana started Daisies at the beginning of the school year and couldn't be more content. She collects her patches, sells her cookies, recites her pledge. She's all over it. It's not hard to envision her as a sorority girl and even beyond that, a card carrying Republican. I love that girl like crazy and if that's her destiny, so be it. But the fact that she's interested in Christianity without much prompting, with parents who are somewhat profane, is not surprising. A whole set of rules to memorize and repeat? A Lana dream.
"Yeah, well," I said to Mae, telling her nothing new, "I'm probably more of a puppy sticker person than a Christian."
"Hmm, yeah," she mused, carefully placing the dog tags back in the box. Then, dreamily, with a sigh, "Puppy stickers."