Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; when it sits out a few hours, good and cold, and you grab a mouthful and hold it there on the back of your tongue, it tastes real good; new pair of shoes.
I spoke with a middle-aged lady in a denim dress with black cropped hair. She had teacher’s glasses, or maybe librarian’s. Her posture was prime. Her figure was a stick. I asked her if she’d had a nice Halloween.
“Oh,” she says, “We don’t do that. We celebrate Reformation Day.”
And we looked each other dead-on and it was awkward for a sec.
2018 doesn’t teach you how to talk to people. Sure, there’s lots of communication – texts, message boards, the meet-up you do every other Wednesday at the pool bar – but there’s no art to flapping your lips at the familiar. We’ve gotten so good at finding the like-minded to give our time that we’re blindsided when someone with different views comes along. In some ways, I imagine it’s always been so. People are tribal. You stick to your tribe. But I also think that old cave-carving tradition of huddling around a fire and waving sticks at whoever approaches is comically sad.
So I said: “Oh yeah? I’m not familiar. What’s involved with Reformation Day?”
Stick lady lit up. You could tell she was gearing for a fight and this was something other. Her little lips went northward and I watched those glasses bob. Pretty soon, though, she straightened herself and started talking: “Well, it has to do with Martin Luther.”
This much I had gathered. What I hadn’t, though, is that she sits the whole family down in a warm den. There’s a movie on, something Christian, and her husband watches with the kids while she gets things ready. In the kitchen, she’s working a special kind of magic. She files a pretzel to a mock stake ‘like so,’ bakes a big sheet of rice krispy treats, and carefully writes out Luther’s Theses in sweet syrup. When it’s done, they pause the movie and share the meal and talk about a radical faith that’s far removed from anything I believe, but they talk about it earnestly.
When they’re done, it’s another night in bed, another morning, and here we are together, me and her, having had two separate celebrations but sharing the same air, the same blood, the same label of ‘America’ with all it’s horrors and glories.
I thanked her for the story. She started walking. When she was almost out the door, I said “Happy Reformation Day.”
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker
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“What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and work flow.” – Martin Luther