Unlike last Easter, Paloma and I opted for a more traditional take on the holiday this year – I’d promised we could go shopping for some plants and flowers.
As the late morning sky resembled that from the opening credits of The Simpsons, we decided to head out into the countryside and, forty-five minutes later, she was loading up a cart at a lawn and garden store.
Checking out, Paloma made polite conversation with the clerk. As it was roughly noon on Easter, she asked if things had been slow.
The clerk replied that, actually, quite the opposite was true. “Guess people ‘round here don’t go to church on Easter Sunday.”
His eye contact conveyed disapproval and his tone had enough accusation in it for me to, momentarily, consider telling him that we were Muslim were late for the call to prayer.
However, as “’round here” was Sticksville, I suspected such a comment might have brought Homeland Security into the mix. Paloma had promised me KFC for lunch, so, obviously, that would have been an inconvenience.
When I was in third grade, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was only about half a dozen years removed from being known as Lew Alcindor. As Larry Bird and Magic Johnson wouldn’t really bring the NBA onto my radar for several years, I doubt that I knew Abdul-Jabbar by any name.
(I was surprised that both Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lew Alcindor passed spell check – what a glorious time to be alive)
As a nine-year old who was being raised Catholic in a small Midwestern town, I doubt I’d heard of Islam, either, until reading an article on Abdul-Jabbar in some magazine (probably Sports Illustrated).
The piece made me aware of the greatness of Abdul-Jabbar and it served as a foreshadowing of the future.
After several days of letting the subject slosh around in my nine-year old brain, I decided to take up the matter in religion class with Sister Jonette.
“Sister Jonette, we’re Catholic and believe in God, yes?”
So far, so good.
“And some people are Muslim and they believe in Allah, right?”
I was suddenly sailing into unfavorable waters.
“So, how do we know that we’re not praying to the same god? Or, what if we’ve got the wrong one?”
Sister Jonette had to be eighty-years old. She was of the ruler-wielding generation of nuns. She was not really of the demographic to take into account that I was quite honestly curious about a topic that would prove to be vexing to a lot of folks down the road.
I tried to throw Kareem under the bus as the source of my curiosity.
As I shuffled off to the principal’s office, I was no closer to having a grasp on spirituality, but I had learned a valuable lesson regarding religion.