giddyup pardner, at the ol’ Ranch of JC

“Abraham had lots of sons, lots of sons, and we are some – so let’s just praise the Lord!”

I’m standing here with my hands on my little girl’s shoulders watching the enthusiastic songleading by the children’s church leader. She pumps her arms and marches back in front of the group of standing, singing children, making winking eye contact with each child here in the fellowship hall. I’ve been to a handful of Protestant churches and now know these women all have strong (if sometimes strident) singing voices and are always on key in a a gospelly ass-busting way. They can usually play guitar as well, better than your average folk strummer. I am sort of dazed that I am here. I didn’t actually think I would be dropping off my girl at Vacation Bible School. I imagine the 21-year old me looking in at this scene, my life, with either a horrified or smarmy expression on her face. The whole scene: two kids, family van, and now this church camp which resembles something from a movie making fun of church camp.

To be fair, all the children here look like they’re having a great time. The church is sparkling clean, the nametags carefully printed and laminated (“Welcome to the Circle G Ranch!”), and there are several adults here who genuinely look happy to be putting on this event for the kids. Five days this week, 2 1/2 hours a day. Full on hours of dried macaroni art and Jesus indoctrination. Never mind that I actually believe in Jesus. Years of fostering anti-church sentiments has made it hard for me to trust a church, especially left alone with my child.

My daughter sits next to Louise, one of the older helpers, and watches the singing. She (my daughter) has loved going to church since being an infant (well, I guess I first took her while she was still a fetus). I know she’s going to have a better time here than helping me stack cloth diapers and hold her brother’s sticky hand while I grocery shop. Still, she’s the smallest girl there and her little legs in her little shorts dangle off the metal chair. She strokes her new nametag and leans against Louise, who she met only ten minutes ago. I afford one last raw-eyed glance at her enrapt, cautious face. Then I whisk out the door, on my way to The Boy who is squalling-pissed, needing his morning nap.

I guess it’s just time to – as Margaret Cho says – Let Go and Let God.

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