Here’s a vivid summer memory — and it comes to me courtesy of my dear old friend Sarah in New York, who posted this picture on Facebook not too long ago. Below is the very beach on Long Island where my older brother and I would park in the early 1980’s when we were supposed to be at church on Sunday morning.
We would eat Entenmann’s donuts and we would listen to WBLI on the radio. (If you are from Suffolk County, you can’t not hear the chipper WBLI jingle every time you read those four letters.) If memory serves, the station played Casey Kasem’s countdown on Sunday mornings.
I was pretty young, and I was awed that my brother deemed me cool enough and trustworthy enough to conspire with him in playing hooky from the service. I was fully complicit, too. It was my job to run in and out of the church quickly before the service started, in order to grab the Sunday bulletin, with which my mother had instructed us to return every week.
The first time I colluded with my brother this way, I overdid it a little. Upon our return and gave my mom a lot of unrequested detail about the priest’s sermon, and what it had meant to be. My brother later pulled me aside in the room we shared, and gave me some sage coaching: “You don’t need to make up a whole big story.” That was the first time in my life that I learned not to over-embellish a lie.
You see that? You can learn a lot from a religious upbringing.