Monday, July 22, 2013
Readers of this blog will understand my surprise when, on a recent visit to my parents' house, I went to check on the Multiple Marys tableau in what was once my childhood bedroom and found neither hide nor, uh, habit of them. Nothing. In their place were a few additional Jesus figures I hadn't seen before, flanked by a proportionately Godzilla-sized ceramic dachshund.
"What did you do with the Marys?" I immediately questioned my sister, brother, mom and dad, who were seated line-up style in the livingroom. Silence. They shook their heads like they had no idea what I was talking about.
"And they weren't Marys anyway--they were Saint Theresas," I told them. The only reason I knew that was because I was gently corrected by a friend when I posted the photo on Facebook. She, clearly having paid way better attention in Catholic school than I had, knew that Saint Theresa was often depicted with flowers, which were (I think) miraculously transformed from a loaf of bread she kept under her cloak (I think the word is scapular, but no--that sounds like something you put in your mouth when they take dental X-rays). I did a search but couldn't find a reference to the loaf of bread anywhere, but that's a handy party trick indeed, especially if you forgot to pick up something on the way.
(I know--that's probably totally sacrilegious and I'll have to, like, buy a 10-pack of indulgences to make up for it.)
In any case, I soon teased out that another of my sisters had likely removed the St.Theresas when she was preparing the room for visitors the weekend before. I looked around, but couldn't find where she stashed them, or what inspired the new installation shown in the photo above--Christ on the cross sandwiched in between 2 large chickens made out of tiny shells. I took some artistic license actually, and left out the outermost figures (Hummel figurines, one the "Chimney Sweep") on either side of the chickens and--though I'm not sure there this was intentionally part of the grouping, but they were symmetrically placed at far left and far right--two white Thermos bottles.
I'm pretty sure my sister didn't mean it this way because she makes a lot of fried chicken, but I immediately interpreted this particular grouping as a statement about the suffering of birds in factory farms. When I was about 5 or 6, we'd often pass by a duck farm in Southampton and I was thrilled whenever we drove that way--I GOT TO SEE DUCKS!!!--until the day I figured out why they were there. They were going to die because people were going to eat them. I can still remember sitting in the back of the car (a burgundy Cutlass Supreme) and my heart expanding and breaking and then closing as the scene I'd always looked forward to turned into something… undoubtedly, all-the-way, no-going-back bad.
It took me years to fully make the connection between my ducks and my, or anyone's, decision of what to eat. I'm not sure exactly when I learned that people could be vegetarian or not eat Spaghetti-Os or whatever. I'm pretty sure I thought everyone everywhere (mostly) ate the same things (except at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, where THEY FREAKIN' SAILED DOWN A DRINKABLE CHOCOLATE RIVER!). When I finally figured out it was indeed possible to be a person who doesn't eat ducks, it wasn't really any earth-shattering discovery--more like I'd already decided long ago in the Cutlass Supreme, only I hadn't really known what I was deciding.
And what about my old room and the Two Chickens for Jesus? The only thing that remains of me in the room is the Woody Allen switchplate, which is hidden behind a desk. It looks like someone tried to remove it, but those screws aren't going anywhere unless they rip the whole thing out of the wall. And incidentally, one of my favorite articles I ever wrote was about a therapy chicken named Ruby who worked with traumatized kids. She did get a special award and flew to New York (on a plane, of course) to receive it, but I wanted to honor her here.
For you, girl, and for my ducks too: a musical composition that sometimes takes a short flight and then settles in, and this art installation of great tho inadvertent import. And the chicken equivalent of a river of drinkable chocolate, though I'm not sure what that would be.