Millie's husband, John, hasn't been well. So it wasn't a surprise she sounded so tired when she called. Still, it's hard not to feel as I do now: They are the best friends I've had in a long, long time.
On the other hand, I had a great time yesterday with some new friends. I met Suzanne and Deborah at a church I began to attend in March. They live a few neighborhoods away, in Queens. Suzanne was raised Catholic, as I was, but Deborah is Jewish. Still, she attends the church: From what she tells me, she observes the traditions and treasures the culture she inherited, but likes the inclusiveness of the church we attend.
It just happens that Hanukkah began on Thanksgiving Day. So Suzanne and Deborah combined the celebrations. It never would have occurred to me to have borscht and latkes with a turkey dinner. Then again, I wasn't surprised to learn that they actually go well together. After all, the borscht--which Suzanne and Deborah made from scratch, as they did with everything else they served--is a soup of beets and cabbage, and latkes are, as everyone knows, potato pancakes. So of course they go with cranberries, pumpkin and corn.
And the people seemed to mix even more easily. Suzanne's nonagenarian father, her brother and friends--and those of Debroah's--shared food and conversation with us, and two other people from the church.
All right, I know: I waited a few months to say anything about church. I guess I'm still wrapping my head around the idea that I go to one--volutarily, no less. For a long time, I swore I would never attend any house of worship, or be part of any organized religion, ever again. I kept that promise for a long time, even in the face of suggestions, prodding and outright pressure from various co-workers, friends and family members.
I don't think I'll ever believe everything any church or other religious organization teaches. But somehow it seems oddly right for me--at least, the one I've been attending. I'm not one of those people who, in her old age, ponders her mortality and heads for the pews. Actually, even when I didn't believe in any sort of supreme being--or, at least the ones I'd heard of--I knew myself to be spiritual. In fact, I did my gender transition and reassignment surgery for spiritual reasons: I am a female spirit; I wasn't merely a man who wanted to be a woman. (Most such men wouldn't even think of doing what I've done.) And, I did a bit of church-surfing--without, of course, telling anyone what I was doing--before someone suggested I go to the one I've been attending: St. Luke in the Fields, in Manhattan.
Here's another irony: the person who suggested St. Luke's is one of the last people in the world I expected to do so. He heard about it from a friend of his; he himself has never been a church-goer. Well, I suppose that might be a lesson: The spirit does not always proceed by logic, even if it makes perfect sense in the end. I guess that's the reason why you can't solve questions of faith with science any more than you can solve questions of science with faith.
But I digress. If nothing else, I am thankful that I have old friends and am making new ones, and finding, perhaps, a community. That, I suspect, is more important than my beliefs (such as they are) align with those of other people or an institution.