I was just brought to tears by a gospel choir singing at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday celebration.
I am not religious. I don’t believe in any higher power, I am a strict adherent of the tenets of science. I am an all-American mutt – though my origins are largely northern/eastern European (pale, blonde, protestant). So I don’t have a cultural well-spring, a source of rituals or philosophies that provides a thread back through my genealogy. In fact, my personal history is one of avoiding repetition and tradition as much as possible (much to the kids’ annoyance). I hate taking the same route between two points twice. I can’t conceive of the idea of every Friday being spaghetti night, or joining a bowling league that meets regularly. My mantra is spontaneity. The closest I come to participating in tradition or pattern is that our Thanksgiving meal is always centered on a timpano – and that is only because the kids have insisted on it.
Today, listening to the gospel choir singing gorgeously in praise of their god, or watching and hearing the Ho-Chunk Nation dancers moving to the drumbeat of their ancestors, I felt a sense of bereftness, that there is a hole in my life where pageantry and cultural connectivity should be. My people are individualists, lone rangers, stoic self-contained workaholics. I’ve never experienced being one of many, seeing myself as a part of a whole rather than whole unto myself.
Saturday morning, after the dog park, D & I hit up Mickey’s Tavern for a brunch feed. Sitting at the bar, wedged amongst the obvious regulars, I felt the need for both ritual and group — for a gang with whom I spend every Saturday at Mickey’s, drinking screwdrivers and bloody marys and noshing on waffles. I wanted desperately to be a Mickey’s regular, known by name and favorite beverage to the staff and patrons. This is my culture, these are my people. (OK, admittedly sad that I relate best to morning drinking bar culture, but I have lived in Wisconsin the majority of my life…)
I swayed and clapped and stomped my feet today, feeling like a goofy, unrhythmic white girl, but doing it just the same. For an hour, I felt like I belonged. Maybe belonging isn’t so bad, maybe traditions and habits are ok to cultivate. Maybe I’ll be at Mickey’s on Saturday morning, greeting the bartender and smiling at the other patrons, starting to feel at home.