Running for mother at Häagen-Dazs

I have a distinct memory of the first time I visited Häagen-Dazs as a child. I was in third grade, and I had a friend whose parents were rich. He lived in a house that I considered a mansion, and his life was very different from mine. (I remember him talking to me about his family’s recent trip to Egypt. He told me, probably not intentionally trying to sound like a snob, but merely repeating something he had overheard one of his parents saying, “We flew first class. It’s the only way to travel,” and I replied, confused about why he had thought to mention this fact, “Well, if there aren’t any other options, then of course you did.”) He knew about this magical place that served the best ice cream in the world, only it had some strange unpronounceable name that I thought sounded vaguely like a pig—and therefore rather appropriate as a name for ice cream, I guess—until I saw it emblazoned on the storefront.

I was there only because I had been invited to spend the weekend at his house, and his family decided to go for ice cream while I was over. I’m sure, for them, Häagen-Dazs was the only place to get ice cream. I wish I could tell you the exact name of the flavor I ordered and describe its decadence in precise detail, but I have no memory of the ice cream, though I suppose it must have been good, because I remember that he and I were pumped up on sugar and running around. He was jumping up over the benches on the store’s outdoor patio, and I was chasing after him, both of us laughing, when I misjudged and toppled over, landing hard on my chest, which knocked the wind out of me. Feeling unable to breathe, I ran over to his mother, who was engrossed in conversation with a friend. She ignored me as I continued to get dizzier and dizzier until, fearing I would fall, I lay down on the ground beside her feet.

She finally looked down at me, her face completely blank as she regarded me for a full second, then she turned back to her friend, scowled meaningfully with one upraised eyebrow, and continued her conversation. It took me another fifteen seconds or so to realize that was it. In the life of a child, fifteen seconds is also long enough to regain your breath and to realize that you aren’t, in fact, going to die, and the pain and fear that seemed unbearable only moments before is actually quite tolerable, maybe even gone completely. The other pain, though, the surprising pain of being completely ignored and uncared for, even as insignificant as it was against the larger backdrop of my youth, that pain stayed with me for years after that experience, and it took me far longer to understand.

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Wasting time with proof

I was talking with a Mormon I had met only that day. This was late December of last year, and my mother had asked me to meet with him because he was fairly knowledgeable about some of the problems with early Mormon church history and she was hoping that he’d be able to address some of my concerns about the veracity of the truth claims of the church. After all, she reasoned, if he knew some of the same facts that I did, but he still believed in the church, maybe I could find a way to return to faith as well.

We talked for quite some time; about three hours if I recall correctly. At one point I stated that I had started the wrong way round: I had tried first to determine if Mormonism was true when it would have been an easier process if I had instead asked if there was even a god. I explained that I had considered myself agnostic, but was beginning to identify more and more with the atheist label. When he heard that, he responded, “Wow. You have more faith than I do.” His point was, I think, that it would be just as difficult for me to disprove god’s existence as it would be for him to prove it, and that when anyone settled on the question of god’s existence, they were adopting a position where they take their desire for the result as the premise from which they begin their arguments. I remembered that in the preceding months I had also been frustrated with this idea of the fruitlessness of trying to prove or disprove god. Until I realized that it didn’t matter to me that it couldn’t be proved either way; at some point I finally understood that I simply couldn’t be bothered with the question.

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Among tooth fairies

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter a few days ago. I had asked her if anything fun was going on in her life recently. She didn’t need much impetus. She has a lively sense of humor and loves to share things that seem funny or whimsical to her. She told me the story of how she had recently lost a tooth. She told me she was slightly worried that it wasn’t a baby tooth, because she hadn’t noticed it getting loose. Instead, she noticed a small pain in her mouth, and when she explored the source, her tooth came out in her fingers.

She told me how she had given the tooth to her mother, but that her mother had lost it. “It’s okay, though,” she told me. “Mom gave me a dollar for it anyway.” Then she got a serious look on her face as she asked her next question. “Dad, what do you think Mom does with the teeth?” I wasn’t quite sure how honest I was supposed to be, so I asked if normally the tooth fairy doesn’t take them away. “Dad!” she said, her eyes lighting up with the pride of being among those in the know. “I already know about the tooth fairy!”

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One god further

There is a certain sense of safety, security, and comfort that those who believe in a loving God retain in their lives even amid great change and uncertainty. Just knowing that God is there, that He is aware of you, that He loves you, and that He knows the trials and tribulations you are currently facing will ultimately prove to have been for your good … how can that not help you face whatever comes with anything but hope and optimism and added strength? And conversely, how can you face even small difficulties in life if you lack the conviction that it all means something, that it will all work out in the end, that somehow God will even the score, even if it has to wait until the next life? That’s one of the more difficult questions that I’m asked, and because of everything that I’ve lost when I lost my belief in God, this has left the biggest hole and I still find myself mourning it from time to time.

Yet I have found a place I’m comfortable with. Perhaps it’s not quite Abraham’s bosom. Perhaps it’s not even the location of my final destination in my relationship with deity. But it’s a place that I’m comfortable with today, from which I can face each new day that comes with a sense of optimism and hope. At least for now, it’s my view of Life, the Universe, and Everything. If you’ve got a few minutes, I’d love to share it with you.

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