Even as a number of strong women make mighty strides on the national political scene, my own modest nod to feminism occurred two weeks ago when I was tapped to be an usher in a church not particularly known for its gender parity.
This comes at a time when I have no income, no career and almost no savings, thanks to some faulty financial decisions I made years ago when I was president of a ladies’ investment club and stupidly thought I understood the stock market. I did recently renew my driver’s license, but that was hardly an empowering experience.
“Congratulations, Mom,” said my elder son, with a snicker. “You’ve shattered the stained-glass ceiling.”
What prompted my new responsibility was that my husband, Fred, who once likened his basketball-playing to Magic Johnson’s and now imagines that his voice echoes Johnny Cash’s, signed up for the choir. Since he’d been serving as an usher, he needed to find a replacement and I’m nothing if not servile.
When I shadowed him to learn the basics of basket-collection, I got so many inquisitive stares that I soon shortened my whispered explanation, “Usher-in-Training” to a wink and a succinct, “UIT,’ which I realized in retrospect may actually have sounded like a birth-control device.
Fred rehearsed for his new role by singing Christmas carols to our 7-month-old granddaughter, who’s likely to be the least critical audience he’ll ever face. But during his rendition of “Away in a Manger,” he took some liberties with the lyrics that I felt compelled to correct.
“It’s supposed to be ‘Stay by my cradle ’til morning is nigh,’ not ‘night,’ ” I said.
Fred didn’t buy it. He said, “Are you sure? Because morning later becomes night, you know.”
I suggested he try “We Three Kings” instead, but he got the royals’ action wrong, too.
“No, the kings follow the star across field and fountain, moor and mountain. They aren’t “moving mountains,’ ” I said.
“Well, faith can do that — move mountains,” countered Fred with the kind of confidence perhaps only possessed by those who aren’t afraid to sing in public, “and anyway, I’ll have a song sheet to read.
“Don’t worry about me, Missy, you just concentrate on being an usher.”
Since I am already accustomed to picking up others’ discarded Kleenex, turning off lights and setting out new candles, I think I can master ushering. But can I contain my mirth when, from my higher-visibility post standing at the rear of the church, the choir sings “What Child Is This” and I hear falsetto Fred proclaim, “Haste, haste to bring him lard, the babe, the son of the Mary?’ ”
E-mail Jan Galletta at firstname.lastname@example.org