We had a pot luck dinner tonight just to do it. We usually have a pot luck the last Sunday of every month. In addition, we used it as a surprise birthday party for Brenda, one of our church's leaders. We have maybe a dozen people in my church at the most, including the children.
Mike cooked burgers downstairs in the courtyard of Brenda's landlady. The place where we have church is a loft apartment in the French Quarter on the tail end of Bourbon Street. We had potato salad that Brenda's daughter Maggie (who is 19 and now 3 months pregnant) made, along with German chocolate cake and some chocolate ice cream that Maggie's husband, Dale made from scratch. Sheri and I, the two single women in the church, are required to only make condiments. I'm not sure why, aside from that fact that it may be known we do not make a lot of money, but I am sure it has something to do with the fact that her and I both live alone and have only one window unit A/C each, something that always gets pity.
Billy, Brenda's husband, got new additions to the tattooed sleeves on his arms while they were on vacation in Illinois, where they are from. Now his arms are pretty much filled in. Dale and Maggie went with them and Dale got an awsome chest piece as well as some new work on his upper arms. Maggie had shaved her head before they left, so she was delighted that I had shaved mine, so she wouldn't be the only one people make fun of.
Dale playfully asks his father-in-law Billy if he would like some ice cream. Billy is diabetic and can't have any, and we all take turns eating our ice cream with excessive appreciation in front of him. Diana's younger son, Eli, bounces on my lap quietly. Diana and her husband Billy have two boys; since he's been apprenticing at a tattoo parlor himself, they've both been sprouting new tattoos, one in Billy he did on himself, the shaved spot on his calf only now beginning to grow back.
I brought the newest issue of AdBusters with me because I knew Reed would want to borrow it. We discussed TV in classrooms, and once we got our plates filled, we got into a conversation about Hepatitis C and tattoo shops. Mike's wife, Terri, suffers from severe vertigo resulting from a damaged nerve in her ear; before we eat, we all circle around her in prayer on the spot, dabbing her forehead with a drop of oil in anointing as she grips the puke bucket she has to take with her everywhere these days.
Conversations string across one another in the room like a loom, through elbows of standing mothers or a nursing baby's covered head. We talk about the odd placement of A/C units in our apartments, a crack in the wall that Brenda's landlady is consulting Mike about, since he's a carpenter. Brian, a drummer, chats with Reed about his recent trip abroad to France. Dale and I talk about rotten.com and Def Leppard. We take turns poking fun at Maggie for forgetting to buy cheese for the hamburgers. I call her mother a blonde in jest for not realizing that this surprise birthday had been in the works for a month, and she laughs along.
This is my church, and it rocks. I can tell these people anything and nothing can shock them. They've seen it all, been through it all, and do not judge but accept me warmly, always asking me to come back, to be sure to make it to Wednesday night for women's fellowship, complete with tea and cookies. They are tattooed and pierced freaks that no one can make sense of, but they are real people. And I wouldn't want church any other way. Would you?