I’m trying something new. I have been working on a few longer personal essays, writing out stories from my youth. In addition to writing them out, I’ll also be recording them for my podcast as part of my goal to release one piece of audio a week for a whole year. Below is the first piece which chronicles my history with religion. You can either read it or use the player to listen to me read it. You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or by using this feed. There are a few little differences between the text and audio, but for the most part they are exactly the same. Either way you decide to partake, enjoy! And thanks so much for checking it out!
The Ouija Board Incident
By Grant Baciocco
I almost never talk about religion to other people. I feel that what a person believes is their own personal thing and should not be a topic of discussion, either positively or negatively. What people believe is their own thing.
Having said all that, I’m going to talk about my beliefs or, at least, a defining moment in my beliefs.
When I started school I was enrolled in St. Dunstan’s elementary in Millbrae, CA. A catholic school. There was no long decision that was being made, from the moment I was born I was baptized and I was going to catholic school. That was it. This was not something that my parents decided, though my father had been brought up that way. This was because when I was born I was the first great grandchild. I was number 1. And the prevailing thought of the grandparents and great grandparents (especially on my fathers side of the family) was that I’d be brought up catholic. Period. End of story.
I don’t have any strong opinions one way or another about my time in catholic school. Going to church was part of our routine but I didn’t care one way or another about it. I went to church, did my religious schoolwork in school. I was even an altar boy a few times, but I never had a real strong belief in any of the stuff I was learning. It was just what I had to learn.
Right before 5th grade we moved one town over from where we had been living. It was decided that I would go to at dunstans for one more year but then move to public school for 6th grade. Even though o was doing this, I would have to go to CCD or catechism one night a week once I hit that point to get all the religious learning I would be missing.
The meetings were once a week down in the lower Flatts of Burlingame. I was pleasantly surprised to find several people I knew were also taking the classes. Made things a little easier. I had thought I’d be going in knowing no one. The couple who taught the classes were nice enough. I don’t remember much about them. I believe they were in their 50s, though my youth may have inflated their ages. They held classes in the downstairs family recreation room.
We sat on a couch or one of the chairs in the room and they sat across from us. I believe there were only five of us taking the class. Anyway, they were preparing us for our confirmation and they’d teach for an hour or so and then we’d get a break to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. It was during one of these breaks that the indictment would happen.
We were standing around talking about board games, inspired by the stack of board games in the rec room the classes were held in. As we talked about different games I asked, “Have you ever played with an Ouija board?”
It was an innocent enough question. My family had one at our cabin and despite my interest, I’d never played or even knew what it was supposed to do because every time I brought it up I was told that a piece was missing and we couldn’t. I understood it was vaguely “spooky” but I legitimately had no idea what it was. So I asked if anyone had played with one.
Before any of my friends could answer, the male of the two teachers erupted!
“No!” He shouted. “You must never play with an Ouija board. It is the direct gateway to hell! If you play with it you are condemning youself to hell.”
He was angry. He was serious. We fell silent and then re gathered for the remainder of class, the teacher clearly perturbed that the game had even been brought up.
That moment though really stuck with me and for the rest of the class I wasn’t thinking about whatever it was the couple was eating, I was thinking, “Does a game really have the capability to send you straight to hell?” And, “Would Milton Bradley make a game that’s capable of doing that?” Even in sixth grade, I was pretty sure that that was just a silly notion.
This one event, way back then, made me start questioning religion or at least the religion I had been studying up to that point because it all seemed so silly to me. TO have such a hatred, against a board game sold in toy stores. This did not end my relationship with religion though. Later in High School I started going to a Presbeteryian Church youth group. Yes, because a really cute girl was going, but after several visits, I really liked it. People were goofy and there was lots of laughter. And there was music! Good music! It was all a huge departure from the stuffy church and catholic school I’d been going to in the past. It was fun. It was something you wanted to be a part of. I never went to any of the services at that church, but I did like going to that youth group and I would go just about every sunday night for a year or so.
One thing I remember from this time period was one of the Sunday nights the youth group had a performance by a band called The Basics. They were a three member, folk act. I believe a husband and wife and then another guy, I’m not quite sure of the instrumentation. But they were pretty good even if their music had a lot of lyrics about Him with a capitol H. I played that tape often and knew all the words. I’m sure I still have it somewhere. A quick search of the internet doesn’t pull up any current info about The Basics. It looks like they may have disbanded and the husband and wife separated. I’ll have to dig out that tape and see if I still remember the words as well as I used to.
I graduated high school and went to college. Religion pretty much faded from my life thought for a short peopriod of time, I found I couldn’t go to sleep without saying some sort of bedtime prayer. Perhaps this was the ‘catholic guilt’ I hear people talk of. But it seemed that if I said these prayers, I fell asleep quicker, maybe because it eased my mind?
It was just a quick, “Thank you for everything, Watch over Mom, Dad, my brother and anyone else who may be in my thoughts” type of thing but I pretty much did it every night.
Since college and being out in the world that has faded away. I will label myself as an Atheist, but will still have pangs of the ‘catholic guilt’ from time to time. Nowadays I’d like to think that spending time creating stuff to put out ito the world, “good stuff’ like Uncle Interloper videos and things like that, is my modern day version of going to church. Of being spiritual.
I’m sure the guy in the rec room who yelled at us for even mentioning the Ouija board would say that it’s God who’s giving me all that creativity and I should be praying to him. But I’d like to think that if there is a God, He/She/It would be cool with me trying to brighten the world in some way rather than spending an hour in church.
©2015 Grant Baciocco