By Bernadette Chlebeck
I grew up in a Catholic family where prayers were said before each meal. It was a rote memorized prayer. Words came out of my month but never paid any attention to what I was saying. If put on the spot I could not say the prayer on my own but if I am around that family table and someone starts that prayer the Pavlov effect takes over me and the words come out in perfect order.
As years went by and my siblings and I grew up, moved around the country, and started our own families traditions changed, and eventually we stopped getting together for Thanksgiving. My thanksgiving became just me and my two wonderful children. I hung on the many of the same traditions of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie, and an L-tryptophan induced coma followed by a movie and days and days of leftovers.
The only notable thing I stopped doing was the prayer. Instead of thanking a god for the food, the cooks were thanked for preparing the meal, and the human dishwasher thanked for cleaning up our mess. We were grateful for the simple things of having a roof over our heads, the means to buy food, clothes on our back. We were never wealthy but we always found the means to meet the basics and sometimes little bit more. It was my house and it was my rules. It worked for us, and we were happy keeping it simple.
Years have gone by and with time traditions are changing again. My oldest son has moved out and started a family and lives far away. I met a wonderful man and this last year we decided to we wanted a life together and made a commitment that will eventually mean getting legally married. Anyone who is in a committed relationship knows, you don’t just marry the person, you marry the family.
This year there will be no smell of turkey and pie cooking in my kitchen. Instead, back to hitting the road, getting together with family, and the dreaded prayer. I will have to listen them thank their god for the meal, as if it was magic that cooked the turkey to a perfect golden brown juicy slices of deliciousness, and not my partner.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy all of them as people and their company in many ways. We have kids the same age, enjoy doing crafts together, and playing cards. The part I am not looking forward to is deciding if I should just join in the prayer and play along to get along. Or just say no to joining the prayer and possibly putting my partner in a position where he has to defend me or his family.
I am sure I am not the only atheist who has to deal with this issue. If you are an atheist who has had to deal with this I would like to hear your story. Whether it was a good outcome or a less than pleasant outcome by sharing our stories we will feel less alone in setting boundaries on what family religious traditions we do not want to participate.