Whose House?

My sister texted me that she would text me again when she was about an hour from finishing up for the day so we could go to dinner at tsunami, a restaurant we checked out a few weeks ago and wanted to go back. I replied that I was already in Annapolis, doing some sightseeing, and to take all the time she needed. She said to just give her a few minutes and we could go to dinner, but we’d have to go back to the house afterward. I forgot what she does for a living and seriously thought, whose house are we going to? She doesn’t know anyone here but me. Cut to two hours later, when we are sitting in the gallery of the Maryland State House, waiting on her bill to pass on third read, which means that next week, she’ll be back, and I’ll be with her in the gallery of the state Senate. She showed me a copy of the bill, and I asked her who wrote it, pointing to the names of the delegates at the top. She said, no, those are just the sponsors of the bill… I wrote most of it myself.

“My baby,” the one whose diapers I changed and older-sister-tortured all through our childhood wrote a bill that just passed the House? I remember when she thought Washington, DC and Washington were close together and wait,  New Mexico is a state?

Lindsay works for a company that has bills working in several state capitals, but right now, the focus is on Annapolis because session ends April 10th. It’s been great to have her close, and really hard when she leaves. As a writer, all I really want to do is follow her around, because she’s a mover and a shaker, though she would never say that about herself. The circles in which she runs are rarefied air, and the cause she works for is extremely worthy. Because she’s not a local, she has lobbyists in all her capitals that tell her the power players she needs to see to get what she wants, and her lobbyist in Maryland is a former state Senate Majority Leader. Internally, I had so many questions, and outwardly, I could barely do better than not tripping over my own feet.

We had to wait a while in the gallery before her bill came up, and the one currently being debated was whether to lift the sanctuary city title from Baltimore. It angered me to no end, because there was no Venn diagram between immigrants and criminals from the Republicans, as if those two terms were interchangeable. The most moving speech was from a liberal Christian (I’m guessing), who quoted the Bible with every passage about welcoming the stranger. It made me ridiculously happy, because as long as I’ve kept up with politics, the Republicans seem to commandeer the Bible, and he showed that the Religious Left is alive and well.

I needed those moments of happiness, because at dinner my sister pulled one of my mother’s scarves out of her enormous purse and said, it still smells like her closet. She handed it to me so I could smell it, too, and there I was, in the middle of one of the hippest restaurants in town, willing tears not to fall and failing miserably. I stopped myself before I went into full-on ugly cry, and felt lucky that I was wearing my glasses and the lights were low. I put my head close to my ramen bowl, a necessity for using chopsticks and hiding my face, the steam working on my sinuses so my face could go back to normal. It’s moments like these that make it so hard to watch her leave, because who else would be able to move me in such a way?

We both wear jewelry that has my mother’s fingerprint, ordered from the funeral home. Though I’ve had several people tell me it’s kind of creepy (because they focus on how said fingerprint was acquired), I wear an ichthus necklace, and she has her heart necklace wrapped around her wrist like a bracelet. We never take them off.

The icthus originated in the Roman Empire, where the Jews of the new church were persecuted and then prosecuted, often thrown in jail or swiftly executed. They had to have a symbol that meant nothing to the Romans and everything to them. One Jew would put a curve in the ground with their foot, and if the other person was a follower of Jesus, would answer with another curve crossing the first so that it came out looking like a fish (taken from Jesus’ words of fishing for men, I assume).

I prefer it over the cross, because I choose to focus on the way Jesus lived, as opposed to the way he died… the conservative idea of the sticky, sticky blood. As an aside, the worst theology I think I’ve ever heard is a hymn that begins there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins…. and later, sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. Though I know it is a fundamental tenant of Catholicism, transubstantiation grosses me out.

So for me, the icthus is not only something I wear around my neck, but have tattooed on my back as well, with the Hebrew letters for YHWH on the inside. Two funny things about that. The first is that I didn’t consider that it was against Talmudic law to a) get a tattoo ii) especially with Hebrew letters. The second is that I always joke that if I ever lose my faith, I can always black out the letters and add feet.

I don’t see that happening, though. Because I live in two houses, God and state. One gives strength to the other. The former gives me the ability to affect change in the latter…. one phone call, one visit, one step forward at a time.



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