IMR: 1999: January: 17 — Sunday, 9:24 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawaii

The problem with lucking out and getting classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays is that Monday and Friday holidays -- usually great because they make three-day weekends -- suddenly don't change much about your weekly routine.

No school tomorrow, in other words, but I wasn't going anyway.

Classes, though... the short version? Despite getting my registration canceled because I didn't pay my tuition on time (again), I still got back into the two I originally had. Journalism 445 (specialized reporting) with Sandra Oshiro of The Honolulu Advertiser and Political Science 310 (introductory statistics) with Harry Bwy. Both are required for my degree, and the fact that didn't also take Hawaiian 302 -- despite my deep love of the language -- is proof that I just might very well have gotten serious about graduating.

With only two class meetings under my belt, I think it's a little early to give my journalism class a thumbs up or thumbs down. On the plus side, we're learning from a practitioner rather than an academic, which has always been my preference (a la Strobel's editing class). On the minus, Oshiro doesn't seem entirely comfortable teaching, and has a hard time talking over the air conditioners in the Crawford Hall Mac lab.

Niranda Chantavy, Isaac Takeuchi, Jamielyn Quisano, Paul Lerman and a few other familiar Ka Leo faces are also in the class. (Squealed Niranda, "You haven't graduated yet?!") I'm not sure, at this point, whether they amount to a positive or negative force. It's been so long, I can't remember who is friends with whom (and since when), and whether or not they want to spit on me.

By contrast, I already know I'll enjoy my stats class. Well, as much as one can enjoy a stats class, which is traditionally the course that causes most journalism majors to spontaneously combust. The professor can only be described as Robin Williams on crack. My fingers go numb trying to type notes for his lectures, but they're a singular experience.

Damn. I'm still not sure if I work tomorrow. I'm probably going to drive downtown at 7:20 a.m., only to find my answer after discovering the elevators are locked.

I skipped out of mopping and shelving at the library yesterday so Jen and I could attend this month's Baptism class at the church down the street.

Though it's a small thing, I'm rather proud that I've finally started remembering the name of the church: Sacred Heart Church. I couldn't make it stick because the school it's attached to is called Maryknoll, while the similarly named Sacred Heart Academy is over on Wai`alae Avenue in Kaimuki. And the only reason I know where that school was is because the academy Judy's alma mater.

(You know, with my universe held together by such tangled, twisted cross-references, I'm amazed I can match socks in the morning. And they're all black.)

The deacon, one Sidney Townsley, is a surprisingly accommodating fellow. Usually the church holds group Baptisms during the regular Mass on the first Sunday of the month. But because Jen's parents will only be in town during the last week of January, he's arranged a special, private ceremony for us on Katie's birthday.

As it turns out, yesterday's session -- attended by three other couples with their own bundles of joy -- was more an expanded version of the preliminary meeting we had with the deacon earlier this month. In addition to presenting a history of the Baptismal rites, the deacon reiterated the importance and significance of our decision. He offered tons of personal insight and reflection, at times breaking out with unusually colorful language for a member of the clergy.

It was educational, to say the least. Concepts like "sacraments" and "apostles" -- terms that merely swirled in the soup of religious voodoo I'd collected in my head -- started to make sense. And Deacon Townsley's down-to-earth manner helped clear away more of the faint haze of nervous skepticism that stubbornly hovers over me.

More importantly, watching Jen interact with him and the other smiling parents really made me appreciate the tenuous yet important sense of belonging the church brought her.

Having moved to Hawai`i from small-town Florida, the "fish out of water" syndrome has been a part of her mindset for as long as I've known her. The differences between us define our marriage more than our similarities, and flabbergasted observations on how the islands differ from the Mainland are a daily occurrence.

But suddenly I was the one that was lost. I watched in awe as Jen bowed her head and crossed herself in perfect sync with everyone else, all at a seemingly invisible signal from the deacon. (I did it four seconds late, using the wrong hand and tapping the points in the wrong order.) She effortlessly spoke the language of the church even after years of being away, and nodded knowingly as everyone shared their church stories.

Here were people who knew the same things she knew when she was growing up. Familiarity, finally, instead of her wacky husband just shrugging and cracking the occasional blasphemous joke.

It was my turn to be completely lost. He'd say something like, "...and we all know what Paul told Jesus' disciples in Rome," and I felt like I was the only person who didn't get the punch line. I cannot begin to describe how relieved I was to discover that one other parent there wasn't a Catholic, and hadn't been baptized.

At least half a dozen times, we were singled out in little footnotes. "This and that and there," the deacon would say, then adding, "But it doesn't apply to you two of course." We kept looking at each other and chuckling, like we were the only kids in class who didn't make the kickball team. While the deacon had a lot of guidance and advice for the certified Catholics in the room, the balance of the instructions for the two of us was, "Support your wives, both in this rite and in keeping close to the church."

And, as surprised as Jen seems to be to hear it, I plan to do just that.

Now, she often asks if I'm disappointed or embarrassed that she's returning to the fold, and I keep telling her emphatically that I'm not. She keeps fearing that my relatives will think it's weird or just a phase, and I keep telling her she shouldn't care. I may never fully understand what goes on in her heart, and I may have long ago won a reserved seat in hell, but I admire -- almost envy -- Jen's spiritual rediscovery.

I even promised to cut down on the jokes.

That's not to say there's going to be a crucifix hung in the apartment any time soon. Though it's a tough line to nail down, I respect Jen's faith but still have issues with Catholicism. Indeed, I realized just tonight that the church's pastor is none other than the Rev. Marc Alexander, a man with whom I have serious differences in opinion as far as same-sex marriage is concerned.

Overall, though, I'm happy with how seriously and thoughtfully we've addressed religion, traditionally one of the biggest marital mine fields. Though I joke sometimes that God is "getting" Katie, I really see the Baptism and Jen's blossoming faith adding up to an even compromise in the grand scheme of things.

We will still attend Buddhist services at my grandfather's church in Waipahu, after all. And realistically, I'm sure Jen isn't getting everything she wants from me.

After she explained the concept of the sacraments, for example, we briefly discussed getting our marriage "convalidated," which is an after-the-fact way of getting credit for a Catholic wedding (one of the Big Seven). But we realized that would require me to convert, which I just can't see happening in this lifetime, which essentially means her Christian Club Card will never be fully punched.

(You said no jokes! Bad Ryan!)

And though we're still not sure how to work everything out in the "do as I say, not as I do" parenting department, I've respectfully resolved that I won't regularly attend church services. My spiritual affairs are far from set, but I think I've got to give my family's way a fair shake before I even think of trying something new.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 17 January 1999 · Last Modified: 21 January 1999