Saturday, July 6, 2013
The Briar Pipe
Mother was sitting across the Sheraton table from me poring over a printout from the Internet.
“Alfred,” said she, “This astrology business is very complicated. I was born on November 23, never mind the year, and that means I'm a Sagittarius, and I was checking around and discovered that I was born under the moon sign of Gemini and in the rising sign of Capricorn. That means I have a strong moral conscience and can see through the hypocrisy of others. Well, I hope that’s true. “What do you think?”
I must admit that I was taken aback. “Since when have you been interested in Astrology?
“Well, Alfred, you want me to become more religious, so I'm just looking around.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “Mother,” said I, “my aunt Marjorie was very big on astrology. It became a family joke. My father, I always called him Pater, would say ‘Now, Marjorie, you should make a practice of reading your horoscope the day after; that way you can see just how ridiculous it is.’ Marjorie once retorted, ‘You are just saying that because you’re a Libra, and Libras are gullible.’ That started a verbal battle that lasted for months. The problem is that there is a little bit of truth in everything, but that doesn't make the whole thing true.”
Mother went digging in yesterday’s paper and found her Astrology Word for the Day and read, “Even the most stoic and solid of authority figures have off days. They've also made bad decisions based on the best of intentions. Mention that before you start confessing your sins. Even if their choice of entertainment for tonight is undeniably the very last thing on earth you want to do, smile and say you'd love to. Isn't it your turn? Just when you thought it was safe to come out, friends are starting to take bids on how long you'll be able to manage the balancing act you've been juggling. You've got a bone to pick with a higher-up, but this just isn't the right time to pick it. Sit quietly and bide your time. Give it two weeks.”
Mother sat there for a few moments, her shoulders sagged and she looked somewhat despondent. “Well, Alfred, I guess your Pater was right, but I had so hoped that there was something that could make sense out of things.”
I busied myself with my pipe. I think that I've mentioned before that pipe smoking is not a habit, but a hobby. At the least it provides a temporary dodge. This particular pipe is a rather fine English Estate Ashton Old Church Bent Billiard. I tamped some Captain Black in the bowl, lit it and drew slowly before replying. I was stalling for time, and here is why. Knowing Mother as I do, I knew that this was no time to get preachy. She was already irritated that I had had a spiritual experience and she, quite evidently, had not. Nor was it the right moment to give advice; and direct advice was sure to backfire. Fiddling with my briar gives me a little respite and time for an arrow prayer.
Finally I said, “Mother, it’s not for me to say. Perhaps Grace can give you some direction.”
Somewhere in the background we could hear the rich Scottish alto voice of Agnes singing, “As pants the hart for cooling springs, so longs my soul for thee, O Lord.”[i]
Mother listened for a few moments then brightened up, “I think I'll ask Agnes what she thinks.”
Trust Mother to find an alternative!