Chapter 287: Context and Tradition
When five Sundays went by without them setting foot at St. Sebastian’s, Father John called Abby. It was polite, gentle, wanting to see how she and Kelly were, reminding them that even if they weren’t happy about the whole baptism thing, that they were still more than welcome at the church.
“He sounded a little nervous,” Abby says to Tim as they eat dinner, after telling him about it.
“Like his plan won’t work if we don’t get back there?”
“Maybe.” She tickles the bottom of Kelly’s foot while she flails a bit in her bouncy chair.
“Sooo…” Tim asks, bite of grilled zucchini hallway to his mouth, “You want to wait another week and then have me try again? I can tell him that we’re church shopping, that we’ve been to Jimmy and Breena’s for the last few weeks and liked it, and that if he won’t budge on this, we won’t be back, and if he doesn’t fold, then I will.”
“It’s up to you. You want, we can be there next week, and I’ll tell him Sister Rosita is fine.”
“I actually do like Jimmy and Breena’s church.”
Tim nods. It’s still church, so it’s not like one’s much better than another to him, but Jimmy and Breena are there, and the nursery seems nice, and everyone’s friendly, and okay, yeah, he doesn’t adore having an extra five hours a week with Ed Slater, but as downsides go, especially post-Bootcamp, post-Gibbs (Gibbs!) telling stories of them all kicking ass and taking names, it’s not a horrific one.
“Whatever you want on this,” Tim says, stroking her hand.
“More time to think.”
“As long as you want. I don’t mind if Father John sweats this.”
Okay, it’s not likely, at all, but it has been more than two weeks, and there’s no other way to tell, because she’s not menstruating again, yet…
“We going to do another pregnancy test?” he asks while walking Kelly around, patting her back gently, trying to get that last burp out of her before taking her for the second of her nighttime sleeps.
Abby sticks her head out of the bathroom, toothbrush between her lips. “I had the water running, what did you say?”
“Pregnancy test? I know it’s not likely, but…”
She nods and heads back into the bathroom.
Kelly belches loudly, and Tim kisses the top of her head. “Good girl. Okay, back to bed for you.” She settled in against his chest more closely. “Yeah, I bet you do feel better, don’t you?”
A sleepy and content little chirp answers him.
Rocking, lullaby, sleepy baby back in bed, and then back to his own room he goes. Abby’s already in their bed, so he looks at her expectantly, and she shakes her head.
She’s got a kind of disappointed half-smile on her face. “Yeah.”
He sits down next to her. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Just… I don’t know, about half-relieved and half-disappointed. Didn’t want to be pregnant again, not yet, didn’t want to not be, either.”
He nods at that and kisses her, same half-disappointed smile on his face. “Yeah.”
Okay, it’s not his most riveting story ever. Mostly just how Tony and Ziva are finally both back, which means Tony’s in charge of the team again, and this was their first case out at full strength again, and sure, she’s heard the whole, we found a dead body, we processed evidence, and then I spent the next six hours mucking about on the computers to find out more, is pretty routine, but it’s not actually boring.
“What’s up, you’re a million miles away?” he finally asks, because she’s not following the story at all.
She shakes her head. “Sorry. Just been thinking a lot today.”
“You asked, a while back, what being Catholic means to me, and, I think I’ve got it, now.”
Ah, back to that. Well, it’s Thursday, and yet another Sunday is looming. Okay, he can see how it’d be on her mind.
“Okay,” he says, keep talking on his face.
“It’s a line of traditions, tying me to my family. Mostly to people who aren’t here anymore, people you’ve never met. And I don’t want to break that line. Every Sunday we’re there, I take communion just like I did with my mom and dad and my aunts and uncles and grandparents.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
She flashes him the not quite done yet look. “But… maybe it doesn’t have to be that line. There are other traditions out there. King cakes for Easter, Jambalaya for Christmas, the tree, stuff like that. Just… you know, if it’s you and me, it doesn’t matter that gays can’t marry and women can’t be ordained and no birth control, well, I mean it does, but…”
“I got ya.” He’s nodding, knowing that she doesn’t mean that those aren’t issues, but that they’re grown-ups so they’ve got their own contexts for them.
“It can just be little idiosyncrasies that we ignore or tolerate, and the links matter more than they do.”
Another nod. They’re on the same page here.
“But Kelly’d be learning this from scratch. She and any other kids we have are a new start, and… And I don’t want them burned on this the way you are.”
He smiles ruefully at that. “You’ve got to actively work on it to get my past with this. This isn’t some sort of accident.”
“You didn’t like the fact that this was just empty symbolism for your dad. You going to a church you don’t believe in looks like setting up that pattern all over again, and I don’t want that for our kids.”
That stops him short. And for a moment he has to think about it, because he hasn’t wondered what their kids might think about this, and if they’ll see it as him just going through the motions to provide a certain image. But, eventually, he decides no, it won’t be. “It’s not empty for me, it’s just… not what most people mean by it.”
Abby smiles at that.
He gently strokes her wedding ring. “For me, this is part of our marriage. This is part of the vow to put you first. And that matters more to me than everything else.”
That got a kiss.
“It’s not just your dad that burned you on it.”
True. Granted, his dad set the pattern that made him loathe empty symbolism, but he thinks even if he hadn’t grown up with John it’d still bug him. “I’d have probably been a lot more tolerant of it if it hadn’t been for him. Probably a lot more like how Penny deals with it.”
“True. But the point I’m trying to get to, is that there is a lot of empty crap that goes with this, and… when I think about it, what being a Christian is, what I want and need from a church, and from faith, and what I want to do with it, the heart of it is love. God’s love for everyone. And if it’s about love, and if we’re all sinners trying to do better… Then anything that encourages hate, that gives it space to grow and nourishes it, is the problem, and a lot of the stuff I don’t like about being Catholic just encourages hate. And it’s not a problem for me, I’ve got context for it, but Kelly doesn’t and… maybe she doesn’t need to hear about homosexuals going to hell, or that there’s something bad about pleasure, or that it’s her job to crank out as many babies as she can, or that she can never be equal to a man. Maybe, we don’t need to try to teach her God loves everyone all the time and in all ways, while also teaching her that He’s constantly judging everything and that eternal pain and torment is waiting for the people who don’t measure up.”
Tim smiles at her. “I’m good with that.”
“And Jimmy and Breena’s church isn’t perfect, but they ordain women and marry gays and that’s two pretty big steps.”
“And they’re a lot less focused on doing things the ‘right way’ and more focused on doing the ‘right thing.’”
“I like that part, too.”
Abby smiles at that. “I bet Ducky would have something to say about Pharisees right now.”
“I don’t remember who they are.”
“The guys Jesus was rebelling against. They were so caught up in the letter of the law that they forgot the spirit of it.”
“Seems appropriate. So, St. Mary’s?”
On Sunday, Tim and Abby had a chat with Pastor Brons about what was involved in joining St. Mary’s. They offered new members’ classes which Brons said were basically Episcopalianism 101. They started new ones every other month, and the next class began in September.
Abby signed up for it. Tim didn’t. He’ll attend St. Mary’s, but won’t formally join any church. (Brons found that… amusing is probably the best word. He has the sense that she’s thinking she’ll eventually get her claws into him, but he’s doubtful. Okay, he thinks she’s out and out insane, but he’s vastly too polite to say it.)
They also set the date for Kelly’s baptism. November 9, 2015, they’ll stand up there with the Palmers and officially welcome their daughter into the church.
And while various Slaters hadn't been thrilled at the idea of Tim and Abby as Molly’s godparents, when word started to get around the family over the course of Sunday dinner that Jimmy and Breena would be Kelly’s godparents, there was some hardcore celebrating.