Bellybutton Lent

By Chuck Sigars | Mar 14, 2012

 

A recent episode of “30 Rock” had as its comic premise a secret holiday, or at least a holiday some people didn’t know about. It was Leap Day, Feb. 29, which came with mythical characters, holiday colors and cultural traditions.

Sort of a mix between Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, Leap Day looked like a lot of fun.

I missed it this year, unfortunately; no candy for me. The whole month of February, even with an extra day, zoomed by, divided into weeks of different busyness, trips and projects and minor illness.

I had things to do and things on my mind. There was some stress. I could have used candy. A leprechaun would have been a pleasant diversion. And so on.

So I lost February, only by some miracle remembering my wife’s birthday and muscle memory alone, probably, getting me in the shower.

And I missed Lent. Completely.

Lent is a religious season, of course, a segment of the liturgical calendar marked by many (but not all) of the various branches of Christianity. It’s a time meant for penance, for reflection, for charity, for denial of certain luxuries. It’s a serious thing.

Although there are plenty of Lent jokes, about things people give up and so on. You can look them up. Some are pretty funny.

But before you start wondering about which column you’re actually reading, I would suggest that there’s a secular version of Lent that creeps into our lives this time of year.

We’ve survived another winter and spring is coming in that lurching Northwest way, one step forward and two back. The grass is starting to grow, the days are getting longer, gas prices are going up, etc. We’re reminded of seasons.

And some of us practice self-denial and divestment, clear out the clutter and start visualizing ourselves in shorts, and not in a good way.

A little reflection can play a part, too. A season of hunkering down, trying to stay warm and dry, trying to find lightness in a dark and gloomy world, can inspire all sorts of thoughts, Lent-like or not. Some navel-gazing, maybe, reevaluating ourselves and wondering what we need to do.

And lately I’ve been thinking I need to go home.

A metaphorical home, I mean. A symbolic home. My literal home I know, I live in it, I have family here, my roof leaks sometimes, there are electrical outlets that haven’t worked in years; I know where I am.

But something about the season, maybe, and certainly the fact that I don’t seem to be getting younger is pushing me in a curious direction.

It’s curious for me, anyway. I’ve never been to a high school reunion, for example. I’ve thought about it, considered it, even sort of planned on it at different times, but it didn’t happen.

Sometimes there were complications and conflicts. Sometimes there was lack of interest. Sometimes there was concern about potential wearing of shorts. You know how it goes. There are emotions involved.

But a college reunion has been in the works now for five years, a particular one based not on graduating classes but passion.

For several years of my life, for vague and (from this perspective) unrealistic reasons, I was a theater major in a small college in northern Arizona, transferring from a much larger university where I briefly aimed at medicine (what, I have to take chemistry?) and then journalism.

It was unrealistic in that there are mostly only imaginary careers for holders of theater degrees, although some of my classmates have managed to carve out a living.

Most, though, just grew up and moved into less than theatrical lives, dabbling maybe in community theater or maybe, as I did, just moved on, keeping the memories and the faded programs, losing the passion.

I may not go. There are still complications and conflicts. I wonder, a little, about reunions in the age of Facebook, when histories and pictures tell a story of years that used to serve as inspiration for getting together in person.

But there’s something about being in the physical presence of people who retain your younger self, who remember what you looked like and how you sounded. It intrigues me. More than intrigues.

Such foolishness, I think. You stand backstage in the dark. You hear the musicians warm up. You clear your throat, shoot your cuffs, try to breathe slowly. You are 19 years old, you know nothing of the world, you will be 53 soon enough, looking back on that time as only nostalgia, moments with curled edges, scrapbook material.

And then it strikes you that you were happy, then, and that happiness should be possessed, owned and cared for, and it could be just the season but you think then that maybe you’ve been tapping your toe ever since, anticipating the moment, waiting for the overture to start, and that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded of why.

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