All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Of all the myths and mysteries of childhood, Religion was the one that most eluded me. I could buy into a land where bunnies frolicked, painting Easter eggs, to hide their handiwork as proof, once a year, behind the curtains in my living room. And, of course, Santa, My God! There was nothing else on earth that reaped a bigger bumper crop of proof and magic than he did. The Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, you name it! I believed in all of them.
But of everything offered up to me, Religion held the least appeal. Adam and Eve were OK, and those animals marching two by two into Noah’s Arc had a definite appeal, if you could let yourself forget that all the other animals on Earth, and all the people, too, were dead. Jesus’ Birthday was a good excuse for Christmas, which was celebrated in our house, religiously, as the birth of Santa Claus. But that business of hanging on a cross seemed downright creepy.
Then, one by one, some big kid would whisper, "Pssssst There is no Easter Bunny!" Pssst, Your parents are the Tooth Fairy". I secretly searched the house, looking for my lost teeth. "Psssst". "Oh No! Not Santa Claus!"
From that time forward, I have waited for the day that some big kid will whisper in my ear "Pssst", and fess up about GOD!
I knew that Religion is supposed to be a thing of great mystery, but try as I might to take it seriously; the only mystery to me was "What's the Big Deal?" Although one didn't dare admit these feelings, not even to one's self. Religion intimidated everyone. In fact, most people were so intimidated that they even viewed those hilariously Kitschy Hollywood Bible epics with awe and reverence. No bad reviews for Charlatan Heston.
Then, one night, many years ago, in the Golden Age of Comic Toy Collecting, when one could still be certain that every major antique show and flea market, guaranteed Wonders to behold, and be Had, I was driving, alone, in the dead of night, down route 84 heading to the darkest reaches of Pennsylvania. I was on my way to the Giant "Renninger’s Extravaganza", where a thousand dealers would soon begin unpacking, with the first light of day.
Barreling down the deserted highway, I had allowed my imagination to Run Free, and in so doing, I managed to work myself up, into an unheard of state of Euphoria and Excitement, in anticipation of the Hunt and the Treasures, I was certain, lay ahead. One might call it "Ecstasy"!
At that moment, a sense of revelation came over me, and I asked myself, "Is THIS, what Religion FEELS Like? Is this what it’s like to be religious? Does a truly Religious person experience the same feeling of "Bliss" and "Exhilaration" on their way to Church that I am experiencing, on my way to a Flea Market???" If so, I “Get It”. I don't mean to imply that I was Born Again, or that I “Saw the Light”. But I did gain some Insight. The experience didn't make a True Believer of me, but, through the Window of Collecting I could, now, at least, imagine what being one might feel like.