Ladies and gentleman: You have just dropped in on one of the newest members of the Women of the Moose. Yes, I have joined a lodge. My Grandma has been a member of the Moose since 1975 and she told us that the lodge now held twice a month Texas Hold 'em tournaments.
Enticed by the idea of regular poker tournaments, almost all the members of my poker posse (my mom, my dad, Doc, Elizabeth) decided to join up and clean up. So Mom, Grandma, Elizabeth and I walked over to the lodge after a charity fish fry at one of the lodge's banquet halls and signed up. This was late in March, I think. But we weren't scheduled to be initiated as members until last night.
When we walked into the lodge itself that night last month, I was taken straight back to 1978. I used to go to the Moose on rare occasions with my grandparents for some special banquet or Christmas party back in the day. I'll tell you what, the lodge itself has not changed one bit. It was still paneled, it still had a sunken bar, it was still smokey, it was full of pretty much the same people, though quite a bit older.
As we sat to fill in our applications, the elderly D.J., Freddy the Frog, played the Hokey Pokey, the Chicken Dance, Barney's theme song, and I Got Stoned and I Missed It in that order. I turned to Elizabeth and said, "I'm home."
My dad and Doc got in right away and with very little ceremony. They sat in the grand poobah's office and listened to him read the rules and ask them not to sue the lodge. So, they've been enjoying cheap beer and the option to play poker every night for about a month now. I figured it would be about the same for we Women of the Moose to be.
Last night, we arrived at the lodge and were taken off to a back room where we received a packet containing our membership cards (I experienced a frisson of delight when I saw a Moose membership card and access card). The packet also included information about the student the Canton lodge "adopted" from Mooseheart, the community school that was built by the Moose for orphaned children. It's near Chicago, so some of you have probably heard of it. Vespa, the Recorder who was walking us through the information encouraged us to send a gradation card and a small amount of money as a gift. "He always writes back," she said. We also have an adopted senior from Moosehaven, the Moose retirement community, named Mitzi. Her birthday is in May and we were encouraged to send her a birthday card.
After our orientation, we were led out to the main room for the "ritual." Yes, we had a full blown, church-like session in order to be inducted into the Women of the Moose. It was amazing! I'd only seen something like this in the movies. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance together; I haven't done that in years and it felt really good. We then sang the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner. I don't think I've ever sung that song outside of a sporting event, let alone with a room full of mostly elderly women. Delightful!
There was a lot of sitting down and standing up and sitting down again. The ladies explained the three values of the Women of the Moose: Faith, Hope, and Charity. We were sworn in. We even made a tithe. At one point during the ceremony, we turned toward Mooseheart and offered our silent prayers to the children there while the Musician tolled the chime 9 times. 9:00 p.m. is bedtime for the kids at Mooseheart and they all say their prayers at that time. So, we prayed with them at a symbolic 9:00 p.m. (it was actually about 7:30 p.m.).
It was so moving, so sweet, so anachronistic. I am pleased to be a part of this sincere organization. We newbies were assigned to committees; the assignments were written on the outside of our packets. I was pleased to note that I am on the Moosehaven committee (I am totally retiring there). Underneath it was written "February 2008." Interesting, I thought. I wondered what the date meant. After the ceremony, Vespa informed us that that was the month our committee had "pie duty." I looked at Elizabeth and raised an eyebrow.
"That is the month the people on your committee are responsible for serving pie and collecting the money for it at the Friday night dinners," Vespa explained, "We ask that the Women of the Moose donate pies. We ask that you get them here by 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon."
"Oh, OK," we said.
"Some people bake pies, others buy them," she said.
In my mind, I decided that Thursday nights at my house will henceforth be known as "Pie Night;" it is my ambition to start baking pies. Any suggestions or recipes for the first pie?
The ladies provided a beautiful and delicious cake for us all to enjoy. There was also a certain kind of punch that I've only ever drunk in the company of other women at showers and the like. It is some kind of fruit drink combined with 7-Up and Sherbet. It's a truly strange and overly sweet concoction, but I drank it anyway. It was something I would have turned my nose up at in my youth, but last night, I savored it. Vespa presented us all with a gift bag that contained a mini Coleman lantern, a canister of chocolates, and a scented candle. Mine was Passion Punch scented, which sounded a bit menacing. Once I smelled it though, I realized the punch of passion punch was the drink not the action.
I fell in love with the Women of the Moose last night. They are sweet, thoughtful, and charitable. They are also very elderly, for the most part. Vespa's husband, who has set up the room for the WOM meetings for probably 30 years announced last night that he would no longer be doing it on account of his bad back. So we all pitched in with minimal grumbling to put the room back to the way it was.
I know it's old fashioned to join a lodge these days, but I encourage all of you to consider the idea. For the most part, the membership is aging if not elderly and dying off. They need the energy of the young as well as their strong backs. Most of them are tired of running the place. They are desperate for members, so it's relatively easy to get in. They serve cheap beer and they do good deeds. What better way to serve your community? Also, if you're a Moose, you can enter any Moose Lodge across the US, Canada, the UK and France. You would have a place to go in most cities and you would already have a built in bunch of friends.