A no-frills religion, Quakerism. But if you like formality, as my father did, you can transform a moment of silence into something elaborate.
My new husband and I were seated at my parents' carefully set dining room table, east and west, with my parents at north and south. A portrait of my great-great grandfather as a girlish little boy, with ringlets, overlooked the room. The gleaming silver had the austerity of old bones.
"Shall we say a silent grace in the Friendly manner?" Dad spoke for Steve's benefit, enunciating every word as if it was a complete sentence in itself. I figured my husband already knew what was up.
We bowed our heads. The silence almost howled, it felt so empty. I have known silence to be as rich as plum cake, but in those days I always tense at my parents' house. We knew how long to keep our heads down, even Steve. You learn these things without realizing it; they seem instinctive.
Unfurled napkins were arranged on laps. Steve was hungry, and he picked up one of two mini-muffins from the edge of his plate. "These look good. Is there any butter?"
My father drew himself up with great dignity. This was a moral matter. He cleared his throat. "That's not necessary," he told my husband with gracious condescension.