Monday, July 13, 2015

The Hook

So as a mother of four, perhaps it shouldn't have taken me this long, but I've finally gotten asked to leave the sanctuary (with a child in arms) during mass. The irony--there's always irony--is that it was my smallest, most friendly, and I THOUGHT least disruptive child.

"I'm going to have to ask you to step into the training room," the usher said. Just moments before, I saw a teenage boy across the church looking at Frances, in my arms, and whispering to his father.  I was floored, completely surprised, and generally awestruck, because it never occurred to me that (1) Frances was disruptive or (2) by sitting in the sanctuary we risked being asked to leave.

I followed the usher to the door of the training room. (It should be called the crying room, WE call it the crying room, because no training really occurs there, but plenty of crying does occur there.) It's generally impossible to think there, let alone pay attention to mass. You might as well bring a magazine, some toys, and cut the kids loose. When we got to the training room door, I said, "I'm going to go to the narthex. The sound is piped in out there, isn't it?" The training room was packed. There was nowhere to sit.
"Yes, but if your child is noisy, I'll have to ask you to go to the training room."

I hung out in the narthex for the remainder of mass. At communion, the usher peeked out: "You are welcome to come in for communion," he said.

If I had thought our parish was mildly intolerant of children, here was my sign; our parish is, in fact, very intolerant of children. In particular, our pastor is very intolerant of children, as I'm certain he issued the signal for the hook, finding Frances' audible presence very unsettling during the homily.

After communion Frances and I moseyed outside to sit beside the statue of the BVM and little JC to get their take on the whole thing.

So how do I feel about it? Frankly, very relieved. I've had a feeling of "this-parish-just-doesn't-fit-us" for, oh, about two years. Now I have a very clear sign that this parish does not in fact fit us. Specifically, the parents-with-children part of our family. I'm so glad to have the permission slip, afforded by this experience, to seek out another parish.

Honestly, I don't know where to begin with my response to Father Paul. I like him; he has a tough job, I respect him, and I cannot know the depth of his daily frustrations. He has a job to do.

But I have a job to do, too: raise four young Catholics, and do my very best at it. I want them to grow up in the Church, and to keep the Church in their hearts, or their hearts in the Church, as they grow. We're just coming down off a powerful week of Vacation Bible School. On Tuesday Ezra said, "Mom, I've been loving God and Jesus all day long today." There have been conversations about God's love, about Heaven, about forgiveness. It has been amazing. Elliott, my seemingly aloof oldest son, has been moved by the experience. They all have memorized the VBS music (with dance moves), which is as touching as it is overpowering. (How many times must we listen to "You are Powerful" and "Power Shuffle" in one day???)

My children are becoming alive with the wonder of God and his creation. It's not my job to snuff it out on Sunday mornings by hissing, "Be quiet or we'll have to leave!" Uh, where's the incentive at this point? Didn't Jesus welcome the children to come to him? Which way is he? We're trying to find him!

I am reminded of this helpful essay, originally passed along to me by way of a bulletin insert from an awesome friend at our awesome former parish (that's a lot of awesome!). I read it again this morning, and it helped me feel a bit more confident and less shamed.

And yes, our weekly offering did go into the basket this week...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nourishing the Soul

So we have another rainy day today. Another rainy day. The rain is no longer news here. Last year in Cincinnati was the rainiest year on record, or nearly so. I'm not exaggerating.

I don't know what the total is for the year so far in our corner of North Carolina, but it feels like we've moved from one rainy place to another. It's damn rainy.

So the kids are crazy. Running in the house, doing cannonballs on the couch, throwing paper airplanes, making a human train with a jump rope and racing around the kitchen, living room, hallway...It's that scene from Raising Arizona, when the swinging friends visit Hi and Ed's trailer, and their kids proceed to trash the place. One wrote "Fart" on the walls. Well Elliott wrote on the wall yesterday--in pencil, thank God--but I just couldn't help thinking, Is this for real? This kid knows better. What next?

We went to the Children's Museum today, and that helped. Still, we returned home for lunch, and the jumping, running, yelling, and whining ensued.

I often deal with it by raising my voice, banishing children to corners of the kitchen, and then returning stoveside to cook and think unmotherly thoughts while preparing the trolls' lunch.

So today Ezra and Elliott are sitting on the kitchen floor, sulking. I finally allow books and dry-erase fun. Out come the markers and alphabet cards. They become quiet. They dole out letters:

"Do you want the E? Can you do an R, Ezra? Do you want the R? Okay, you don't have to do the R. How about a J? Can you do a J?"

I think, "Yes, I could do a J right about now." But seriously, they're really that polite. And they're busy, and practicing writing, which is usually a tough sell.

And then Elliott starts humming. He's writing, it's going well, and he's humming. It's a church hymn.

I instantly recognize it as "Eat this Bread," the Taize hymn that's common at our church. We heard it on Sunday. And here he is, the kid who squirms through mass, humming. I begin singing it, and he looks up.

"Yeah, that's it," he says.

I don't really have words for that kind of grace, so simple and unexpected on just another rainy day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Area mom loses, then finds, then serves amazing cookies

I can't say that there hasn't been anything going on, but I can say that, after the kids fall asleep, I really enjoy some nonverbal time late at night.  When the kids aren't talking, arguing, asking questions, barking orders, crying, yelling, etc., I'd much rather knit.

And it's easier to put down knitting, tend to a crying child--as I did just now, HERE, mid-sentence--than it is to return to something that requires verbal thought like, say, a sentence. Where I live, right now, is where the  mind meets the mundane.

Sometimes, though, like last Thursday, the daily routine becomes punctuated by a moment of grace. Often these miracles involve toilets or moving vehicles. Last Thursday's mini-miracle did, in fact, involve a car, but it did not hinge on seat belts, or safety, for that matter. But it was my fault for putting the cookies from Ezra's preschool teacher on top of the car.

I am the last person in the world you need to tell about not putting things on top of a car. I never, ever do this, because every time I do--which is so rare--every time, I forget whatever it was, until, oh, hours later. ....It will always end like that. But I was trying to insert three kids, the coats they had shed, two bags, and three melty cookies into the Golf. It's a two-door.  Onto the roof they went.

So when we got home from preschool and Elliott asks, "Can we have our cookies now?" I can hear, in my mind, something like the sound of air leaving a tire. Shhhhhh......Damn it, I think. I know exactly where those cookies were....

My failure to bring them home safely was not just my failure of my own kids--they love cookies, for sure, and these were Unexpected Cookies, even. In my own mind, I had failed Ezra's preschool teacher, because she is the most incredible preschool teacher ever. She had thought of Elliott, Ezra, and Ruth, and had made sure they had leftover cookies from Ezra's Teddy Bear Picnic. I had thoughtlessly left them on top of the car on the way home.

"Do you want to go back to try to find them?" I ask.
"Yes!"
Sure. It's 3:45 on a Thursday. Why not?

And so we go. I'm sure we can trace the three miles back to preschool, and I'm sure we'll see traces of a white napkin and three bear-face cookies. It seems crazy, but I'm sure we'll find them.

We get only three blocks from the house. There they are, sitting in the road at the edge of our neighborhood. Face-up. Uncrushed. Two were stuck together, thanks to the chocolate chips and the frigid weather. One was a little crumbly, but all were right there, in the intersection, waiting for us. The napkin is still wrapped beneath them. I jumped out, checked traffic, picked them up, and hopped back in.

The cookies must've slid off the roof so gently as I made the right turn that they just landed right there, as if placed by an invisible hand. The kids were amazed, but not as much as I was. To them, it made sense. We went back and we picked them up. They didn't understand the odds involved, the physics, the crumble, the luck.

"Did you eat them?" my brother Jimmy asked later when I retold the story on the phone.
"Of course we did," I answered. "What do you mean, 'did we eat them?' How could we not?"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On the day you were born


On the day you were born, your mother might well have been happy--maybe ecstatic--but she probably wouldn't have admitted, "Hey, I'm really enjoying myself." Elliott is five today, which means I'm 35 today, which means we've spent six birthdays together. I should be accustomed to sharing a birthday by now, and YES, Elliott is the loveliest birthday present a mother can imagine, etc.,etc. But damn, birthdays can be exhausting. Here I am, enjoying my birthday the best way an introvert can envision, and that's quietly, alone, in blissful, self-directed contemplation. Hurrah! Finally! It only took an entire day to get here.

That lovely banner behind the alstromeria is--ta-da--handmade, FINALLY, to replace our tired cardboard banner. The cake, one in a long line of construction cakes--also made by me.

I owe Elliott a post, about being born, and about sharing a birthday, and about all the lovely things mothers think about their children who are growing up before their eyes. But this evening's short post allows me to admit that I've had a decent but very tiring birthday. Perhaps that's the kind of birthday one has when one reaches the Uneventful Years.

The Good:
(1) delicious food, expertly prepared
(2) Elliott's banner day
(3) a family gathering, and everyone, including myself, behaved well

The Bad:
(1) Who do you think cooked the food?
(2) How much time did we spend looking for the Shu Todoroki diecast car that we still ended up ordering from Amazon?
(3) Duh!

An appreciation of things homemade makes something like a birthday difficult to enjoy without putting too much into it. But at the end of the day, I guess we can take pride in a birthday well done.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Normal quiet evening

It's our last night at the beach, and like all (good) vacations, it has come to the point of sappiness. I sit rocking the baby, who will not succumb to sleep--there's just too much to see and do, still--she continues to babble, squirm, bounce, and resist a rest. Between squirms, it's difficult not to notice every little thing, trying to catalogue the details in order to cement a memory.

Of course, the irony isn't lost on me that I do this at the tail end of a lovely vacation just as I do at home, when the average day hasn't been too memorable at all. But, as with kids afoot, it's always the little things that persist and become the stuff of rumination. 

But tonight it's stellar scenery. It's the moon, orange turned white, marbly and still, high in the sky already. The thin flannel clouds that no longer shroud the moon. And the gusty white noise of wind and surf, indistinguishable from one another. The moonlit water at high tide looks to threaten the beachfront homes across the street. From the rooftop porch, the night is simple and dramatic. 

The baby finally settles to nurse, and as I curl her in a blanket, she calms to sleep. I continue rocking, listening to the wind and surf, blinking away my hair, wondering about what we all wonder on such wonderful evenings: loneliness, and aloneness; family; mortality; the past, but prettier and too gone; the future, marching full on and full of tall orders.

A beautiful night. One of the many nights I've vowed to always remember, and of course I've forgotten every one. Because sleep calls so sweetly, and before I put pen to paper I put head to pillow, grateful for all those things that I fail to articulate before exhaling into sleep.

Good night, vacation! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Incredulity and the Banal

What I thought yesterday to be my missing house keys, hiding in the pocket of a seldom-used coat, turned out to be a handful of hardened gummi fruit snacks.

Last night, instead of getting to work after the kids' bedtime, I spent an hour patiently reattaching the seven keys they had pried from my laptop.

The sites of my daily wonder never cease to amaze me, but it's an amazement that doesn't easily translate to the "outside," to a child-free world.