Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

I'm a Catholic.

A Roman Catholic.

A Slippery Slope Roman Catholic.

Whatthehell does that mean?

It means that over the years my adherance to the rules of the Church have taken a ride on a Slippy Slide coated in Vaseline and perched on a 45 degree angle embankment.

It means that

In the beginning
(insert thunderous echoey voice here)

I would tote my infant, then my infant/toddler, then my infant/toddler/preschooler combo-pack to church with me, even when I felt like crud.
I would wipe the spit-up off my dress, perform a last-minute diaper change on the fly, comb everyone's hair, put a double layer of leaking-booby pads in for when the baby started crying, and load the diaper bag up with Cheerios to be cast over the congregation during the service.

I would then take my brood with me and sit/stand/kneel on cue, all while restraining the two year old by the cuff of his pants from crawling under the pew, endure being scalped by the baby with a fist full of my unwashed hair, and yanking the crayons from the four year old after he edited the hymnal.

Whereas

In the beginning

I felt no excuse for missing mass was justified (with the possible exception of birthing a baby) , I gradually found more and more reasons to remain miserable within the confines of my own home.

Even so, I remained true to attendance at the Holy Days. Not a year would go by that I wouldn't have a dried-up stalk of palm hanging from my rear view mirror in the months following Palm Sunday, or a grey smudge on my forehead following Ash Wednesday.

And I made sure I explained to my charges the importance of Lent. That it was a time to sacrifice, or to choose to do something of hardship or value. Like Motherhood. The entirety of Motherhood could be considered one excrutiatingly long Lenten sacrifice, my dears. But I digress.

One year in particular, I remember that I thought of a brilliant Lenten objective. I would not yell at my children. They were my babies, after all, and I had no business yelling at my cherubs.

So I was going to refrain from yelling the entire six weeks of Lent.

Soon enough it was time to go to mass on Ash Wednesday morning and get our ashes and feel all holy.
I washed and dressed the children.
I changed their diapers.
I tied their shoes.
I fed them.
I changed their diapers.
I wiped their faces and hands.
I tied their shoes.
I stopped the preschooler from hitting the toddler.
I stopped the toddler from hitting the baby.
I changed their diapers.
I wiped a butt and emptied a potty.
I soothed a crying toddler.
I soothed a crying infant.
I put jackets on everyone.
I zipped and buttoned and tied.
I got the baby into the car seat carrier and took everyone to the car.
I hoisted the carrier into the backseat and buckled it in.
I chased the toddler and buckled her into her carseat.
I kissed her fingers that got pinched and soothed her crying.
I tried to quiet the baby who was now also crying.
I looked all over for the preschooler.
I found the preschooler behind a tree. Playing machine gun with a stick.
I took machine gun stick away from preschooler.
Preschooler simultaneously went completely fall-to-the-ground limp while screaming
at the injustice of having his machine gun anihilation interrupted.
I cleaned, best I could, the pants and shirt and hands and face of the preschooler.
I carried the preschooler, kicking and screaming and somehow mutiplying his weight
ten-fold, into the car.
I bent and folded the rigid-as-lumber preschooler into his carseat.
I walked around front and climbed in and buckled up.
Heading down the driveway to mass for our holier-than-though ashes, with my vow of not yelling at the children sworn only minutes ago, I looked in my rear-view mirror at three crying and screaming children in the backseat, and I added my own sound effects to the symphony by crying and screaming at my children till my face was blotchy and red and my hair was plastered to my skin.

And so the four of us drove to church on Ash Wednesday morning.

I may not have remained true to my promise, but dammit, we got our badge of ashes.


It's many many years later, but I still try. Sometimes.
Two years ago, when J and Y had only been home a few months, I took my crew to church for ashes on the way to school. A few of the kids' comments:

Daniel: I know how to pray the Rosemary.
Rosie: Feels like grit.
Bella(pulling all her bangs down low over her forehead): Can you still see them?
Julie: Which is this? Which is this one? You, me, church? Me, schoola?


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2 comments:

Pam said...

Hysterical!

From another once devout, then slippery slope, now re-affirming Catholic (now that I am raising a five and two year old -both from Ust, BTW).

Best, Pam

ZSB said...

Wow. You are an incredible writer!

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