“Hey,” I said to David on Saturday. “Let’s try to go to the 9:45 mass tomorrow so we can have the rest of the day to ourselves, okay?”
“You think you can do that?” he asked.
“Um, yeah,” I said. I was super sweet about it. Totally sweet. Not defensive at all. “Of course. It’s 9:45. We’re up three hours before that most days anyway. Why wouldn’t I possibly be ready?”
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I slept in (because, weekend), then scrolled through my phone for a bit with my coffee while Cian played with a Milennium Falcon on the bed beside me, right up until the moment I remembered I had to prep the chili for the crock pot or we’d be eating leftover pizza for dinner. Fifteen minutes later, in the middle of the chopping of the onions, I decided that it’d also be a good idea to also prep the rest of the ingredients for the week’s dinners. It was right around 9:30 when David approached me and said, “So, we’re going to 11:15 mass now, I take it? I’ll finish this so you can go shower.”
But I didn’t shower. I gave the girls’ haircuts (I can’t make that up), and stripped the sheets off all the beds. I folded some laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. Somewhere in there, I ate breakfast, I think. At 10:45 I told David that there was no way we were making the late mass at our church, and that we should go into Harrisburg to the 12:15 at the Cathedral there. Now, David’s not Catholic. To his credit, at any point he could’ve (should’ve?) bailed and said he’d stay home. But he didn’t. He cooked up the beef for the chili, and gave Cian a bath, and washed the dishes. At 11:30, I finally got in the shower to get ready. Ideally, we had to leave at 11:50. I know. The math didn’t add up yesterday, either.
By the time we got to the church an hour later, we were a solid fifteen minutes late. Cian was falling asleep in his car seat, David and I were fighting, and Quinlan was telling us she thought she had to throw up. We snuck into the only free pew we could find, which was lodged behind a wall so that David was the only person who could actually see what was going on. So there we were, in a row: Quinlan, curled up in fetal position in the corner of the pew, pale and groaning, and me, in leggings and a flannel shirt with wet hair I’d scraped back into a bun. Next, we had Saoirse, who was doing everything right but kept playing with her new, shorter hair, David, who was in his stone-faced paying-attention mode (THOU SHALT NOT TALK), and Cian, who decided that it was a perfect time to start writhing all over the pew like a caught fish flopping around the deck of a boat. It was awesome.
But it was right in the middle of the priest’s homily, when he mentioned something about Jesus fasting for 40 days before the devil showed up, and I leaned over to David and said, “Did the devil really appear? Or maybe was Jesus just hallucinating from being so flipping hungry?” that the horrified look on his face (which could’ve explained the THOU SHALT NOT TALK expression afterward, I suppose) told me that I was most definitely not in a good place for some holy rollin’.
Finally–right around the time Quinlan was asking me if church was over yet and Saoirse was wondering if the consecrated wine at communion would actually taste like booze and Cian had taken hold of the lady’s hand behind us and grinned at her like the Cheshire Cat before hollering “Noooooo!” at me–I broke. I hissed at David to get Cian out of church and hauled the kid up over SK’s head to hand him off. I told Quinlan to stop clutching at her stomach and Saoirse to please get her hands off of her head, and then I patted down a stray piece of my own hair, which had dried into a frizzy halo around my face. At that point I’d given up on praying. I mean, really. I’ve never been the The Perfect Churchgoer, but at that point I was wondering why we even bothered to leave the house.
Remember that little ol’ loop I was telling you about last week? Yesterday morning I was slamming windows shut in my brain all over the place. Why did I try to do so much if we’d had plans? Why was I always late to things? Why can’t I get my stuff together?
And what was I going to do if Quinlan barfed everywhere?
A little later, I had an opportunity to turn around and apologize to the couple standing behind me. David still hadn’t returned with Cian. “I’m so sorry for the distractions,” I said, and the woman took my hand and looked me in the eyes.
“He was fine,” she said. She was still holding my hand. “Just relax.” We chatted a bit more, but she seemed so intent–it was strange. I tried to pull my hand away, but she kept it there. Her skin was soft–I remember this, because my own? Well, let’s just say it’s been a while since these hands have seen a manicurist, or even a bottle of lotion. But she held my hand in hers, and talked to me some more. “Just relax.” She must have said it three or four times.
And that was that. By the time mass had ended, the woman and her husband were gone. I took the girls to meet their dad and brother out in the lobby of the church, and we walked through the city and drove over the river back to our town and stopped to get some coffee and ice cream on the way. The rest of the day was better: Saoirse asked me for another hair cut because she decided to chop off all of her hair (“It’s SO much easier to brush, Mommy!”). I made cornbread to go with the chili, and Saoirse and her dad put together the new desk we got for her room. The smaller kids watched The Lorax and I had a beer and somehow we made it through the rest of the day. And today, I remember what the lady said.
There are moments that pop up in my life–all of our lives–that seem otherworldly. I notice them more and more as I get older–conversations or moments that seem dropped into my life on purpose. Is it self-centered to think that someone is looking out for me, trying to catch my attention? Because that’s what those moments feel like. Like I’ve been seen. Like someone’s taken my hand.
It’s fine, I’ve been told.