I sat down at church today. The Kids were both serving so it was one of those Masses where I could actually pay attention to what was being said & maybe, just maybe, reconnect to a God I have been feeling fairly out of touch with. The procession came in & there were my two, robes on, hair combed as much as possible, candles lit, looking calm in a way they never look at home. Each of them glanced over at me & gave me the ‘Sup? nod as I sang along to a version of “Morning Has Broken” but with different words that got me wondering if Cat Stevens borrowed it from an old Christian hymn or if someone trying to update their church’s music borrowed it from Cat Stevens.
Then she walked in; hurried & hassled with three kids in tow. They looked to be about ages 8, 5, and 2. And they sat Right. Behind. Me. Not even trying to obey the “leave one pew between you” protocol that most Catholics observe when there’s room and there’s always room except for the CAPE days… Christmas, Ashes, Palms & Easter. My immediate thought was, “Crap!”
This two-year-old – I’ll call him Crazy Boy – was every bit a two-year-old. He was happy mostly. Two-year-old boy happy. Which means lots of yelling, kicking, throwing & jumping.
And something in me snapped. Not in a bad way like you’d think if you knew me. But some little part of that God I’m always trying to connect with snapped His fingers & said, “She’s right behind you for a reason.” And I remembered another blonde-haired, chubby faced, big-headed boy who acted the same way. Who used to bring me to tears trying to keep him calm & quiet in a church full of people who just have to turn around & see what the commotion is. People who have made me think more than once, “Listen old lady… when you’re dead & gone, who do you think is going to be in this church? That’s right. This loud-mouthed boy. Someone has to be the future so turn your sour puss around & stop your scowling.”
That was right before Crazy Boy grabbed my sweater & I felt a wet, sticky, little hand on my back. I turned around & said, ‘Well, hi there!” He grinned from ear to ear as his mother quickly pulled him away, apologizing & explaining that she usually leaves him with his grandmother for Mass but couldn’t this morning. As the foam book about elephants sailed past my left ear, I said, “He reminds me of my youngest who’s up there now.” I pointed to The Boy sitting on the altar & continued, “Don’t ever feel bad about bringing them.”
I’d like to say the spirit of God overcame Crazy Boy at that moment & he spent the rest of Mass calmly sitting, but that didn’t happen. Crazy Boy just kept on being crazy.
And I started crying.
She was right behind me for a reason & it wasn’t just so that I could console her. It was so that I could see how far I’ve come. Crazy Boy was my boy not that long ago. And there he was, sitting on an altar, serving at Mass. After the hours trying to keep him calm; after the miles worn in the carpet at the back of the church walking him around; after bringing him screaming & bleeding to the hospital for stitches because he ran head first into the corner of a pew, there he was. Robe on, cross around his neck, carrying a candle, & helping the priest. Calm Boy. A friend came up to me after Mass & told me that she was so proud of The Kids, that they looked so reverent when they were serving. Reverent. Not a word I would use for them especially after I swear I saw them hitting each other up there on the altar.
Back when my boy was Crazy Boy, I didn’t think it would ever end. But it does end. It gets better. So much better. The Boy & I have been butting heads a lot lately. A. Lot. Want to know how much? He gets $10 for allowance on Sunday. During the week, if he doesn’t do what I ask him or if I get smart-mouthed, he loses a dollar. We start fresh on Sunday. It’s Sunday night & he’s already down to $6.
Today was a reminder that it gets better. That in a few short years, he’ll be out of this phase & onto other things. Today’s smart-mouthed kid who owes ME allowance money will be in high school, college or off onto a career as an Evil Genius.
Because it always gets better. And I thank God for that.