This past Lent, I gave up my personal gritch but she spent the last few hours before Easter making sure I’d know that this battle would go on unto death. We have been slack in our organization of the back basement. It’s easy because you can shut the door and only go down once a month to change the filter and say, “This basement is a mess, we should clean it up.” Then you go upstairs and forget about it until next mortgage payment day. It was easy until this past Saturday. My daughter went down and she found water. It was bad.
We spent Holy Saturday clearing out the basement of papers, sorting what could be salvaged. Because my husband was at the office preparing for a Monday business trip, I drafted all my children into work. Trips to the grocery store were postponed. Trips to the department store for shoes for one child were forgotten. By the end, my helpers had discovered Lord of the Rings was on television and one by one succumb to watching. I’d cleaned all day and still in the end, I was left alone.
Clearing out lesson plans from my teaching days of 17 years ago, it made me angry. It made me frustrated. I saw all these fun things once ago I planned that I was no longer doing. I saw all my kids doing fun things and I was here cleaning the smelly spidery basement. Even my shop vac quit on me. I felt tired and unready for Easter even as I mused that a wish I’d held, to clear out the back basement had been fulfilled. The cleaned out room did not bring me joy. It only meant I could now see how the rest of the house needed work too. I felt just as messy and spidery and smelly and empty.
At mass the next day, we arrived looking a bit unready. One child was wearing a dress that was a bit too old for her, we had no shoes for the baby, three kids had struggled with their hair that morning and it showed. Sitting in a pew all by ourselves, I was forced twice to take kids to the bathroom. But somewhere in that morning in the midst of the song at the presentation of the gifts, I felt unbidden, the understanding of what these past 40 days had been supposed to be about for me.
I have nine children.
For the past year, I have been becoming adjusted to managing all of them; but it has been about treading water, making sure we got through the bare minimum of any given day. Teeth brushed, three meals, homework done. It has been functional. I’ve done more sometimes, but at that mass, I felt the dull recognition that I had become conditioned to seek to do the minimum and no more. Looking at those old lesson plans made me realize I had somehow drained a lot of the color out of parenting for function.
Parenting should be about every color and sparkles and stickiness and joy bordering on garishness. It wasn’t that I’d been depressed, it’s that I had suppressed myself. The practical gritch had sought to remove all fun from parenting by emphasizing how much effort fun was, and to keep me from even participating.
“You have this very light cross to care for lots of people. It is now time to put on the joyful mask.” I remembered how much fun I’d had as a teacher. I could hear in the whispers of the choir’s song at the bringing of the gifts. My gift I had been hording unto atrophy, burying it. It was time to dig it up and start bringing it to the altar every day and offering it. Walking up for communion, it was hard to keep from crying or smiling or laughing, I felt all three and the overwhelmed hope that I wouldn’t forget this lesson that seemed so obvious and so easy and yet so hard to embrace.
It is Easter, it is Spring. Rejoice. It is time for something new.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti