He met me in the garage, after I had just pulled in from an all-day book signing.
His soulful eyes. His hope-filled heart. His little voice. “Mommy, can you fix this?”
You know what I wanted to say. What every mother wants to say. But he had no idea what he was asking.
“Schmaish,” his long-time friend and constant companion for the last seven years, was in shreds, literally just strings strung together, spanning the boy’s outstretched arms, from one fist to the other, looking like some kind of pulled poly-cotton taffy. In truth, Schmaish is nothing but a burp cloth from a package of six, purchased from Walmart, just before John was released from a fifteen-week stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
There is no mystery enshrouding the bond between John and Schmaish. John was born fifteen weeks early and did a lot of spitting up. And Schmaish is extremely soft. John likes — no, he requires — soft. Schmaish is perfect because he (yes, Schmaish is a “he,” not an “it”) started out soft and has just grown softer over the years. His faded, dingy polka dot fabric has absorbed many a tear over hurt feelings and lost toys. He has dramatically enhanced the thumb-sucking experience. And he has served as an all-purpose cure-all to so many of life’s difficulties. He can handily clean up a chin full of Nutella one minute and be applied to a mosquito bite on the knee the next. (To reduce the itch.) Don’t ask me how this works.
Schmaish gave and gave of himself until there was little left to hold him together. Thus the shreds. And the small voice informing me someone had “put a small hole” in Schmaish.
I didn’t have the heart to tell John the true condition of his old friend: that referring to this as a “small hole” was akin to calling Norman Bates a little crazy. But John must have read it on my face or maybe he just remembered that I have never been much of a seamstress. Or even a mender. (Not sure I can even sew on a button.) Anyway, he seemed to sense that I would not be rushing to put a thread through the eye of a needle.
“Can grandma fix it?” he wanted to know.
“Well, if she were skilled enough to sew together two strands of cooked spaghetti, yes, she probably could,” I wanted to say.
I don’t know how I came up with the thoughts that followed. Maybe they came to me because I had been selling my new book to benefit the renovation of the confessionals at my parish. Maybe it was because the book focuses on the mercy of God, especially in the Sacrament of Confession. For whatever reason, it struck me that, when my soul is in shreds, I know just where to take it. I walk into the confessional asking for the impossible. “Father, can you fix this?” Without hesitation, without reservation, without cost, out comes the needle and thread and the impossible is granted. Every time.
John was able to resolve his problem over the course of several hours, ripping off all the strings, leaving just a small remnant. Schmaish was a fraction of his former self. Surprisingly, John seemed OK with that.
But this is not how God does things. In the Sacrament of Confession, our souls are fully restored, not mere remnants, but whole and holy once more. Maybe even larger than when we stepped into the confessional, expanded to hold additional Grace.
How does this happen? If we could only see the impossibility of what we ask, we would probably never ask. Thank God, we have no idea.
We just assume that sewing spaghetti is not a problem for God. And, thank God, we are right.
Copyright 2012 Sherry Boas