punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Perspective: Adjusted! A Palm Sunday Reflection

I’ve inherited a van. A piece of antiquated, grey scrap metal heaped and smelted together testifying to the latest van engineering marvels of the late 1980s and early 1990s. What tree rings or layers of rock sediment teach of the passage of time, she does in rust and rattle. I don’t believe in certain types of evolution but I’m pretty sure that in another 50 years she will be a mushroom.

But don’t make fun of my moving mountain on wheels yet! You might see her in a different light by the end of this post (just don’t use the unflattering overhead light, mind you, because she is sensitive).

When I gave up working to stay home we sold a car. After dreary months of houseboundliness with relatives rushing to save the kids and I from perpetual cabin fever, my grandmother generously volunteered the van of my childhood - the van that held Grampa at the helm and my sister and I stretching out or sleeping on the back seat during many Reno-bound journeys. Yes, it even went through snow at one time.

Despite her dilapidated state, the desperation made manifest in the expression, “At least it’s a car,” was keenly tangible to me after months of a cloistered home existence, so I accepted. And so the kids and I literally climbed aboard and have been making the most of our metal sloth for about six months now. Though it has never been quite what I would characterize as glorious, we still are greatly relieved and indebted to our grey tank just to be moving again!

“How many miles does this thing get?” My husband asked me on one of the rare occasions he was riding with us in the van. “Oh, I’m sure at least 5,” I answered proudly as we guzzled gas on our way to Palm Sunday Mass.

Palm Sunday: the day Jesus rode a donkey. I felt a sudden affinity with our Lord in that moment.

But Christ’s donkey never had anything on my donkey in the way of inconvenience. Sure, one is exposed to the elements on the back of a humble burro, but guess what? So are they if they ride in mine! Yes, when it rains outside my van, it rains inside as well. This is because the seals around the doors have gone and so there is nothing to stop the elements from seeping in.

But despite her beat-up, rattling frame, she is a special vehicle, especially in how each of her doors require special treatment for closing securely. The same can be said for her special seating: on one seat you can recline, another, you can’t sit straight, and one is normal.

She does have electric capabilities that still function and not just in the nice electric shock that waits for you every time you get in and out. Mercifully, she does have central locking and electric windows which make up for the lack of air conditioning output.

Most of the backseat curtains are gone probably due to the abuse we gave them as kids, and the blinds (you heard me right, window blinds) somewhat obstruct my vision. Potentially dangerous, right? But don’t worry, this is compensated for by her slow driving (really, lurching) which allows time for myself or some poor unsuspecting small to midsized car to swerve.

But the radio does work which is essential for every Immaculate Heart Radio listening mom, and one does get a nice arm workout from steering that bus-sized wheel. Also, being an oversized, conversion-top van, I can actually stand up straight in it if I need to.

But the bonus is this: the kids LOVE it. I LOVED it especially when I was a kid.

The other day this was crystallized for me when a friend’s children poked their heads into my van. I half expected them to make fun, but they didn’t. Instead, they turned to their mom with the brightest expressions on their faces and proclaimed, “This is luxury!” over and over again. It was contagious! I began to beam. Luxury? They thought my van was luxurious (and their family has a nice new minivan)!

I am indebted to those sweet kids because in that moment my perspective was adjusted, dramatically so. Or at least as re-adjusted as my wing mirror often needs to be since it slowly shifts out of place as I drive.

I am still so grateful.

Donkey? Metal van? Humility instilled in its rider? Excitement of children. Palms waving in the air outside of Jerusalem. My family safe and secure as we lurch through Santa Clara. What could be better?

And so I for all my wishing someone would mercifully steal my van and sell it for parts, and all my longing to buy something new, I’ll keep it and enjoy feeling like its spoiling me…and not just spoiling. It does get me from point A to point B which is the function of a vehicle, right? And how many others come complete with a chamber pot and TP for those kiddie emergencies on the go? Not many. But my luxury van does.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

So Nice to Talk About What Really Matters

It's too long but I could have titled this post, “So incredibly mind-boggling, thrilling, and exciting to actually be able to talk about what really matters!" If there’s a tone of exasperated relief, it’s for good reason.
I am discovering late in my twenties what it means to genuinely connect with people on some of the most fundamental levels – mostly the levels of suffering and perseverance. And yes, most of these people with whom I’ve been able to connect with are parents.
Parenthood is the great equalizer I’ve discovered. It is The Job which no amount of education, no amount of preparedness, no amount of worldly prestige can prepare you for. On one hand the limits of your limits are stretched in ways you never believed possible, but on the other hand, your love is also multiplied. It’s a polarity as rewarding as it is exhausting.
Now I’m not suggesting that single people don’t genuinely suffer or have real substance to them. One of my closest friends is single. But it has become obvious to me as I get older and am busy with the job of homemaking (and laundry) that many people in like circumstances share a camaraderie that enables them to be more open about the more raw facets of their lives. And it’s so refreshing!
Having said that, I don’t remember feeling like I was making this connection with people when I only had one child and was still working. I may have just been too distracted with balancing home and work to notice other parents. But once the second one bounced into the picture (it was a quick labor) and I began staying home, the color of parenthood changed very quickly.
One parent phrased it so well when we were talking the other day, “Did you feel that things just became infinitely harder after the second one?” he asked. I said yes and my husband said no. Hmmm. Seriously, it definitely became incredibly difficult to juggle between the tantrum throwing two year old and the incessantly needy infant.
But there’s a certain something that happens when you do forfeit yourself for a greater, more admirable role (such as being a parent) and that is generosity. Maybe it’s just for having ‘been there’, but I am often amazed at another parent or grandparent’s willingness to help you in a crisis. Child having a melt-down? – Nearest mom offers to hold your coffee so you can discipline. Your snackies just spill all over the ground? – Nearest parent offers to keep an eye on your kid(s) so you can pick up the mess.
Often a moment of need is when the greatest honesty takes place, and parenthood tends to be one prolonged moment of great need – especially in public! But therein lies the chance to connect with someone, even just in conversation, concerning how they are doing with life, parenthood (if they are parents) and even sometimes faith. You know, about what really matters!
Now, I’m not advocating starting every conversation with one’s own story of woe. But if I ask someone, "How's it going?" I'm grateful if they feel comfortable enough to say, "Well it's been a little tough lately..." rather than the stock, "Good." Of course if things have been good I want to hear about it also! In short, I am all for becoming more and more “real,” which I equate with abandoning the nonsense that we often think so integral to the almighty “me.”
Ah, “me”…how quickly that disappears in parenthood. As my now three year old likes to sometimes remind me, “Your name is Mommy!” Yes, indeed it is now.
And so life, sacrifice, Faith, perseverance and genuine joy, – there is little else I want to talk about these days, and little else that really interests me. How wonderful it has been lately to discover the openness, no, thirst people have to connect on such fundamental levels – levels, essentially, where God is working in their lives! I love hearing about someone's experience of God even if was only momentary and I feel honored that someone would want to share it with me. As a result, friendship just feels differently to me now...it is more honest - and anyway I have very few worldly trappings on my person to discuss anymore, except of course, for the coffee stains that come from the splash-up while pushing the stroller...those special adornments just come with the territory!