Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Separate Peace

We have started trying to take the boys to church with us on Sundays. It's a little crazy. They used to laugh maniacally and thump things. They’re a little better now but they’re still loud. And of course they want the same book at the same time, or try to sit in the same chair at the same time (we have rocking chairs in the back of the church.) It’s just chaotic.

Chiara is better for the most part, but sometimes it’s only marginally so. Today she cried (SOBBED) and begged me to go with her to the childrens' liturgy. Each week is headed by a different volunteer parent. They don't know the kids or their names. It's a mixed crowd ages 3 - 9. There are a couple of boys who are just monsters. I don't blame Chiara for not wanting to go by herself--I don't want to be there either! I couldn’t just leave her there sobbing uncontrollably but at the same time I don’t want to make a habit of literally holding her hand through a situation that’s uncomfortable, but not terrible. Besides, I wanted to hear the homily. I like this parish; I like this priest. I wanted to hear him.

I’m feeling guilty because my daughter is quietly sobbing inside the classroom. I’m feeling anxious and trying to justify leaving (it’s good to work out situations in which you are uncomfortable, right?) And I don’t know what the right thing to do is. I ended up just staying right outside the door until Chiara was comfortable enough for me to leave (which was when they started the craft). I decided that if I really wanted to hear the homily I could email Father Mark for it. I think there’s a podcast, too. I don’t need to be in such a hurry.

When I went back to the main church I saw that Father Mark wasn’t giving the homily after all. One of the parishioners was talking about how he’d come to his faith and the 26 years that he’s been sober. Interesting, yes, but I’m glad I didn’t hurry and leave Chiara before she was ready.

Then it turned out that two parish members were recently married in their home country (W Samoa) and wanted to say their vows again here at the church. So Father Mark asked all married couples to stand and renew their vows.

There we stood, Matt and I, at the back of the church—“Do you, Matt, take Janine…” amidst the boys dropping Cheerios like a trail of breadcrumbs and banging their heads and tripping on imaginary steps. I was laughing and crying at the same time.

It makes me think, this is what it must be like to take yoga in India. India is so famously crowded and loud and hot and in your face and our idea of yoga is the opposite: it’s complete silence and stillness.

I used to go to church to get a little bit of that peace and stillness and take it back with me for the week. Now that we’re bringing the boys, church is just as chaotic as the rest of our day. So I have to find peace in a different way. Like being the eye in the storm.

Today, waiting in the doorway, watching Chiara until she was so absorbed in her activities she didn’t notice me anymore, and then later, holding Matt’s hand promising to have him and hold him until death divides us, I got my brisk wind of peace.