April 2017 archive

I Want to Hold Your Hand

I was sit­ting at the kitchen table talk­ing to my mom when my near­ly nine-year-old placed him­self on my lap.

What’s wrong, bud?” I asked.

Noth­ing, I just want­ed you to hold me,” he respond­ed as he leaned back and rest­ed his head on my shoul­der.

I auto­mat­i­cal­ly assumed that he felt bad or was start­ing to feel bad or thought he might feel bad, because this just nev­er hap­pens any­more. My baby, my first born, my Hand­some #1, the boy who made me a mom, is begin­ning to out­grow me. He has friends and inter­ests that I am no longer dic­tat­ing. And in all real­i­ty, that makes things a bit eas­ier. Often my atten­tion is divert­ed in many oth­er direc­tions. He is the old­est of four with three younger sib­lings rang­ing in age from sev­en all the way down to a year. To say that my focus tends to be stolen by oth­ers is an under­state­ment.

For the first two years of his life, it was us again­st the world. We would sing, dance, and play all day long. His white blonde hair and pierc­ing blue eyes lit up the room. He was a very ear­ly talk­er and would read­i­ly strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with any stranger that caught his glance. His play­ful grin and irre­sistible charm had me wrapped around his fin­ger from the word go.

As our fam­i­ly grew larg­er, my focus shift­ed to the new babies as they arrived and he became my great­est helper. Being the old­est is a birth posi­tion that I share and com­plete­ly under­stand. There is a lot of respon­si­bil­i­ty that comes with being first. You have to set the exam­ple, you have to behave, and you have to be the one who grows up while every­one else gets to be lit­tle. That grow­ing up hap­pens so fast and before a mom knows it; her baby is not a baby, nor a big boy try­ing to get even big­ger. He becomes a young man in a blink.

It use to be that I could pick him up and car­ry him up the stairs with­out a sec­ond thought. Today it would be a strug­gle, but one I would hap­pi­ly chal­lenge myself with if he asked. Some­times, I catch a look at his pro­file and see the same point­ed nose that he had as a new­born baby. As he has grown, his chin has become more chis­eled and his cheeks a bit thin­ner, but his eye­lash­es are still any model’s dream. If I brush his hair away from his fore­head I can still see him lying in a crib.

Some­times when he doesn’t even know it, he will grab my hand in a store and I get a lit­tle lump in my throat. I real­ize that time is fleet­ing and I want to hold on tight­ly for as long as I can. All too quick­ly he can feel my grip tight­en and he is gone run­ning down the aisle laugh­ing, smil­ing, and car­ry­ing on the way that a nine-year-old boy does.

Bed­time rou­ti­nes have trans­formed from singing songs, read­ing books, say­ing prayers, and more hugs and kiss­es than I could count to a quick, good­night and a, “Can you please close the door?” That lit­tle boy who want­ed me to read his favorite book just one more time is now read­ing nov­els on his own. Occa­sion­al­ly he will ask me to stay and tell him a sto­ry. He likes to hear about when I was a kid and fun­ny things about his grand­par­ents. He will lay on his bel­ly and let me rub his back as I talk. I take full advan­tage and even sneak in a kiss or a snug­gle before he asks me to leave.

He no longer wants my help get­ting dressed and locks the bath­room door for added pri­va­cy. He has nev­er been a high-main­te­nance kid, but there has recent­ly been a shift in what he cares about. Brand names are impor­tant and so is his hair. He comes into my bath­room in the morn­ing and asks me to style it for him. I breathe in his lit­tle boy smell and stare at him in the mir­ror. I quick­ly turn my head as the tears begin to well so that he doesn’t notice and grum­ble, “Mom! Please stop.”

As he begins to exert more and more inde­pen­dence, I am taxed with ensur­ing the he is mak­ing the right deci­sions. We are still in the, be nice to your sib­lings and don’t say bad words, phase. We talk about being kind, lov­ing, and faith­ful. I reit­er­ate that we should only treat oth­ers the way that we want to be treat­ed. Soon our talks will trans­form to more seri­ous sub­ject mat­ter like alco­hol, drugs, and sex. It is mind bog­gling to me that I even have to con­sid­er the­se con­ver­sa­tions, but the world that we live in neces­si­tates the seri­ous­ness of our dis­cus­sions because kids are fac­ing adult choic­es entire­ly too young.

I want him to con­tin­ue to love Minecraft and Trans­form­ers. I want his imag­i­na­tion to run wild about wiz­ards and far­away lands. I pray that he will always come to me with his fears and con­cerns and not ever be too embar­rassed to talk to me. I know that I can’t keep him lit­tle, and I don’t want to. He needs to explore every bit of the world that he can. But while he still wants me around and finds com­fort in my arms, I will keep him close and safe and pro­tect­ed. Who am I kid­ding? If he wants me to hold his hand when he is 35, I’ll do it. By then, I will be well into my six­ties and will like­ly be look­ing for a lit­tle help from his younger and stronger arm. I have no doubt he will extend it with a smile. But until then, I will hold his hand tight­ly and he will hold my heart.

Five Reasons Why I am a Guilty Catholic

When I was a lit­tle girl I stole a pack of Rolos from the gro­cery store. I use the word stole cau­tious­ly because there wasn’t any great pre­med­i­tat­ed plan. The brown roll with the gold­en edges looked deli­cious to my three-year-old eyes, so I grabbed them and head­ed out of the store with my moth­er. Once we were in the car she noticed the silence and real­ized that my mouth was qui­et because it was filled with choco­latey caramel good­ness. I was imme­di­ate­ly marched back in to the store where I pro­ceed­ed to return the half-eat­en stolen mer­chan­dise to the cashier along with a long, drawn our apol­o­gy. Cer­tain that I was faced with eter­nal damna­tion, my Catholic guilt was born that day.

I am not uncom­fort­able in my guilty Catholic skin. As a mat­ter of fact, I kind of like it. I am always dou­ble check­ing what I do or say so that when I have to answer to St. Peter at the gates of heav­en, I will have a decent sto­ry to tell. Make no mis­take, I am doing things wrong all of the time. If you’ve read any­thing else that I have ever writ­ten, you know that. I have learned from my moth­er, St. Mary Mau­r­mi her­self, a few things in my life. I have glad­ly passed the­se ten­ants on to my own chil­dren so that they will grow up to be a bit more decent…ish.…..

My moth­er had this pic­ture tak­en an entire year after I made my First Holy Communion.…Not that she should feel bad­ly about that.…..

1. Do not dis­card any­thing reli­gious- My moth­er has box­es of bro­ken rosaries at her house because she is sure that light­en­ing will strike her dead if she dares put one in the trash. “The­se are blessed, Colleen. You can nev­er get rid of any­thing blessed.” This one state­ment is why I have an Infant of Prague stat­ue with no hands hid­den in my sec­re­tary. I also have funer­al cards of the par­ents of kids who my moth­er went to grade school with in my mem­o­ry box­es. I have nev­er met any of the­se peo­ple. Not a one. I have no idea how in the hell (I am going to hell for just typ­ing that) I got them. But I sure as hell (back down to the firey abyss I go) can’t get rid of them. I say a quick may God bless you to Mrs. Mary Jones, b. 1921 d. 1994, every time I pass that Rub­ber­maid tub in the base­ment.

2. Make the Sign of the Cross when you pass a Catholic church- I live in St. Louis, you sneeze and you’re out­side of a Catholic church. That’s a lot of signs of the cross and plen­ty of time for reflec­tion. Very often when I am dri­ving alone I lis­ten to 90s gang­ster rap. As soon as I pass the church, that quick sign of the cross turns into a Hail Mary seek­ing inter­ces­sion from the Blessed Moth­er so that I will not be con­demned for lis­ten­ing to music filled with curse words, vio­lence and that objec­ti­fies wom­en. I real­ly like rap music so I am often over­whelmed with thoughts that I prob­a­bly shouldn’t be lis­ten­ing at all. Oh, and if I miss a church, then it is a dou­ble sign of the cross fol­lowed by a, “$h!+” and an “I’m sor­ry for curs­ing.” I get so worked up that I am sin­ning like crazy, I shut the rap music down and end up lis­ten­ing to Bar­ry Manilow for the remain­der of the day.

3. Make Sure you are Giv­ing Back- I feel like every sin­gle time I go to the store I am asked if I would like to donate a dol­lar to a cause. Some­times I say yes. Oth­er times I real­ly just don’t have the extra cash, so I decline. I am instant­ly over­come with shame know­ing that when the cashier says, “Receipt with you or in the bag?” She is real­ly think­ing, “Come on lady, you can’t donate just one dol­lar? Don’t you know that the cure would hap­pen if you just gave one dol­lar? But instead, you are enjoy­ing that Peo­ple Mag­a­zine with Richard Sim­mons on the cov­er and that Diet Coke, which, by the way, isn’t help­ing. So, please, take that flam­ing red hair and match­ing lips and go on about your busi­ness know­ing that you have just let down the entire effort. Thanks. Thanks a lot!” I reply, “Bag is fine.” And walk out with my head hung in shame.

4. Don’t For­get the Poor Kids- I hold on to every piece of cloth­ing, toy and book know­ing that there is a poor child that needs them. Shirts, shorts, coats and any­thing worth­while is bagged up and head­ed to those in need and the poor kids are thrilled. But what about the left­overs? The prob­lem is, the poor kids don’t want ten­nis shoes with holes or stained one­sies, but I feel so bad­ly about throw­ing away any­thing use­ful that I keep it in bins in my base­ment. Just in case. My fear that the poor kids will go with­out is not lim­it­ed to the hoard­ing of my children’s cast offs. I bring my sad­ness for the poor kids into the kitchen, too. If I exper­i­ment with a recipe that no one will touch, there is no way that we are throw­ing it out, because peo­ple are starv­ing. So, my hus­band ends up eat­ing the same casserole for lunch every day for a week. Or, he throws it away when he gets to work. Those deci­sions are on him. He’s the one who will go to hell for lying.…and wasting.…not me.

5. Look out for Your Guardian Angel- There is always some­one watch­ing you and it isn’t San­ta Claus. Sure, he sees you when you are sleep­ing and knows when you are awake, but the guardian angel isn’t lim­it­ed to the hol­i­day sea­son. He’s with you 100 per­cent of the time. That angel will pro­tect you when you need it, but he will also give you a quick real­i­ty check when it’s deemed fit­ting. Have you ever smart­ed off to your moth­er or slapped your broth­er and then walked away and tripped, or banged your elbow on the cof­fee table or spilled some­thing on your shirt imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the infrac­tion? That is your guardian angel giv­ing you a shove. Just ask my moth­er. She has ter­ri­fied her four chil­dren and eight grand­chil­dren with this lit­tle fact for years. Next time you do or say some­thing unkind, you’ll fee a swift kick to the back of your knees and fall right over. Mark my words!

There are a lot of things in life that I am guilty about, but my Catholic guilt is not one of them.  My moth­er has forever said, “If you can’t do it in front of me, you prob­a­bly shouldn’t be doing it.” That state­ment has rung true my entire life. My Catholic guilt does not make me a para­noid bas­ket case. Instead, it helps me to make bet­ter choic­es because I am con­cerned about what will hap­pen to me if I don’t. They say (I don’t know who they are but they are filled with help­ful nuggets of infor­ma­tion) good things hap­pen to good peo­ple. Lots of peo­ple call it guilt, oth­ers call it Kar­ma, some say it is blind faith. To me, that guilt is like a warm com­fort­ing blan­ket that makes me feel secure in my choic­es. But I am not too naive to real­ize that blan­ket has the abil­i­ty to spon­ta­neous­ly burst in to flames in case I get off course, so I always keep a bot­tle of water close at hand to fight the flames.… Just in case.…..