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……