My phone rang today. An old friend that has loved me for years was calling for advice. We hadn’t talked in far too long, but we have one of those rare relationships where time stands still. We pick up. We carry on.
It was a mommy call. Her three year old had a rough day at school. Her heart was full – struggle, anger, frustration and embarrassment.
As we talked, we laughed. We wondered. We teased out the possible solutions for her dilemma.
I reminded her that my first-born, though adored by many and full of charm and personality, has left me with the same feelings of total exasperation and embarrassment more than once. To ease her mind and as an act of solidarity, I shared this story.
Three years ago (and I do remember it like it was yesterday), I decided our family would NEVER return to church. I had not had a falling out with God. I was not irate over a preacher’s message. I was not disenchanted with the patriarchal structure. I was simply…mortified.
After Mass, we exited the sanctuary to the lobby where most of the churchgoers lingered to chat and catch up with one another. I was talking with a friend, when my two-year old slipped from my hand. In an attempt to not be totally rude and abruptly abandon the conversation, I did that awkward mom shimmy. Baby on hip, side scooching toward my toddler, trying to keep eye contact with the speaker, pretending like I’m still listening while glancing at said toddler, in heels with a diaper bag.
Not cute. Never effective.
As I glanced at my daughter, I saw it.
I saw it.
I saw it.
I threw my body towards her, but it was too late.
Her chubby little hand could just reach that shiny metal lever.
She pulled the fire alarm.
I’ll give you a minute and let that sink in…
Thank you. I appreciate your sympathy.
Alarm blaring, everyone turns to look. There we are – stunned, horrified, in total disbelief.
“Everyone out! Everyone out!” shouts the music minister.
“No, no, no!” I plea, “It was just my two-year old. There’s no fire. It’s fine. Really!”
“Everyone out! We have to evacuate,” she snapped in what I must say was a very “un-Christian-y” tone.
Roughly three hundred people evacuated the building. I promise you that every, single one of them judged me. I sat on a bench and tried to melt into the sidewalk. “This cannot get any worse. I may die of embarrassment.”
(Note: I have now been parenting long enough that I realize the error in my thoughts. NEVER tell yourself that it can’t get worse. It totally can, especially if you haven’t actually died of embarrassment yet.)
Then, I heard them.
Oh, Sweet Jesus.
As my friend and I talked and laughed today, I realized something.
These are the stories that are lives will be made of. No one sits around reminiscing about the time their kid had a great day at school, or the Sunday when they went to church and everyone behaved. Those aren’t the days that mold us.
The funny ones. The hard ones. The ones that are hard now, but so funny later.
Those days when you are sure you can’t take anymore. That is the good stuff.
Even the stuff that looks like bad stuff – I promise, it’s the good stuff.
It’s the best stuff.
P.S. – We did return to that church, but only after a well-crafted email in which I apologized profusely and offered to pay any fee the church may have incurred from the fire department.