Today was the Solemnity of the Assumption, a holy day for us. We went to the 9 a.m. Mass at the chapel of a local nursing home run by Carmelite sisters. The kids and I sat in the last row, but the boy grew too noisy, and I had to take the two little ones out to the lobby. By “too noisy” I mean he’s in this phase where his favorite favorite thing is to ruff-ruff like a puppy. There we were in this tiny little chapel full of nuns and elderly people, and my son was barking. During the homily. Embarrassing much? You could say that.
So I spent the rest of Mass in the lobby, my cheeks burning, trying to keep the barking to a whisper. Trouble is, Wonderboy can’t HEAR a whisper. This has a somewhat limiting effect upon his desire to vocalize sotto voce. I was kicking myself for not getting the crew up and out early enough to make the 8 a.m. Mass at our own parish, which has a soundproofed cry room.
When Mass was over, the priest, an elderly fellow himself, walked straight through the chapel doors to the lobby where I was standing. He smiled at us, shook my hand, admired the beautiful children. I apologized for Wonderboy’s noise.
The priest held a hand to his ear.
“Eh? What’s that?” he shouted, in the unmistakable tones of the hard-of-hearing.
It is impossible for me to convey the deliciousness of that moment. In an instant, my mortification was gone. Of course I still wished that Wonderboy had kept quiet (he’s been so good during Sunday Mass the last couple of months—and we sit right near the front of the church, not in the cry room, which is a rowdy, unpleasant place on a Sunday), but I realized once again what experience has taught me so many times. We’re never as great a nuisance as I think we are in situations like this. Hardly ever is anyone judging us as sternly as I am, behind my flaming cheeks.
“What’s that you said?” the priest repeated.
I raised my voice, as if I were talking to my semi-deaf son. “I’M SORRY MY LITTLE BOY WAS SO NOISY DURING MASS!”
The priest gave a hearty laugh. “It’s not like I would notice!”
He laid a hand on Wonderboy’s head, gnarled fingers patting the white-blond hair above the blue hearing aids.
“My brother had fourteen children,” he said. “Fourteen nieces and nephews, I had. Now those children could make some noise!”
The congregation began to file out: white-haired ladies with walkers, old men leaning on canes, beaming Carmelite sisters in their brown habits—every one of them stopping to smile at the children, ruffle a head of hair, shake a hand. There was no hint of reproof or censure in anyone’s manner: only warm smiles, friendly greetings, huge peals of laughter when Wonderboy, God bless him, ruff-ruffed at them. These good souls seemed universally delighted to see—and yes, even hear—youngsters in the aisles of their nursing home which, perhaps, come to think of it, is sometimes all too quiet.
Just the Essentials
Wee and Wonderful Indeed
Stranger Than Fiction
December 2014, part the first
Elephant: the Sequel