So, last night I told Daniel that he had to take a shower because tomorrow was a special day – we were going to go to Nonna’s for his early birthday cake because Aunt Kate wanted to sing “Happy Birthday” to him and wouldn’t be able to on his actual birthday because she would be too sick.
Daniel (indignant, the temptation of gifts soaring over his head): “I thought you said we were going to visit Jesus tomorrow”
Me: “Yes, first we’re going to go to church. And we have to be quiet and listen to the priest talk when we’re there.”
Why are we going to church now when I’ve managed to only have him in church twice in his almost 5 years (once for his christening and once for a children’s Christmas pageant)? My mother. She’s concerned about his spiritual development. She thinks he needs to learn about God. Parental presure never ceases.
Me: “Well, there’s more to Jesus than that. He grew up…”
Daniel (interrupting, annoyed with me now): “I KNOW that. He’s going to help me talk to the dead people like your Nonna and Jesse’s mother. Will they be there too?”
Me (shocked and a little horrified): “I don’t know…”
And then he got in the shower, and I started drinking again. Almost made it a week as a teetotaler.
I texted Vicki.
Me: “No. I am not addicted. It’s situational. And he’s still on a rant about all he has to tell Jesus. I’m stunned silent.”
V: “Tell him that Jesus can only hear silent thoughts. Why? We don’t know. It’s one of the divine mysteries. How do we know? Sister Maryanne told us. She’s married to him. (Maybe you shouldn’t tell him THAT…)”
Me: “That’s not exactly helpful…maybe there’s a book on Amazon…oh, wait…maybe there are 10,000 books…”
V: “Or you can just keep drinking.”
Me: “Done. I really don’t need an invisible magical superpower who can speak to dead people added to the mix right now. Thanks Mom. Again. “
V: “Sign him up for CCD and let them handle it.”
Only I can’t sign him up for CCD until he’s in first grade. So it was off to Preschool Religious Education at mass at St. Isaac’s this morning.
I got him dressed in his Gap grey herringbone trousers and black socks and black loafers and his nice, pressed blue oxford shirt because I told him you have to look nice when you go to God’s house to show him that you respect him. There was a brief spat about black coveralls, which I am happy to say I won. I fed him breakfast. And all the while he was chattering about all the things he was going to tell Jesus and how excited he was about meeting my grandmother (dead now since 1993) and Jesse’s mother (some kid at school who started this whole obsession with dead because his mother died and he has two dads (a couple) and four dead grandparents…btw…thanks for that, kid) and Jackie Robinson (whom he found on a baseball card at the Phillies game this week and discovered was dead). He was thinking they’d all be at the church with Jesus.
Me: “Daniel, when people die they go to live with God and Jesus in heaven.”
Daniel (accusatory): “You said Jesus lives in church.”
Me: “He does. But he also lives in heaven. And in you. And in me. In all of us.”
Daniel (panicked): “WHAT? He’s IN me?”
Me (totally losing control of this): “In your heart and your mind, not in your body. When he died, he became a spirit, and now he lives in all of us and helps us to be good and do good things.”
Daniel (wheels spinning now): “He got dead? I thought he lived across the street in the church? Why is there a ghost in me? Get him out. Mommy, get the ghost out of me.”
Me (resigned): “He did die. But he came back to life afterward to help all of us. There’s no ghost in you. Jesus is like the magic good part of you.”
Daniel (eyebrow raised again – he’s buying none of this): “So he’s not dead. I told you so. You lied, Mommy. Let’s go meet him. Will your grandmother and Jackie Robinson be there? Will he show me how to do magic tricks?”
Me (sighing, with that sinking feeling you have when you know you’re about to be involved in an unpreventable disaster): “Maybe.”
So we went over to mass, and he went in and sat in a pew with me, patiently waiting for Jesus to come greet him, introduce him to some dead people and do magic tricks.
Luckily, there wasn’t much of a wait, and the priest came in with the processional after about two minutes. I had to explain that no, he wasn’t Jesus, but he spoke about Jesus, and read to us about Jesus and told us what Jesus wants for us, and then, thankfully, they took the little ones off to Preschool Religious Education after calling them to the altar to be blessed before the first reading.
They returned him right after the homily, angrily clutching a picture of a guy sitting under a tree with a bunch of kids that Daniel had colored red, badly. I noted that the preschool teacher looked more haggard than when she’d cheerily led them off…like maybe she was about to head for the altar wine.
Daniel (incensed now and not being quiet): “Jesus wasn’t downstairs, either. Where is he? You said he’d be here.”
Me: “Shhh. You have to be quiet in church. People are praying. That’s Jesus up behind the priest on the altar. See him on the wall?”
Daniel (incredulous, like he’d been totally duped): “That statue man on the big T? That’s Jesus? You want me to talk to a statue? Why is he on a T? Where is your grandmother?”
I stare blankly at the child that probably I should have named Damien. People around us are “coughing” suggestively like I have some ability to control this and am opting not to.
Daniel (wailing, almost in tears): “Where is Jesse’s mother and Jackie Robinson? I want to meet Jesus.”
Me (whispering): “You have to be quiet. Jesus is here. He’s in our hearts, and in the songs we sing and in the book we read. We can tell Jesus what we’re afraid of and what we want. Those people are in heaven with God and Jesus…”
Daniel (interrupting): “That statue?”
Me: “No, the statue is just a picture of Jesus. Jesus is all around us…”
Daniel, just as the church went completely quiet because the priest had turned to the sacristy, at the very top of his lungs: “Where the HELL is Jesus?”
And then even the people who were not standing near us listening in horror at this exchange all turned and stared as I shrunk into the pew and looked at my offspring like he had two heads. Terri’s “he’s only this age once, enjoy it” message echoed in my head as I resisted the urge to drown him in the baptismal font.
Me (taking his hand and leading him up the aisle and out of the church before the topic of exorcism was raised by a “concerned parishioner”: “He’s probably with Sister Maryanne or Sister Sheila. They’re married to him. You can come to work with me this week and ask them. They’ll know where he is. Wives always know where their husbands are.”
Daniel (happy now): “Right! Then why did we have to come here? Silly Mommy. Is it time for my birthday cake?”
Yes. Yes, it is. And wine. And not the altar type. Because we’ve clearly moved from the magical thinking stage into the concrete one.
I think he’s going to be a priest. Or an atheist sociopath serial killer architect astronaut. One of those.