Sunday, December 26, 2004

Not So Silent Night

We took the children to Christmas Eve Mass, the 5 pm one, specifically. Anyone who chooses to attend this Mass has to expect a little "crowd noise." Beyond what is going on at the altar or in the vicinity of the choir, I mean. It is a Mass designed to be kid-friendly, so it is best to expect a good serving of commotion along with your prayers. We arrived early so we could get seats. Christmas Eve Masses are always standing room only, so you need to get there at least half an hour early to be guaranteed a seat. And in our case we had our family, Hubby's sister's family, plus the parents-in-law, so we actually commandeered an entire pew for ourselves. I was deathly ill on the verge of rigor mortis at the time. If it hadn't been Christmas Eve I definitely would've chosen to stay home and start self-embalming rather than trying to follow along with the readings and keeping the 3-year-old from grabbing people's ankles from under the pew. Normally if I have a SARS or ebola-type infection I will seat myself in a location far from other people in an attempt to be neighborly. However this is impossible on Christmas Eve. It is the first time I just brought an entire box of tissues to the service. Why dink around with estimating how many you will need when a whole box might not be enough? I tried to cough in the direction of the kneelers, and not let my eyes water on any unsuspecting parishioners. Hubby tried to remove the jacket from our unwilling 3-year-old. This resulted in the first pre-service tussle, fortunately partly drowned out by the choir warming up. Then the 3-year-old tried to go full bore in the other direction and started removing his shoes. Hubby put a stop to that too, so the 3-year-old was getting cranky. But the songs were done by a children's choir in robes, so I held him up to see them. "Look! ANGELS!" he shouted. We agreed. It was nice to have angels in attendance. Due to a variety of distractions involving illness, numerous clothing changes and eating, we hadn't brought any special toys with us. So I hunted through the carry-all bag for something for the 3-year-old. A book? A map? A snack? Finally at the bottom of the bag I discovered a McDonald's-based army action figure complete with weapons. The 3-year-old grunted with glee and began making fighting noises. About halfway through the service the 3year-old got bored and was stretched out on the kneelers below us. Every once in a while I would see someone in the pew ahead of us flinch as though bitten by a bug. Then I would drag the 3-year-old to a sitting position and explain to him he must not touch people's ankles. He lifted his shirt and displayed his nipples to the people behind us. They smiled at this. They were a husband with a wife visibly pregnant and several other adults. They were viewing their future. In all its bare-nippled glory. Hubby tried to tuck the 3-year-old's shirt into his pants which were starting to slip down and show portions of his butt which are admittedly cute but not acceptable for public display. Now this is our in-laws' church, not ours, so our parish won't be getting our Christmas envelope until Sunday, probably. But Hubby wanted the children to have money for the basket. So he gave the 3-year-old a ten dollar bill. He seized it and then shouted, "I'm rich! I'm RICH!" The crazy people behind us started giggling again. They have no idea how much sleep they are going to lose in a few short months. At the sign of peace I did not shake anyone's hand, explaining, "I have a cold." As if they couldn't tell. Actually I sounded more like I had end stage pneumonia. By the end the 3-year-old was insisting. "Have to go home now. Mass is OVER. It's time to go HOME." By then I think everyone was ready for us to leave. He also did manage to bellow, "Happy Birthday JESUS!" before we left. But this is the second year in a row that we've done Christmas Eve in a pew. Perhaps we are ready to graduate from the glassed-in special children's area. If only we could get the 3-year-old to keep his clothes on.

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