Writing, Running, Being.

The finish line is a shifty Thing and what is life, but reckoning?
Ani DiFranco

Monday, February 18, 2008

good exists

"Grace" is one of those Christian buzz words. It has about 20 dictionary definitions. The one that happened to me yesterday was number three: favor or goodwill. Saturday was sunny and above 50 degrees. After finishing my morning group run with Jonas in the Chariot at the Air Force Academy, I was not yet ready to retreat indoors for the day. I got overzealous and decided to run Barr Trail. The Chariot is too big to push up Barr Trail, so I tied Jonas as tight as possible onto my back with my Mei Tai. I ran up 45 minutes then turned to walk down. I hadn't anticipated the treachery of the snowy descent. It was no bueno. On the way down a particularly icy section I was stopped by a couple who undoubtedly thought I was the worst mom in the world; either that or the dumbest. But they didn't stop me to lecture me or to call CPS on me. They stopped to offer me the woman's Yaktrax. I declined several times but they insisted. Already embarrassed to be caught in a moment of supreme senselessness, I finally accepted the kind gesture. I might be an idiot, hiking icy trails with a 7 month old baby on my back, but I'm not an evil idiot. If these Yaktrax were going to save my child's life, than I was a fool not to take them.

We arranged for a spot to leave them at the trail head and I said many thank-yous. The man lent me his arm to steady myself as I stretched the Yaktrax over my running shoes. Then I took off down the trail. I had been hiking less than a minute when the man caught up to me and said "You know what, why don't you just keep those, we'll get new ones, it's not a problem" Again I tried to argue but again he insisted. Those Yaktrax really did save our lives on the way down. I don't know how I would have handled it without them. Hiking down Barr Trail in the snow is hard enough without a baby on your back, throwing off your center of gravity so I don't know what made me think I could do it initially.

So grateful was I to those people that I smiled all the way down the trail. I felt like the Grinch at the end of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" when his heart swells out of his chest. Sometimes people surprise me with their goodness. Their Grace. Just when I start thinking the world is a terrible place full of violence, poverty and apathy , people like them show up to donate Yaktrax to an ill-equipped young mother on an icy trail and restore my faith in humanity. The world is still a terrible place, but Good exists.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Panis Angelicus and other Catholic Classics

Panis Angelicus and other Catholic Classics

Why are mothers compelled to sing when their infants cry? It's not soothing. No. Not at all. Especially when that singing mother is yours truly. If anything it makes babies scream harder and louder. When Jonas and I find ourselves in a situation where he is unhappy and I can't do anything about it, say, driving on the highway, it is always such a stressful thing. First it starts out as a whimper, or a few minutes of consistent grunting. Then it escalates to a cry. Before I know it, there is a screaming banshee in the back seat in the midst of a complete emotional meltdown that I have absolutely no control over. I panic. Biologically, mothers are programmed to hate the sound of screaming babies. This is Mother Nature's way of ensuring that an infant's basic needs are met. Those basic needs do not include being sung to in an out of tune, off-tempo, don't-quit-your-day-job fashion. So why is this my first inclination? I do not know. All it does is annoy Jonas even more. Hell, I even annoy myself when I do it.

Tonight Jonas cried the whole way home from Chilis and in a pure state of panic, I frantically searched the archives of my mental music collection for appropriate songs that might provide some comfort for my hysterical child. Don't ask me why but all I could come up with were Catholic hymns. I can't even remember the last time I attended Mass, let alone participated in the Offertory Hymn with an open Misselette in hand, but "Be Not Afraid" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "Come With Me Into The Fields" were filling my brain and flooding my memory like incessantly played-out Top Forty pop songs.

I sang those hymns tonight like a Crucifix-wearing, florally decked, shoulder-pad sporting, poodle haired, Eucharistic ministering, bake sale organizing bona-fide Church Lady! I wasn't a crazy white trash mom speeding down I25 in a Saturn with a butt-crack in the bumper and a wailing pant-less baby in the back seat. No. I was an angel. A celestial being. A beautiful, singing divine messenger, stopping crime and ending wars with my magical melodic voice. My enchanting song made rapists stop mid-thrust and reexamine their consciences. My captivating croon filled the world's hungry with the sensation of a thousand Chipotle burritos each. Even the homeless found shelter in the confines of my Christly carol.

Triumph all ye Cherubim
Sing with us ye Seraphim
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn
Salve Salve Salve Regina

All the problems of the world were solved when I became a singing angel in my car. All except the problem at hand. Jonas continued to cry. Apparently he wanted nothing to do with my holy fantasy. He didn't care whether his mom was a hooker or a Heavenly being. Bottom line, his basic need (whatever it happened to be at that particular moment) was not being met. And calling on the Lord through jumbled fragments of "On Eagles Wings" was not going to ease the situation no matter how breathtaking my voice.

Next time I will just let him scream. I will offer no consolation as it has proved ineffective thus far. If an Angel of God can't pacify my child than I sure as hell can't. Five bucks to the friend who can name this tune:

"It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back..."