Zeal for Thy House

It’s January 1 and the first Mass of the year finds me slouched onto the kneeler, sleepy-headed and negligent. It’s a Holy Day of obligation and I don’t want to start off on a bad foot. Never able to get to the vigil on New Year’s Eve, I always shuffle into the pew the next morning with the same disoriented outlook. I even say the same things to myself every year: I have to start things off right; I have to think about this hard; I wish I felt better.

My mind then drifts towards the football games that will be coming on, and the Hoppin’ John that will be served for good luck, before I rebuke myself and start over again.

The tough thing about it is that all about me I see a bunch of good Christian people. There’s a couple that has a passel of their own children who also take in a passel of foster children. Every service, they spend their time pacifying babies and taking toddlers out to the bathroom. The very sight of them exhausts me. The husband is also a lector and walks with a cane.

There’s a man in the back who has brought his wheelchair-bound mother every Sunday as long as I can remember. He is a farmer, I believe, and works long hours. Today, he is alone, and I don’t know what happened to his mother, though I suspect the worst. Still, there he is.

There’s a doctor up front who gave an entire sound system to the church because the people in the back couldn’t hear the priest. Just ponied up all that cash—and it was a lot of cash—so that folks would not strain so much for an understanding.

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I Hate Summer

We are on the lip of September. August has passed rapidly once again, predictably, dying with the moths buzzing around its flickering yellow bulb while the commentators and pundits cite their same old contradictory whines: Why do schools go back so early now? It used to be after Labor Day. That’s on one side, while on another: Summer’s just a relic of an agricultural economy. (Smartypants!) Now it’s why American students don’t know anything.

On the one hand: Wistful overworked professionals appealing to, yes, France, and its month-long vacations. “Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee / With a shower of rain, we stopped in the colonnade / And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten / And drank coffee, and talked for an hour…”

On the other: Angry overworked professionals carping about not being able to get anyone in New York or on Capitol Hill on the phone.

Texans, meanwhile, are happy to remind us that summer is not over down there until the start of November.

As far as I am concerned, begone with it all. Shut yer trap. I have realized, with the zeal of an unexpected convert, that I despise summer, anyway.

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The Peril of False Spring

It’s January, but the weatherman says the temperatures will creep up near seventy for the next day or two. In fact, things have been warmer than usual for a spell now. Tiny buds are popping out on some of the trees, and croci (yes, a bunch of crocuses) are spackling the earth in little paintbrushes of yellow and purple. The birds, from black starling to blue jay, are wild about it all.

This shouldn’t be happening, of course, because this is the mid-Atlantic, and the average temperature this time of year is in the low forties. The skies should stay dark and unruly for weeks to come. Windshields should be sheathed in icy skins that have to be chafed and busted off with barely-effective scrapers that send shivers of freezing pellets down your shirtsleeve.

The ride to work should be intolerable, the seat a glacier beneath your pant legs and too frost-bound to lean back against. The heater controls should take a merciless pounding as you demand more from them than they can possibly give in such tundral conditions.

But that’s not happening right now. Right now, the car windows are down a tad to let in a waft of fresh air, like an old friend finally come to call. Right now, you walk to places instead of drive, and find a way to get out during the noon break. There’s no need for a big coat pinning your arms down or a scratchy scarf rubbing your neck raw. Free of thick, globby Chapstick, lips can be used to whistle. [Read more...]


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