In the Coldest May

In the Coldest May May 10, 2020

We have another freeze warning tonight.

It’s the kind of cold that only feels bitter by contrast– for a week we had real May temperatures, sixties and seventies, almost warm enough to be hot. For one afternoon we shut the windows downstairs and ran the air conditioner because the fusty old rental house holds onto heat, and it was uncomfortably warm inside. Rosie longed to inflate the wading pool we got her and play in her bathing suit, but we didn’t have the right attachment to make the garden hose work with the new faucet the landlord put on the sink, so we had to send away for it. And by the time the new attachment came in the mail, it was freezing cold again. The weather went down to a record twenty-eight degrees last night, and has been in the low forties ever since.

The low forties aren’t terrible in the middle of winter. But contrasted with last week’s warmth, they’re agony. I’ve been shivering under blankets all day.

My garden seedlings are keeping cozy in the dining room, except for the three I bought without realizing that were grown in coir. Michael is allergic to coconut coir, so they’re sheltering on the basement steps for the night.

All but two of the squash seedlings I grew myself or dead, and I don’t even know what breed of squash they are because I forgot to label them. Those two weak little seedlings, plus the choke-neck squash in coir on my basement steps, are my only hope for a squash crop this year.

Rosie and I are hopelessly behind in homeschooling– as is just about every child in the country, as I’ve been told. She’s still stumbling over reading fluency but falling in love with history. We’ve finished our unit study on ancient Egypt, and are picking at the books on Greece. She enjoys learning about Alexander and Bucephalus.

I make one weekly pilgrimage up to the grocery store and Rural King to get what I need, and one weekly pilgrimage to the Friendship Room to share with others. I am getting used to cloth masks.

The bishop says we’re going to have public liturgies again, with careful social distancing, starting on Pentecost weekend, but he encourages all the most vulnerable to COVID to stay home. I am chronically ill, Michael has asthma, and Rosie is a child, so I don’t think we’ll be going to Mass in person for several weeks after that. We want to make sure there’s not a major outbreak in Steubenville first.

Many say it’s too soon to open up, and I’m inclined to agree. They say all this relaxing of social distancing will double the daily death toll, which is already staggering, and that sounds right to me.

I’m scared, but there is nothing I can do about other people.

All Michael and I can do is shelter in place, wash carefully, pray, garden, homeschool, go shopping when we dare, share what we buy.

All Rosie wants is warm weather and a pool.

I am learning to be Christian, in all of this.

I once had a dream– and for the record, I don’t think this dream was some kind of vision from Heaven; I think it was just my brain solidifying what I’ve always known to be true, in a funny eccentric way. I like it when brains do that.  I dreamed that I was house-hunting in a scruffy-looking neighborhood similar to LaBelle. I went into a nice old property with shiny hardwood floors, a full bathroom with a claw-foot tub on the first floor where you’d only expect a powder room, and an extra staircase to the upstairs off the great big farmhouse kitchen. If I ever really have the money to buy a house and I see one laid out like the house in my dream, I will buy it immediately, because that’s my favorite kind of house. I would rather have a great big farmhouse kitchen and a nice deep bathtub than a palace, and I can’t stand carpeting.

As I explored this house, I went upstairs and found Saint Teresa of Avila sitting on the landing. She was at least six feet tall; she sat slouching in a casual, unladylike way with her elbows on her knees. I got on my own knees and cried with my head in her lap for a time, and then she told me that she was starting a brand new religious order, and she needed my help.

Of course I said “yes.”

She said that she was going to send families out to live prayerfully in their homes, in houses just like this one all over the world, welcoming and helping anyone who came to them for help.

At that point I woke up, not in the pretty farmhouse but in my mildewy rental house in LaBelle with the small bath  and the stained carpets, and crossly said to the ceiling, “But that’s just Christianity!”

And it is just Christianity, and Christianity is enough.

This is Christianity.

Christianity is Christ being incarnate in us– in our own lives, right here where we find ourselves.

You don’t have to leave where you are, though you may find yourself sent any number of places. You don’t have to join a monastery, though some do end up taking that path, and it’s the right path for them. You don’t have to join an intentional community, thankfully, because those are usually terrible. You don’t have to find the perfect parish where you feel welcome and fit in– and that’s a mercy, because I never will.

To be Christian is to be one with Christ, and to let Christ live in you and pour Himself out through you, where you are. It’s to be yourself, not for yourself alone anymore but for all and for each, in Christ.

I am trying to learn to be faithful to that.

I am trying to learn to be Christian, in Steubenville, in a bitter cold May, in fear, in a pandemic that’s far from over, not knowing when I’ll receive the sacraments again.

For now, this is enough.

Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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