Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (Merrycoz.org)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Trembling Before God

Yesterday I went back to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Rather than deprive the parishioners of their last drop of hooch, as I did at last year's Midnight Mass, I strolled coolly past the lady with the goblet. As coolly, that is, as one can stroll when one is consumed with white-hot rage, as I was when the two eight-year-old boys in the pew behind me could not seem to just shut up and behold the lamb of God.

Friends, it's not like I enjoy hating children. Frankly, it makes me feel like Elmira Gulch cycling through a cyclone. But if I'd acted like that in church, my Mama would have made sure I wore my ass for an Easter hat. Why couldn't the adult who kept half-heartedly shushing those little hooligans just separate them? "Some people are just lazy," said Mama (who taught fourth grade for 30 years) when I pressed her later for answers. "I would have just turned around and said, 'Do you think you two young men could settle down?'"

This is a measured response indeed from a woman who used to literally wring my jaws* when I was insolent -- she'd put the meat of one thumb in the middle of one of my cheeks and four firm fingers on the other, then squeeze until my facial fat puffed up like Gary Coleman's. (This is an incredibly effective technique because not only is it humiliating, but it hurts like a mofo. If Donald Rumsfeld had just consulted Mama, he wouldn't have to be worried about criminal indictment today, now, would he? Mother knows best!) However, I don't recall ever getting wrung in the jaws for being at play in the house of the Lord, because that's when Mama liked to invoke her considerable gifts as a rhetorician: "The Lord gives you seven days a week! Can't you give Him an hour?"

Anyway, I'm not a member of that congregation, and the last time I attended church regularly I wasn't nearly as cranky as I am now, so I don't know what the protocol really is: Can you shoot dirty looks in church? Or do you need to pretend that you're drinking a cupful of the Lord's infinite grace? Or, worst of all, is this not even supposed to be an issue because one is presumably already actually filled with the Lord's infinite grace?

I didn't know, and I was pretty sure Jesus was ready for me to leave. So as soon as I gobbled down the host I walked right past my pew and out of the church, and realized I should have sat outside in the glorious weather reflecting on my blessings and listening for the imam over on Macdonald Avenue, who manages to speak to my inner pilgrim without kicking me in the back of my pew.

Today I related this story to a co-worker who told me that once when he was at mass, an old lady got so irritated with some pesky kids that in the middle of the service she moved up a few pews and slam-dunked her raincoat into the seat, then either was or was not prodded by the missalette of her new neighbor, which prompted another huffy exodus and another slam-dunk, and the missalette-wielding neighbor muttered something about why she'd even bothered coming to church, and so Slam Dunk turned around and hissed, at full volume, "How DARE you tell me when I can and cannot worship!"

"This was right before we exchanged the peace of God," my co-worker said.

Christ's love! Good times.

*Let me hasten to add that jaw-wringing was invoked only when I really deserved it; exempli gratia, the fateful day I stuck out my tongue at her retreating back, only to have her turn around and catch me, thus turning me into a pillar of salt. She was far too wily to believe I was "pretending to be a snake."

4 Comments:

Anonymous ashok said...

I shoot dirty looks in church all the time.

No one wants to sit next to me anymore, or talk to me, though.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous EndureForte said...

Jesus was crucified alongside two men of questionable character. You missed a prime opportunity to meditate upon those little bastards nailed up beside him (or would that rightly be considered creative visualization?).

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you. I went to mass sat. night
and seriously considered telling the couple behind me to stop whispering. but they sang the whole time, so felt bad about chiding the faithful. also, miss dawn bauer and I, our mom used to grab our faces like that. for serious. it often occurs to me that much of what moms did back in the 70s would qualify for DYFUS intervention now. loved your post.

1:47 PM  
Blogger frostine99 said...

EndureForte, you're right. People *always* forget all about those guys!

Ashok, one of the smartest people I know reiterated to me recently that it's better to be respected than liked. And it's certainly more peaceful!

11:14 PM  

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