Saturday afternoons and people at my door
On Saturdays, while my wife luxuriates in the relative glamour and quietude of her office, I stay home with our kids. There are three of them, all five and under, and two of them still require the security of diapers, on which I spend perhaps 5 percent of my personal annual income.
It’s difficult to get out of the house when you have kids like mine, in that particular age group and of their particular temperaments ‘— even something as ordinary as a trip to the grocery store demands a 40-minute dressing period followed by a car seat adjustment stage that can take up to half an hour. And then once we get to the store I’ve got to fill one cart with kids and drag another around with my free hand for the food, pausing frequently to take things out of the grocery buggy and put them back on the shelves, things like sugared cereal, cookies on low shelves and thing with cartoon characters on the packages.
For this and a few other reasons, most of the time my kids and I spend Saturdays at the house where I can corral the boys in their room and devote my attention to ensuring that my baby girl doesn’t acquire a taste for cat food. At least not more of a taste than she has already cultivated.
But since the days have gotten warmer our Saturday routine has been interrupted, generally during the early afternoon hours, by little old ladies and kids in neckties and bicycle helmets who knock on my door and ask me questions, questions I’m not comfortable answering with strangers who may or may not be trespassing on my short quarter-acre, especially when my house is crawling with an infestation of kids.
One such interaction went thusly:
The three-year-old wraps up my legs as I make for the door and I fall, grasping the doorknob for purchase as I go down. The knob twists open and, on my knees, I receive two biddies in floral-print dresses with shawl collars there on the threshold.
‘“How can I help you ladies,’” I say pleasantly, even though I know what’s coming.
‘“Haveyouacceptedjesuschristasyourlordandpersonalsavior?’” says the lead granny in a one-word question that I’ve learned really has no correct answer except, perhaps, to throw your hands in the air and say, ‘”Save me! Save me granny! Show me the light and the way!’”
But that’s not what I say.
What I do is brush the kid off my legs and square up against the old broads.
‘“Yes I have,’” I say. What the hell? My parents dragged me to church every Sunday (against my wishes, you understand). I went to a Jesuit university. Christ, I was an altar boy for two friggin’ years. I figure me and Jesus are pretty tight.
The other lady smiled nervously, but the alpha granny looked me over with a skeptical eye. She wasn’t buying it.
She positioned herself in the doorjamb.
‘“So if you were to die today,’” she says, looking at me with her good eye and tilting her head in a challenge, ‘“you’d be prepared to meet your creator and Lord? If you died today?’”
I think not, her body language said to me, and the thought hung in the air like a balloon waiting to be popped.
So now I’m starting to get a little pissed. I mean, who the hell is this dame and why’s she getting all Jesus on me on my own front doorstep? And why’s it so hard to believe that I’m down with JC? Hell, when my hair was longer and I wasn’t so fastidious about shaving, people told me I looked like Him all the time. And dammit, the baby’s doing her Army crawl into the kitchen, where the cat water is.
‘“Listen, lady,’” I say, ‘“I got fish to fry.’” And I sweep the door shut.
If I don’t take crap like that from my own grandmother, I’m certainly not going to entertain criticism from a couple of churchies whom I don’t even know.
So I muster the kids and give them each their afternoon dose of NyQuil. While they’re passed out on the carpet I start to feel some good old-fashioned Catholic guilt.
Why was I so nasty to those nice old ladies? Why was I so defensive? What am I hiding from? What’s wrong with me?
Like all paths to salvation, mine begins with self-doubt. And while my offspring drowses on the floor I critically examine the things I previously held to be true. I don’t have any visions or a visitation, but I do come to a startling conclusion:
Rock and roll really is the devil’s music.
More on that next week’….