LENTEN REFLECTIONS #40
As Holy Week wraps up, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Typically we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, with a few dishes thrown in to mix it up. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.
Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode motorcycles, brought her bird “Bonita” to visit, and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp-slanted nose as her.
She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs from a recent Tupperware party and she had a knack for chopping everything in the salad tiny like a Cuisinart before they were a thing. The salad was actually on the verge of being a really dry Gazpacho soup. Little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and other minuscule items that even back then my keen 10-year-old eyesight couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning powder in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared?
The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, red chili (in lieu of gravy), and the other usual Thanksgiving/Easter suspects. Another dish that was a hit was Mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a Dad-favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a once-a-year wonder. I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year.
Otherwise, it’s “overuse syndrome”.
Once, I was volunteering at NPR and a talk show host named Rose said she loved my shirt. Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. After that, I wore the heck out of that blouse holding on to the compliment as we do. Until one day one of my students probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” And so it happened, I was immediately struck with “overuse syndrome”. That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.
On Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s, Dad would remind us that mass “would be a long one”. Typically, he would do the readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper. Up the stairs, I climbed to the choir loft for my bird’s eye view.
Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside St. Anne’s Church. Mom reminded us, “This is the one day we don’t need to genuflect and we don’t call it a mass. It’s a service.” She went on to explain why and I said “Ohhhh” knowing I wouldn’t remember but back then I knew I could ask her anything, anytime I needed to – – that time of life when you think your parents are going to live forever and moments stand still like lighthouses shining bright.
Saturday we buckled in for another “long one” and I really loved that mass.
One Easter weekend, after Holy Saturday Mass, we went to visit my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent – even though we never had soda in the house except for Dad’s RC Cola. I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups a staple all pizza joints.
What I learned:
Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary together every day. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary. Yup. I was wild and crazy then too.
Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in school during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps.
Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate or serving at a homeless shelter, maybe even blogging.
Parenting isn’t a lark, nor is being a woman, a daughter, or sister.
We pray it will. If I could pass God on a little Post-It about my blog I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this flash-in-the-pan life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much.
My humble thanks for reading.
MENTAL EMOTIONAL PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKOUT: WALK. PRAY. REPEAT.