February 19, 2010

Three priests

Three Priests walk into a ancient presbetery…. And the jokes abound

We had a dinner party and invited Pere Phillip from the church across the street. Then we had the idea to also invite the young priest from Rocamador at the same time, and a few friends in common to fill the table. Then Pere Phillip showed up with a young seminarian and the party was set!

Starting, in French tradition, with cocktails and snacks and an opportunity for everyone to get acquainted, we moved to the table at about 9 pm. Everything was great, good food, fun company, polite stories, even Oscar was present and engaged (one never knows at this age). As the wine continued to flow and everyone got more comfortable with the mix, Oscar left the room…somewhere around the cheese course and the conversations got amusing. Have you ever wondered what clergy talked about behind closed doors??

The subject of callings came and passed, miraculous moments in everyone’s lives, then first times… it seemed a favorite was first funerals… one who couldn’t recall the name of the deceased…..another where a surviving sister kept farting during the priests most important words, throughout the funeral. Complaints about cold churches and tiny congregations, the needy parishioners in the summer, one quote about a host wafer and lipstick (“look out Jesus…wet-paint”) and the funny papal experiences and even a story about a napkin stuck in the priests zipper during a wedding!!

I don’t mean to say there was any disrespect, or lack of decorum, but there was a fair amount of peeking behind the curtain going on. While I would have called two of these men friends before dinner, now I feel they are a bit closer, as if they had let their collars down (although they hadn’t) they revealed they are just like anyone else, another profession, but one with humor and joy and faults and triumphs just the same.

As I write this I think of the clergy I have known in my life, and of course they are normal people! I have sat in pews with them but I have also been friends outside of their churches and temples….I’m not certain of the difference, somehow the clergy
in France seems a bit further removed from the people. Walking about town in long black robes, always in stiff collars, perhaps it’s the particular youth of the local priests, perhaps it has more to do with my expectations of all things French?? Another stereotype smashed on the medieval cobbles of Martel!

The dinner was fun, a terrine of carrots and broccoli, beef bourguignon inspired by a recent viewing of Julia and Julie, 3 soft cheeses followed, and then a 4th in the form of a lemon cheesecake recipe gleaned off the web. Coffee and house-made chocolates to finish. If I had been frencher, I would have followed with eau de vie, but there were too many long drives ahead of our guests so I sat on my hands at that point, but kept my elbows above the table (another French politeness).

I slept restlessly, dreaming that I had given food poisoning to 3 priests and how would that look to St Peter!? But I awoke, as usual, to the church bells and the sunshine, and the certainty that all’s well except a sink full of dishes.

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February 7, 2010

Making Snow

Oscar is 12 today, a landmark that places him “closer to a teenager than not”. In France the word “teenager” is yet another American import, teens are more aptly called adolescents or ados, and according to Oscar that starts now.

I think it started during this last year and we are in near full swing on this birthday. We still get glimpses into his fading infancy, he still likes company on his bike ride to school and he still likes to be cuddled to sleep… but it’s fading. Whenever he has friends coming over he will remove his peluche (stuffed animal) known as Avi from his bed to ours, along with admonitions to take care of him. The next evening Avi has mysteriously flown back to Oscar’s bed, it’s wonderful! When his adolescent friends aren’t watching, he can be as sweet as a puppy dog’s tail, otherwise he leans towards the snips and the snails.

The windows for parenting are becoming narrower each year, in proportion to the time he spends with us versus his friends, making the few opportunities more and more important to get right! I liken it to building a snowman, in full knowledge that someday he will come to life, “happy birthday” said Frosty and the rest was fable-ous. Our task: steering a field of snow into a round ball, a more or less even sphere. It’s a small challenge; avoiding the dirty snow, exposing each side to the better forces of nature, larger and larger, stopping to appreciate the scene, to warm the hands and balance the expectations. Discovering the carrots and the coals, and stacking the balls in the right way and in the right place.

I’m reaching with this analogy, but it’s snowing everywhere today so it seems apt. All we do as parents is push that ball around until it’s large enough to stand up on it’s own, give him a scarf and a hat and hope for good weather. We continue to straighten him out and push his nose back in from time to time, but this man is greatly made at this tender early adolescence.

The other snowball, that I have learned from our 12 year old, is a lesson of impact. Oscar lobs issues at us, which appear large and frozen and painful, but when they land they are minor flurries of a soft, uncomfortable, cold ball of primarily frozen air. He presents a disappointment as such a huge problem, insurmountable and grave. Like being asked to put on a jacket, or to miss a birthday party, or study harder for a test….and moments before he has convinced me to reverse and accommodate, the moment passes and the air is sunny on the other side of said snowball. What seemed serious on one side was a mere nothing on the other. Every time, I brace for the impact…. that seldom arrives. I have as much to learn as he does. I suppose I am in the adolescence of my parenthood!Another snowball: the boys wanted the girls invited to sleepover too! Oscar lobed repeated snowballs over this one, and once we drew the line, it was passed like a flurry, but here they are at 10:30 bidding the girls adieu....everything got much quieter after that.

We parents hid out in the kitchen, banished perhaps, but with the lights off so we could spy, and quietly dance to the very loud pop music in the other room. We snuck in to snap pictures before being yanked back to our doghouse in the kitchen, by an ever shortening chain. We did get to cook the pizzas….and serve the birthday cake….and watch half a dozen birthday presents get opened, mostly way cooler t-shirts than we would ever buy! And Oscar’s recurring girlfriend gave him cologne! The Ados danced to internet radio, square danced to Cotton Eyed Joe! and did a sort of seated conga line that they all seem to know from birth.

They passed an inordinate amount of time bustling around in two’s and three’s consoling each other about who likes who, and who’s dancing with whom, it seemed at some point in the evening each girl had a turn at crying and each boy had a turn at wondering what it was he had done wrong. But every time, they would all be dancing and laughing again within moments…such drama!

Celebrating 12 years of parenthood we quietly sat for our dinner of (my first) terrine de foie gras, a cold salmon salad and chevre tarts while the ados danced, we drank wine while they spilled “coca”, we covered our ears while they all misunderstood Bad Romance with their cute French accents…we looking like huge dorks if any of the kids had been watching us! All part and parcel of raising an adolescent I suppose.

12 kids last night….

5 sleepoverers….till 2 am!

12 years old, and a sweet smart kid…we are all happy!

In case you havn't gotten a good enough image, here's a video moment from the party: