Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmukkah strikes back

After 4 years in seminary (as a part of my overall graduate school experience, a.k.a. "Eyebrows fears the world of full-time employment"), I am every so often called upon by my family, who all have degrees in useful things like accounting, to do something theological. Generally this entails either funerals or helping some young cousin with a confirmation-related saint report for CCD, but this Christmas, with my grandparents absent, it entailed the pre-dinner prayer.

The pre-dinner prayer was more important this year than in years past, because we couldn't go to Mass. For only the second time in our familial life (the first time being some 20 years ago when it was so cold and snowy my parents' car wouldn't start , we simply hadn't be able to attend. Oh, we went to church. Got there 45 minutes early. Surveyed both the main floor and the balcony. But the church was "full." And by "full" I mean "lots of coats lying across empty pews and belonging to territorial people apparently saving two entire pews for a family of 20 enormously obese people who may or may not make an appearance before Mass begins." Real Christian, eh? And it's not like ol' St. Norbert's is bursting at the seams on Sundays as a regular thing - these are submarine Catholics, who surface just a couple times a year. And while as a general theological thing I'm in favor of people coming to Mass even if it's just every now-and-again, as a practical thing this Christmas I was quite put out.

Of course, nobody would let us sit down. Nobody would make room in their pews. I had a moment of serious cosmic disorientation about the whole thing - the churchgoers were preparing to read the nativity story, where Mary and Joseph have nowhere to go to have the baby and end up in a stable. All these territorial Christians saving space for their human families, rather than their Christian family (Matthew 10:35-38, anyone?), succeeded quite nicely in "no-room-at-the-inning" my family, right out of the church. (With my sister's arthritis and my mother's replaced toe, standing for 90 minutes was not a realistic option. Not to mention my own 3" spike heels, but that was my own bad choice.) Every now and then the disconnect between the lessons of the Bible and the life of the church just about knocks me over. No room at the inn, no charity for the fellow Christians, no seats for the sick.

At any rate, my mother was quite upset about this - as was I. I mean, in 26 years of life, this is the first time I've heard a big fat "no Eucharist for you!" on Christmas because my fellow Catholics don't want to give up pew space. So we agreed that I would prepare a theologically appropriate prayer and deliver it before our family dinner.

We sat down to dinner that evening, candles lit, table arrayed in finery, turkey smelling oh-so-delicious (mmmm ... turkey). I had spent a good half an hour preparing my prayer, making sure it was theologically correct, well-phrased, and made the appropriate scripture references. (I do not pray well off-the-cuff in public - I once had someone refuse to eat after my grace because I managed to gross her out.) I bowed my head and folded my hands and began my prayer:

"O Holy and Ever-living God, we praise and thank you on this Christmas Eve for sending us your son in human form, our Savior --" DREIDEL DREIDEL DREIDEL! I MADE IT OUT OF CLAY! DREIDEL DREIDEL DREIDEL! AND DREIDEL I SHALL PLAY!

Yes, right as I began my earnest prayer of awe and gratitude to the Almighty Creator of the Universe, the forgotten Barenaked Ladies holiday CD in the other room blasted into the Dreidel Song. At the highest imaginable volume.

Needless to say, it killed my Jesus mojo, and try as they might, my family was unable to control their twitching lips and smothered giggles. My whole carefully-prepared prayer went RIGHT out of my head, and I leapt in a panic into traditional grace, accompanied the whole time by the strains of the Dreidel Song - "Bless us O Lord - dreidel dreidel dreidel! - and these, Thy gifts - out of clay! - which we are about to receive - dreidel dreidel ... ."

And some people think God has no sense of humor. HA!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Eyebrows Returns!

Hey Eyebrows fans. Things have been busy here at the McGee household, with an ill Eyebrows, an ill cat, and ill car (thanks, Illinois State Tollway Authority!) ... and now all the Christmas madness. So I apologize for my long absence, but I'm back now. Swear. Promise. Cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my- ... ew, never mind.

Well, I love Christmas and I'm a long-time early shopper. I've been in school so long - in college and grad school the last 8 years - that I'm used to having finals from Thanksgiving until a week before Christmas, so if I don't shop early, I don't get it done. This year, I finished before Thanksgiving (*pause while Eyebrows ducks the tomatoes from those who are still shopping*). This enabled me to avoid the crowds and the craziness - although since I'm approximately a 3/4 time housewife right now, left me DEAD BORED in the weeks leading up to Christmas with nothing to do.

But I did get my own little taste of Christmas craziness today. I went to the supermarket because a) I need dried cherries to make chocolate-cherry chunk bread for Christmas and b) I had all these great high-value coupons that expire at the end of the year that I wanted to use up! ($2 off cat food is like GOLD when both of your cats are over 15 lbs and go through those bags like a fat kid with candy. Or a fat cat with, you know, cat food.)

So the supermarket was busy, but not angry. Most people were cheerful and polite - Christmas spirit and all that. The lines at checkout were quite long, but people were patient and I saw several let others with small baskets go in front of them. Then as I was getting in line - not a particularly short one, mind you, just another line - a woman decided that THAT was the line she HAD to be in. Exactly that instant. So she actually tries to RUN ME OVER WITH HER CART. Literally. I had never seen such a thing before outside movies, but she was so determined that she was going to beat me to the line that she was literally willing to run into my body (which was already IN the line) with her big-ass full cart. (I had, allow me to add, a grand total of 19 items in my mostly-empty cart - not exactly shopping for a battalion here.)

Her daughter yelled at her and attempted to apologize to me (I just stepped away and found a different line - it doesn't pay to argue with crazy people, they like to throw things.), but angry-mom-with-the-cart loudly proclaimed that she'd been WAITING and WAITING (which was why she'd JUST come up to the lines, clearly?) and nobody was getting in front of her. She berated her daughter, the harried checker, and pretty much everyone else in earshot while she waited in line. That's the Christmas spirit for you! Oy humbug.

The line I ended up in, by the way? Faster than hers. And I didn't have to threaten bodily harm to other shoppers to get on the end of it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a ... safe grocery store trip.