My six year old is sick. I thought we had made it through this Winter that Never Was unscathed. Z has allergen and illness induced asthma, and we generally spend at least a few weeks every winter hovering with our battery of nebulizers, vaporizers, and synthesizers (ok, not really. I just needed another -izer in there). This season we thought we'd escaped, thought we'd made it through. Then that tell-tale cough appeared Sunday morning and I knew the honeymoon was over. By Tuesday, the kid was pretty much full on miserable. Luckily, the Flake is on vacation this week, so once he finished getting the alien cut out of his eyelid (that's another disturbed story for another disturbed time.), he'd come home and take care of the Z-Man so I could head to work.
One of the things that always makes me feel better, no matter the ailment, is a nice warm bath. So I turned on the space heater, filled the tub with warm water and some coconut bubbles, and helped him slide in the sudsy water. Killing two birds with one stone, I hopped in the shower myself, figuring he would play and relax and benefit from the warmth and steam, and I would manage to get myself to work before it was time to leave again. Soon, the bathroom turned warm and foggy, filled with the scents of coconut suds and whatever crap they put in that overpriced shampoo I buy.
We do this every so often, my little one and I. I'm always amused and somewhat enchanted by the conversations that spring up, voices rising to carry over the shower spray. There's something about the separation of a shower door between that seems to drive us to unchartered territory. Perhaps it's something safer than face-to-face, a confessional for the early elementary set. Tuesday was no different.
It was Mardi Gras, after all, and the kid had questions. We'd been watching parade feeds courtesey of Fleurty Girl, and he'd been enamoured by the tremendous floats, the throws soaring through the air, the crowds of people. So while I sudsed up my hair, I wasn't surprised to hear him ask "Why do they have big parades on Mardi Gras, mom?" A simple question, a loaded answer.
"They do it to celebrate one last time before Lent begins, baby."
"Lint? The stuff in the dryer?" Great, now he's imagining the entire city of New Orleans engulfed in massive piles of dark grey dryer lint.
"Lent. L-EH-nt. It's something that some religions practice in the forty days leading to Easter."
"Catholics, mainly. Like Uncle Chris and Aunt Angie and the girls. They give up something for that whole month before Easter to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made. When he died on the cross."
"Can God die?"
While we're Christian, believing in God and his Son who did in fact die on the cross for humanity, we're not church-goers. I was raised Catholic, genuflected and Hail-Mary-ed my way through Catholic elementary school, but I was raised a very liberal Catholic. By the time I hit high school I began seeing all of the fissures between my beliefs and what the Church tried to tell me was so. Try as I might, I couldn't gel together what I felt in my heart and soul what was true and the path the church set in front of me. We had a parting of ways. And even though a Catholic mass is like my own version of spiritual meatloaf, comfort food for the soul, I still can't seem to reconcile the chasm between my beliefs, the beliefs I personally want to instill in my children, and that of Rome.
I know a lot of people, many of them close friends, find it somewhat tragic that my boys haven't been raised in a church family. And yes, sometimes it bothers me too. I want my kids to have a good spiritual base to lean against. But where to find that? We preach to our children that love between two consenting adults is love, period, and that love should be celebrated. I have found several churches with a vibe I liked, only to feel my heart and soul fall into my shoes when a sermon began to wrap in the evils of the homosexual agenda. I want my child's minister to be someone they look up to, someone whose beliefs are their beliefs... and that is not a belief I want my child to have.
We keep looking, though. Yet during certain times of year I feel that little tug in my heart, that yearning for the beauty of Catholic ritual. Advent always leaves me thinking about the candles, the mystery of the Nativity, the beauty of the church as it prepares for Christmas. And the solemnity of Ash Wednesday, the marking of foreheads as a reminder of your own mortality in this world. There is a poignancy in it.
But on this Ash Wednesday, I was having a theological discussion with my child from behind an opaque shower door.
Z has begun to ask a lot of questions about religion, about God and Jesus lately. I don't mind. He shows a curiosity that his brother never expressed. There are days he is adamant that we say a blessing before each meal. I encourage him to take the lead, and my heart swells as I hear his little voice rise up and thank God for the blessings of good food, a warm home, and Imagination Movers reruns on On Demand. I answer his questions as best I can, scaling down what can sometimes be complex answers to his level, to allow him to process his own thoughts on the matter. And so, with the steam rising around me, I did the best I could to explain the concept of a never-ending diety who can't really be seen, but whose works are all around us, to explain the idea of the Son of God, yes, born a baby like you were, who gave his life for the world, then came back to show us that he was, indeed, who he said he was.
That's the part that always gets him.
"So, Jesus was a zombie."
Oh Lord. "No babe. Jesus wasn't a Zombie. It was a miracle."
"Like when Daddy remembers to take out the trash."
"But he died?" Yes. "And then he came back, and that's why we have Easter." Yes. Good, right track. "But if he died and then was alive again, doesnt' that make him a zombie?"
"But a good zombie," he continued. "One that didn't eat brains or anything. He just kind of walked around and said 'Hey' to everyone and handed out candy because it was Easter."
Clearly, we have more work to do. Best to save that for the next shower.