Friday, January 25, 2013

It's About to get Biblical Up in Heah!

Although I have the tendency to dress like an aging prostitute and have a mouth that would make a sailor cringe, I am, in fact, a Christian.  When my short people and I relocated to our own little corner of Portland after my divorce, we happened to move into an apartment complex located LITERALLY across the street from the raddest church ever.   The first Sunday the boys and I walked in we were greeted by a grinning man in jeans and cowboy boots who turned out to be our pastor, and as soon as we were seated, a band took the stage and started jamming; complete with electric guitars and a lead singer with more ink than the cast of American Choppers combined.  It was as if the Mother Ship had called me home.

My boys loved Sunday School like R. Kelly loves underaged girls and when they heard of the additional weekly evening youth group, they were begging me to join.  The evening group is sponsored by the church, but not a direct affiliate of it and as such, I can't say I always agree with some of the tenets they espouse.*

*One shining example?  Last year the boys were told they had to bring at least two new friends to join over the course of the year and my son J. was specifically told "You'll get extra handbook points if you bring in one of the Iranian boys we see you playing with at school."    Sooooo, indoctrinating Muslims for the win.  Well played.

Now, I'm pretty open minded.  I'll accept whatever it is you choose to believe as long as you don't force me to pay for it, understand it, or listen to you talk about it. That being said, I was obviously a little skeeved out to learn that the youth organization was encouraging my 10-year-old child to go all "Zero Dark Thirty" on his friends Amir and Hassan  so in the end I had to weigh my higher moral beliefs against my desire to have two hours of free childcare one night a week . . .yeah. . .guess which won.   Terrorism = 1, Jen = 0.

Most of the youth group activities -- Movie Night, Backwards Night, Game Night -- are run by the same Stepford clique of church ladies who run the "Ladies" events at the church.  They are the ones who descend upon you in a cloud of Clinique Happy cologne, beaming at you with mock civility while secretly imagine the things you're doing with your filthy little genitals and barely restraining themselves from going all Book of Revelations on your whore ass.*

*Of course, as I am nothing if not passive-aggressive, I derive a perverse pleasure in wearing my red leather pencil skirt and leopard pumps to church as often as humanly possible.  I just know they hear a 'bwocka-wocka' porn guitar the second I walk through the door.

Last month, the youth group had the first of three Store Nights they hold throughout the year.  Store Night is when the kids trade in the points they've earned for memorizing Bible verses and doing good deeds for dollar store gifts and shitty Happy Meal toys at the "marketplace" we set up in the church choir room.  As I am a dedicated mother (and one of the dad's volunteering was wicked hot), I graciously offered to man a table at Store Night and schlep trinkets to the unwashed masses.

No, allow me preface by stating that I am not a fan of short people.  I love mine:  my shorties are funny as hell and have impeccable manners, and know all the words to every David Guetta song and even if they weren't my kids I would still totally hang with them. . .they are THAT cool.  But other people's kids?  Oh, HELL no.  But while most shorties make me want to drive a chopstick into my ear canal, I can fake it like a Mormon Sister Wife, so I figured, "How bad can this be?"  Yeah. . .like THAT question ever ends well.

The second I walked into the choir room, I knew I was screwed like a hooker at a gangbang.  Because the woman in charge was not just any church lady, she was THE church lady.  Any of you who regularly attend church know who I'm talking about.  She's the one who organizes all of the canned food drives, and donates the lilies at Easter.  She's the one who chooses the theme for every Ladies Brunch and whose children always play Mary and Joseph in the Christmas pageant, despite the fact that they look like hobbits and the boy has a lazy eye that gives him a certain homeless drifter joie de vive.  She is the Regina George of the church, a modern-day Torquemada in J. Jill separates, and while she may be surrounded by hordes of minions scrambling for her position of power, like the Highlander or the Vampire Slayer, there can be only one.

The church lady (whom I'll call Linda, because. . .well. . .that's her name), approached me and gave me a smile stiffer than Jerry Sandusky at a Cub Scout Jamboree.

"Jen, I'm surprised to see you  here.  This is the first time you've volunteered. . .ever, isn't it."

I stared at her, more stone-faced than Tommy Lee Jones at the Golden Globes, and replied, "Why, no, Linda.  I've volunteered quite a bit in the past.  Just not as much as you, but then again I also work full-time and attend school.  So, how's that quilting project of yours coming along?"

I watched in quiet victory as her smile began to waver like an IKEA bookshelf, but like a Hydra, a new one grew in its place.

"You'll be over here."  she said briskly, waving her hand toward a table covered with enough glitz and glitter to make Honey Boo Boo holla' for a dolla'.  "I know you have boys," she said judiciously eying my scoopneck sweater and Steve Madden peep-toe pumps, "but you look like you understand what. . .SOME young girls may like."

"I'll do my best."  I replied sweetly, and took my place behind the table. Then Linda grabbed my arm and spoke with great solemnity.

"Now, this is very, VERY important, Jen."  she said in a tone reserved for recalcitrant toddlers and willful housepets.  "The items HERE are 40 points,"  she pointed with a lacquered acrylic nail, "and the items HERE are 80 points.  THESE are 40, and THESE are 80.  Do you understand the difference?"

"Well,"  I replied gravely, "my math may be a tad rusty, but I believe the difference is 40 points." 

Linda beamed at me proudly and for one awkward moment I thought she might actually scratch my head.

"Good!"  she cried, "Now, if one of the children wants one of THESE," she held up an 80 point pack of two Silly Putty eggs, "but they only have 40 points, then you can sell them ONE.  Do you understand that?  TWO of them for 80, and ONE of them for 40."*

*Thank the Baby Jeebus that I have always been blessed with the gift of selective hearing and as such,when someone I don't like begins to speak I can shut down like the Red October in enemy waters.  So, while Linda was blathering on about the cost of Silly Putty and hair scrunchies, I stood there nodding like Boo Radley on NyQuil and heard "Blah blah blah, Jen.  Blah, Jen, blah blah blah."

I crossed my eyes slightly and concentrated deeply, like I was letting this novel concept of commutative addition sink in.  "So. . .what you're saying is: 40 plus 40 equals 80, right?"  I saw Linda's eyes narrow slightly as she tried to assess if I was mocking her, but I just beamed at her like I was more out of it than Diane Sawyer at the 2012 Olympics and she went on to the next table to clearly elucidate the related concept of 20 + 20 = 40 to the woman standing there.*

*Who happensedto be a corporate tax attorney.  It was with no small amount of glee that I watched her mouth "What the fuck?" to me as Linda walked away.  This may be my new BFF.

Before long the short people flooded in with their point sheets in tow and started tearing through there like it was half-price at a Michael Kors sample sale.  One little girl came up and started trying to bargain me down on a pair of High School Musical ankle socks, but I held firm, (a) because this kid annoys the ever-loving shit out of me, and (b) because I cannot, in good conscience, allow any child to be seen traipsing around with Zac Efron on her insteps.  Oh, Honey. . .no.  But this little troglodyte kept drilling me like she was EXXON and my ass was a Texas oil field so finally I knocked off ten points, threw the socks in her grubby little hands, and sent her on her merry way.  That's when I heard it.

How does one describe the noise I heard?  It was a cry of such fear and desperation not heard since the napalm fell on North Vietnam.  It was the cry of a vegan watching "Fast Food Nation", it was a sound akin to Mariah Carey passing a kidney stone, and it was at that moment I knew that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?"  I heard Linda screech as she came barreling toward me like Jack Ruby crossing the parking garage.  I gaped in abject horror as she grabbed -- GRABBED -- my arm and yanked me away from the table.  Bad choice.

As many of you may know, I'm argumentative on a good day, but when I'm surrounded by short people and have the blood sugar level of Kate Moss during Paris Fashion week then any confrontation is apt to make me go all Arab Spring up in your grill.  But, anger management issues aside, I am also smart enough to realize when I'm about to say something so inappropriate that it would make Paris Hilton say, "Whoa, that's way harsh, Babe."*

*Actually, I'm relatively certain Paris Hilton wouldn't say "babe".  She'd probably just giggle, flash her hurt locker, then OD on Stoli and crank.

So, I calmly removed Linda's viselike talons from my upper arm and asked her what was the problem.

"You. . .you. . ." she sputtered frantically, "you sold McKenzie a pair of 80 point socks for 70 points.  70!!!"

I shrugged nonchalantly.  "I'm sorry. t didn't seem like a big deal, Linda; Store Night was ending and she. . ." 

Linda cut me off with a derisive snort and eyeroll, unaware that my son J. had just stepped up behind her to show me the treasures he'd bought.

"Oh! It wasn't a 'big deal' that you just made your own rules and decided you were going to run everything from now on!"  I saw her bloodless eyes glaze over like a Jonestown prophet.  "You're SORRY!?!?  Well, I'm sorry that I trusted someone like you to handle the 80 point table!  I'm sorry that you aren't smart enough to tell the difference between 70 points and 80 points!"

OK, let's pause for a moment.  Because I'm sure that right now you're bracing yourself for the inevitable "This is when Jen loses her shit" scenario, and in any other venue, it would doubtlessly be the case.  But, I am (as aforementioned) a Christian, and we were in the house of the Lord, so I decided to be all Matthew 5:39 and turn the other cheek.   That bitch had been touched by an angel, yo.  But what she did not account for was the 60 pounds of righteous indignation standing directly behind her pious fat ass.  You, see, J. truly is his mother's son, and as such, when he sees a member of his family being mistreated, he flies in with about as much dignity and self-restraint as Motley Crue leaving a hotel room.

"DON'T talk to my Mommy like that!"  J. said, his genial, pixie-like face drawn into a menacing scowl.

Linda started, dropping her hand from my arm and staring at J. indignantly.  "How DARE you raise your voice to me, young man!"  she gasped sharply.  "I am SPEAKING to your mother!"

"No,"  J. averred, meeting her gaze with his steely blue eyes, "you were being mean to my Mommy and calling her stupid and NOBODY talks to my Mommy like that."

The two of them stood locked in a Mexican standoff, Linda with her hands on her hips and a schoolmarm's cold gaze, J., hands clutching his gifts, his eyes never leaving Linda's.  She had no freaking clue who she was dealing with here.  Finally she tore her eyes away from J's and turned to me.  

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," she hissed icily.  "you've obviously raised your child to be as rude and disrespectful as you are."

I smiled sweetly back at Linda, looping an arm around my son's shoulders.  "If by 'rude' and 'disrespectful' you mean a child who fights for what he believes in and will defend his family at all cost then. . .yeah. . .I guess I have."

Linda shook her head in disgust and walked away, and I led J. over to the  side of the choir room.  

"Hey, Buddy," I told him, "I appreciate what you were doing back there but when it comes to grown-ups, let Mommy handle it, 'kay?"

J. nodded a little sadly.  "OK,"  he reluctantly agreed.  "It just made me extra mad 'cause her kids are always picking  on M."

"What do you mean, 'picking on" M?"  I asked, looking across the room to where J's twin brother M. was showing the candles he'd chosen to his youth leader.

"Because of his autism."  J. reluctantly admitted.  "Casey's always calling M. a baby because he still likes little kid shows and Hannah's always making fun of how he talks.  It just makes me mad."

I felt the familiar white-hot rage flood through my bloodstream when I heard of my son being teased for his disability, followed almost immediately be the sensation of having been struck in the chest.  I spend so much time thinking about how M's disability affects his life that I often forget how deeply it impacts J. as well.  I reached down and hugged J., then pulled him into my lap.

"Dude.  You don't have to take care of M., OK?  That's my job.  You just keep being an awesome brother and leave the vigilante justice to me."  He smiled and hugged me with his free arm, still cradling the gifts he bought.  "So what do you have there?"

J. beamed, placing the items on the floor in front of us one at a time.  "This is a case for Pokemon cards I got for Amir, this is a candle I got for Hassan, this is a keychain I got for M., this is a sparkly hair bow for you, and I don't know who I'm giving the snow globe to yet."

I furrowed my brow thoughtfully.  "Didn't you get anything for yourself?"

J. shook his head with his trademark sunny smile.  "I like getting stuff for other people.  So, who should I give the snow globe to?"

I paused for a moment.  "Someone who really needs it,"  I replied.  "someone who is sad and needs to be cheered up."

J. mused quietly, then bounced to his feet with joy.  "I know!"  he said "I'll give it to Hannah!"

I glanced over at Hannah, the vicious little troll who'd been tormenting my son M. and daughter of the succubus, Linda.

"Why Hannah?"  I asked with no small amount of horror.

"Because she must be sad."  J. replied with conviction.  "She has a mean mommy and she does mean things.  That's just 'cuz she's sad, and maybe if I give her a present she'll be happy and stop making fun of M."  and with that, he raced across the room, paltry peace offering in tow.

So, my request to all of you is simply this:  be like my son.  See beyond the words and actions of others and know that they come from a sad and angry place.  Maybe if we all take time to understand that, and to offer some goodness and light to these people, we can make a small dent in the wall of intolerance and hatred out there.  I have a long way to go in that journey of forgiveness; thank God I have a blue-eyed angel to show me the way.



The Six-Fingered Monkey said...

Wow. That story was absolutely incredible.

Excuse me, I need to go into the bathroom and cry now.

Eunice said...

Tearing up a bit here. Oh what a wonderful son you have. Two wonderful sons. J. knows the real meaning of his faith. The trick will be if he can hold onto that lovely way of seeing the world. But I bet, with you as his Mummy, he'll do just fine.

Anonymous said...

You are awesome! I am SO glad you're back!

Frances Gronlier said...


TheChickIsRight said...

Jen, your short people are so amazingly awesomene. I, too, got a little teary while reading your story.

I honestly wish I could consistently see people like Linda as sad little unfortunates who just need to be shown a little light in their lives - sometimes I actually succeed. Most of the time however, I just want to beat the ever loving snot out of them with a ball-peen hammer. I guess I have a long journey of forgiveness myself... :-)

Thank you for the rad post. You, as always, rock. :-)

Cheryl S. said...

Wow. Just wow. Children are amazing.

Have you ever seen the movie Hook? That reminds me of the scene where Peter Pan (Robin williams) is going to kill Hook. His daughter says "Let him go daddy. He's just a mean old man without a mommy."

God bless.

Johi Kokjohn-Wagner said...

I spent the first part of your story laughing and stifling "oh mah Gawd! " and then you sneaked (snuck?) up behind me with all that endearing lesson shit. Damn it! Now I'm feeling unstable.
P.S. This post is my new favorite.

Mandy said...

I shit you not, my eyes teared up. DEFINITELY save J for CJ, please. That boy is a keeper. (Well, they both are, of course) Seriously. WHAT A SWEETHEART.

He learned it from you. So keep being an awesome mommy.

Anonymous said...

Damnit, Jen!! Why you gotta go and make this cold hearted bitch cry? Why??

Your son is a remarkable creature, and an example of really great parenting skills. That Gil is just the best dad ever! (Oh god, it pained me even just to write that in jest!).

Your boys are wonderful. I'm pretty sure that dragon lady just needed a big hug. Maybe next time? ;)

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

Jesus, Jen! Way to make me cry!! At first I was laughing, ready to make some snarky "I would've said I struggled with math and asked for a calculator" comment... then I got downright pissed because YES, I know "THE Church Lady" and each one is freaking awful and totally NOT how anyone should be treating human beings, and then I wanted to stab someone in the eyeball because I was FURIOUS, and then I felt proud because you totally could have stabbed her with your Steve Maddens but you chose not to - and that right there is awesome.... and then - WHAM! The truth. The truth is a beautiful, beautiful thing and it resides in the soul of your precious M and YES! HE GETS IT!! And he gets it because his Mama is doing something very right. Keep it up. You are doing an awesome job!

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

* Please change M to J... you knew who I was talking about. I'm just too darn hyped up to check my details before posting.

RemarkableMonkey said...

Dude, your son is made of pure, unadulterated AWESOME. How great would the world be if everyone WAS like him? Beautiful.

Colleen - Mommy Always Wins said...

I. LOVE. THIS. Not just the story (awesome, btw) but your writing style, and that you'd go "all Matthew 5:39 on someone's ass". JUST LOVE. Thank you for sharing your story!

AC said...

Wow. I echo everything that's already been said. Awesome. Simply awesome... both your restrain and J's steely resolve. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Your children are simply fantastic. Having been in a household with special needs children I know how hard things can be. Continue to be the rock star mother that you are.

Anonymous said...

Your boy is good. Very, very good. I'm proud just to be on the same planet as him.

Brett Minor said...

makes me wish I had gotten to meet your kids when we were out there.

I got lucky at my church. We don't have that church lady. We have one that can be a little overbearing at times, but she is a great lady and just gets a little carried away at times. Usually, a big smile will snap her out of it and she NEVER speaks to people that way.

Rebekkah Rose said...

I love this story so hard! I definitely made sure everyone looking at their FB newsfeed knew to read it.

Your short people are absolutely amazing! Thank you for instilling some hope in the future of mankind. :)

Justamom said...

I have to stop reading your blog during my lunch break...I do not look good when I cry...

I totally Heart your short people.