This past weekend, when I so desperately needed the comforts of home and they were sorely lacking, I was treated to two tastes of the best place in the world: HOME! It came to me instead of me going to it.
Back when everyone was married and we were young, my parents played cards almost every weekend with their friends the Hickeys, who lived across the street from us for a while and moved around the block when we were a bit older. My parents divorced and “Uncle Hickey” and “Aunt Joyce” also divorced, my sister and I moved away, and we all got on with our lives.
Uncle Hickey remarried and moved to Pennsylvania and a couple of times per year, his daughter Linette, who graduated with my sister Judy, comes to visit. I saw her twice this summer while I was up visiting my dad and she asked if they came down for Thanksgiving, would we like to get together? Well, they did come down and we got together Sunday at Union Station.
Linette now has two children with her husband and of course I have Leah and my sister has Dottie. We made plans and decided to meet up at Pizzeria Uno’s at 1:00. Well, we were a trifle bit late getting there due to the wonderful DC traffic situation (let me put it to you this way—I do NOT miss driving to Northern Virginia, but that’s another blog post entirely), but got there around 1:05 and then sat there for 10 minutes wondering where they were. Meanwhile, they were one floor below us waiting and wondering where we were. Finally, I told Judy and Michael to wait and I would go around to the stairs and see if I could find them. I got halfway down the steps when I saw Linette and her son Hayden yelled “There she is!” and they came over to greet me. Hayden greeted me with, “Can I hold the baby?” so I handed him Leah and grabbed Linette in a big bear hug. I swear, I have rarely been so happy to see anyone in my life.
As soon as I let go, I turned to look at the rest of the group and was forced to do a double take as I laid eyes on Uncle Hickey for the first time in 10 years. I honestly did not recognize him. He was my dad’s best friend for years, and having been missing my dad so much, to lay eyes on Joe was—well, it brought tears to my eyes, I can tell you that. I grabbed him and laid a fierce hug on him while attempting to compose myself. He took one look at Leah and said, “My God, that is a beautiful baby!” Then he introduced me to his wife, Nancy, and I said hello to Linette’s husband Tom and daughter Hayley.
I told them that Judy and Michael and Dottie were all upstairs and was Uno’s OK for lunch? We agreed to eat there and surprised the crew at Uno’s with a table for 9! It was a wonderful lunch. We reminisced about old times, talked about new times, caught up on each other’s lives. Hayden and Hayley were madly in love with Leah and Dottie and attended to their every whim so that I could enjoy a grown up lunch. Leah didn’t scream or cry in the presence of so many new strangers. We took pictures, we laughed, we all of us chatted, everyone got along so well, even the “newbies”—Nancy, Michael, and Tom.
Leah of course ate about 6 reams of paper and a bunch of bread.
After lunch, we went downstairs to the main hall to try and find something else to do. There wasn’t much. I took Hayden and Hayley for their first taste of Godiva Chocolate to thank them for watching the babies so carefully, and then it was 4:00 and we had to head home. It was with tears I said good-bye, and Judy and I kept saying all the way home, “That was just what I needed” and “That just felt so right, it felt like all the good things about being home again.”
Sunday I had another little taste of home. Michael and I have been talking for a while about going to church. We were both raised Catholic so there are no potential “my church” vs. “your church” issues, although we have both been pretty open to attending whatever church the other one has wanted to go to (we were quite active in the UU church in Boston for a while).
Anyway, I do not like the Catholic church here near the house—it is huge and mass takes for-freakin’-ever to get done with. I think I have mentioned in the blog a few times how I grew up in a small church. We sang the same 3 hymns every Sunday, loudly and off key with a 900 year old organist pounding away on the ivories while we did our best to keep up, only changing hymns for Christmas Eve. When my father first started bringing us to the church, the actual church itself had no heating or air conditioning, so in the winters, we met in the local town hall. We sat on folding chairs while the priest said mass in the kitchen, using the pass through island as an altar. Since there were no kneelers, we stood through all the parts that required kneeling. Mass lasted a whopping 30 minutes if Fr. Richard was feeling particularly chatty. I haven’t been to a mass here at St. Mary’s that lasted less than an hour and 15 minutes. Anyway, eventually we built a new church in Fine and we didn’t have to go to the town hall anymore in the winter, we just used the church we built.
But while I was working, I went past a church called St. Jude’s. It was located in a storefront down south of here, and I thought surely it was not affiliated with the big C Catholic church. I mentioned it to Michael but we kind of put it out of our heads. Then a few weeks ago, we got talking about it again and so I did a Google search for it and it is, in fact, a big C Catholic church, part of the Archdiocese of Arlington. So this weekend we finally went.
I had a funny feeling I was in business when I walked in and discovered that everyone sits in folding chairs. We attended the 8:30 mass, which it turns out is probably a good thing considering it seems like the one at 10:30 is the one with all the hoopla and singing and I don’t go for that. There was a lone pianist in the front of the room, and a simple altar up on a simple stage. The priest, Fr. Dave, is a slightly rotund, balding older man who bears a slight resemblance to our beloved Fr. Richard. The mass was simple and straightforward, Fr. Dave offered a pithy homily which made everyone laugh just a bit and then moved on to the service. We stood during the kneeling parts because there are no kneelers. When Leah spit her binky across the room, a little old man happily retrieved it for us and brought to her, pinching her little cheek and making her giggle. We were out in 45 minutes. I can live with a 45 minute mass.
As we left, Fr. Dave shook our hands and of course shook Leah’s hand as well. We took a bulletin which details such things as pizza parties, potlucks, choir practices, and intriguingly an Advent tea. And they are working to build a new church, just like my old parish worked to build one. I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think we may have found a spiritual place to call home. We’re going to give it another try next week and see what we think. But all signs are favorable.
Sometimes these things happen with great serendipity, just when you need them most. I needed them and they were here. Love that.