Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sitting Under The Swamp Cooler

It has been a very hot summer, which has made me remember back to a hot summer when I was a very, very small child of about two years old. I actually have a few memories of being that age and they mostly entail getting into trouble, which I did A LOT. I was kind of a handful, as I understand it. I still am. Haha.

Anyway, when I was a small child, my family lived in Sacramento, which is like hell in the summertime, temperature-wise. And back in the day, there was no air conditioning, so there was in our house what was referred to as a "swamp cooler." I have no idea what the thing really was or how it worked, but I remember that it was in the ceiling of our hallway. And it dripped. A lot. I don't think it was actually supposed to drip, but it did. So, naturally, in my two-year-old wisdom, during a summertime that was as hot as hell, I decided to sit under it. It was wonderful. I remember sitting under it and being so refreshed, as the cool water drip-drip-dripped onto my head.

My mother had told me not to sit under the swamp cooler. I have no idea why, but it was against her house rules. If you knew my mother, though, you will remember that she was an exceedingly neat, tidy person, who did not abide utilizing things for purposes for which they were not designed. And I suppose that the idea of her two-year-old daughter, all dressed in her cute summer outfit, with her hair neatly combed and held in place by a darling bow-shaped plastic barrette, sitting under a malfunctioning swamp cooler, just totally rubbed her the wrong way.

Even at that age, though, I had my own mind. And dammit if I wasn't going to sit under the dripping swamp cooler when the house was a fucking 104 degrees, or some nonsense like that. I, of course, did not know the word "fucking" at two years old. I did know the word "dammit," because that one was popular with my mother. But my toddler brain formed thoughts that definitely included the sentiments those words imply. Also, it was fun to sit under the swamp cooler and get wet. So, I would sneak into the hall and plant myself under the forbidden treasure, cooling myself off and having a grand old time until my mother inevitably found me. I knew she would find me, but I didn't really care.

I did care, though, about the spanking I got, but it was not enough to dissuade me from my mission of sitting under the swamp cooler. My mom was big on spankings, so I kinda learned to ignore them, especially when I thought The Rules were lame. I always had big and very self-confident opinions on The Rules, as I still do. If you know me, you know this about me. Fear of punishment is not an adequate motivation to keep me from disobeying The Rules, if I think they are lame.

When I grew up, my mom apologized about the spankings. She also apologized for "stifling" me. She would say, "We probably stifled you too much. But, I had never known a kid like you and I didn't know what to do." It's okay mom, I know I'm sort of a weirdo. ;-)

My dad must have fixed the swamp cooler, eventually, thus causing me to find some other way to get into trouble, which I inevitably did.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Family Story

I come from a very colorful family. I think about this a lot, but a little incident today reminded me of one particularly colorful anecdote.

I shall tell you about it. ;D

My dad's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy back in the early 1920's. My mom's dad was 100% Italian and my mom's mother was 100% Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, I was thinking about the grandness of immigration, so I wrote on Twitter: "I am one quarter Irish and three quarters Italian. Magic like that doesn't happen without immigrants." Feeling happy inside, I went about my St. Paddy's Day, celebrating with a bit of Maker's Mark in the evening.

Anyway... Today, some cranky dude found my remark and evidently wanted to rain on my parade, so he replied: "No. ur 100% (insert American flag emoji here) and don't forget that! U didn't come off the boat and ur family did it the legal way"

Of course, I should have ignored this cranky dude, who is probably worried about his health insurance, but I didn't ignore him, because it is hard for me to ignore stuff. So, I said: "Actually, my grandpa did not exactly do it the legal way and almost got deported. (insert winky face emoji here) #ImmigrantsForeva"

The poor man (who was probably home sick with the flu and wondering if he will still have hospital coverage in 2018) apparently was not in the mood for me and my friendly attitude, and he came back with: "ur a retard for even responding with that! Mine did and is listed at Ellis Island. U should be ashamed"

Unbeknownst to my fellow second-generation American, I don't really shame that easily.  So, I said: "Mine is, too, actually. It's a long story, from long ago. All my best to you." And then I closed with: "And -- yes -- I am (insert American flag emoji here), but I'm very proud of my Italian/Irish heritage. It is part of my identity."

Then the dude did not say anything else, because -- after all -- we women of Italian/Irish descent can be very exasperating.

I will now fill in the blanks of this story for you, so you will know how I almost didn't get the chance to exist and have the opportunity to entertain and exasperate you.

The grandfather to whom I am referring in the conversation above was my dad's father. He was a very unique individual -- full of fun and mischief. He grew up with my grandmother in a little village in Italy, and I guess he was quite smitten with her, because when she decided to come to America, he decided to follow her.

Initially, all was kosher. She was sponsored by some of her relatives already living in this country, and he was sponsored by some of his relatives. (They were not married, as yet, being only 18, or so.) My grandmother arrived here first, landing at Ellis Island. My grandfather followed a while later. And I guess when you arrived, you were asked by the immigration authorities about your destination and who was meeting you. The information you gave was supposed to match up with your application paperwork. My grandfather, though, wanting to be with my grandmother, gave them her family's name. He told me that he was then led to another facility, where he thought he would meet up with my grandmother's relatives. Unbeknownst to him, though, this facility was a jail and he was going to be shipped back to Italy forth-with. He just sat there quite contentedly -- with no idea of the fate which was set to befall him. Thankfully, various family members on both his and my grandmother's side somehow figured out what had happened and paid a visit to the immigration authorities to straighten everything out. It was my impression that some kind of bribe was involved, but I'm unsure. My grandfather was set free, heading home with his relatives for a nice meal and a good scolding of the kind only full-blooded Italian women can deliver.

My grandfather was, indeed, a rascal. All. His. Life. He even made moonshine during prohibition. Heck, he did a lot of crazy things. He was a decent guy, though. He never hurt anybody and -- together with my grandmother (who was an outstanding saint of a woman) -- raised an excellent son and daughter. His children's children all went to college. Our family is very close and fun and -- surprisingly -- VERY law-abiding.

So, here's to the immigrants! (Even the ones who don't take a completely straight and narrow road to get here.) <3

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For The Rebel Children

I, myself, am a rebel, just so you know.

And a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being a chaperone on our parish's Confirmation retreat. If you don't know, Catholic kids receive the Sacrament of Confirmation sometime during their high school years; and before that occasion, they usually attend a retreat in order to prepare and reflect upon the graces they will receive from that Sacrament, as well as what it means to be a Catholic.

The retreat that I helped with was a very good one. It included prayer and music and speakers -- including teen speakers -- and Mass and Confession and Eucharistic adoration. It was very well-run and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

There were some kids there though, who were rebels, in the best sense of the word. These kids are people who question the status quo, who have merciful hearts, who have a great sense of justice, who are compassionate, who are creative. And they don't always like what they are seeing in the Catholic Church.

And I guess what concerns me is that these kids didn't seem to get much of a chance to have their voices heard during this retreat. It seemed to be, basically, assumed by the retreat organizer that everyone was on the same page concerning the moral authority of Church teaching. And these kids were very well-behaved, not really wanting to make waves.

But -- you know -- if we Catholic "grown-ups" aren't careful, we will lose these kids. Because these kids are smart and their questions are legitimate ones and they are not being answered. Oftentimes, too, the Church (at least where I live) doesn't act in a way that is very tolerant of different points of view. So, if a kid does have the guts to speak up and ask a difficult question, they might be given a solid answer, but that answer comes with the attitude that "it's this way or the highway." And that's not how it should be. Not everything is black and white in the application of Church teaching. There is the primacy of conscience. So, we need to be careful. The Church needs these young people. They are strong and they are smart and they are good. And they need to be taught in a way that respects their intelligence and their sense of justice and their compassion. They need to be taught in a way that respects their consciences and their creativity. Yes, we need to teach them Church doctrine accurately, but there needs to be space for discussion. AND they -- the rebel children -- need to know that we want them in the Church. At least I want them in the Church.


Because rebels bring fresh perspectives and honesty. They force us to look at ourselves. They shake things up; they force us to clean things up. They remind us of what is essential. They encourage us to behave respectfully toward different kinds of people. They keep us from living in an echo chamber.

So, my prayer for the rebel children receiving Confirmation is that the Holy Spirit will assure them of God's unconditional love for them and give them the graces of wisdom and understanding and confidence that their voices matter in the Church and in the world.

God bless the rebel children. Amen.