If my son had been there, in Bethlehem, on the night Jesus was born, he absolutely would have brought a drum to play for the baby. He would have banged on it with all his heart, an earnest little misfit bringing the best gift he could think of in honor of the infant king.
They hang on a hook in my small closet, which ordinarily has no space for sentimentality. Dancers often refer to old pointe shoes as “dead,” a quirk that has transcended every city, every state, every country where I’ve danced: “My shoes are dead.”
And my pointe shoes are, unquestionably, dead.
Did I know, when I tied satin ribbons around my ankles on Christmas Eve, it would be my final dance en pointe?
“How was the concert?” I asked my two eldest children as they trooped through the door in the wee hours of the morning.
“I loved it!” my 14-year-old enthused. “And now I need to make $40 a month, because I signed up to sponsor a little boy in Bangladesh for $40 a month. Do you know how I can make some money?”
I glanced at my 12-year-old. “Did you sign up to sponsor a child, too?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “I don’t have $40.”
(Neither did my 14-year-old, just for the record.)
The day I was to dance at an open-air concert in Times Square I woke before the alarm, as is my custom, and slid out of bed into the quiet dark. Instantly, I knew something was wrong: The room was spinning. Or was I? Putting out my hand to steady myself, I couldn’t find anything to touch. I didn’t know if I was sitting, standing, or if I had fallen to the ground.
I woke my husband. “Do we still go to New York?” I asked him. “I’m so dizzy. Is this a bad idea?”
“Probably,” he said. “And you’re probably going to do it anyway.”
The ordinary sounds of Sunday morning help mask some of my son’s repetitive outbursts, but the quiet of the sermon is a struggle. Admittedly, even typically developing 8-year-old boys struggle with the sermon. It’s just more of an issue for my child.
When our pastor began his message by announcing a period of silence, my stomach plummeted. Now we wouldn’t even have one voice to cover our disruptions.
The hush fell gradually upon our congregation, as the whisper of bulletins and cough drop wrappers slowly faded. I could feel my heart thumping as I looked at my son. Exactly at the point of total absence of sound, my son sat up, looked around at the congregation, but didn’t say a word. As he sat motionless, his blue-gray eyes scanned the room. At one point, after the pastor had started his preaching, my son leaned over to me and whispered—whispered!—“I have never heard a sermon about silence in my whole entire life!” He didn’t even ask for his tablet. He wanted to hear the message.
My instinct is to stay in bed, smother fear with a pillow, cultivate the illusion of safety beneath the warmth of my duvet. Waking to the news of yet another shooting, stabbing, natural disaster, I find myself echoing Francis Schaeffer: How should we then live?
I don’t mean what should we do—should our churches be more political? Should we trade our laptop activism for marching in the streets? How do we have the hard conversations around gun rights, access, ownership, and mental health when our society is so polarized? No, my question this morning is more pedestrian: how do I get out of bed?
And then, how do I wake my five children? How do I send them off to school? How do I live my life inside the constant threat of terror?
In my room sits an empty cardboard box that my middle son gave me for Mother’s Day. “I don’t understand why you have pillows on your bed that you don’t use for sleeping,” he said. “But I thought I would make you a place to keep them at night.”
This box is, in so many ways, emblematic of my son. He doesn’t always understand “normal” things like decorative pillows; he often doesn’t understand this world. But he loves the people who do crazy things like own pillows they don’t use for sleeping. He wants us to know that, in his own way, he’s trying to accommodate us, too.
“As a church, we can’t lead a conversation about gun violence or sanctuary cities out in the public sphere if we can’t even talk about it in our own community.”
I learned about her decision from a teen volunteer, who came to find me, ensconced in the nursing mother’s room at the church with my three-month-old.
“Um, your little girl is in the atrium renouncing her faith,” the volunteer relayed. “She says she doesn’t want to believe in God anymore? I thought I should, like, come and get you?”
As the last sibling was deposited curbside with the usual barrage of I-love-you, please-tie-your-shoes, don’t-forget-to-turn-in-your-field-trip-form, see-you-soon, my little guy looked at me and asked, “Mommy, is it Fursday?”
“It is Thursday,” I confirmed.
“YES!” he called out, his footie-pajama-clad feet kicking high into the air. “I love Fursday! I can’t wait to get home and rest!”
Suffice it to say, we have kept our Thursday morning sabbath.