I have verbally told this story twice now, and each time I get choked up and have a difficult time finishing. Therefore, I am going to write it, so when I want to share it with someone, I can just tell them to go read my blog, thus avoiding embarrassing tears, which are allowed because I'm pregnant, but even so.
Some of you have read in my recent posts that I struggle with disorganization, leading to stress, chaos, even the lack of planning and preparing nutritious meals. Last night was going to be different.
Last night was to be an event called Young Women in Excellence. It is a yearly event our church does, put on the the young women ages 12 through 18. At this event, the young women share their values, inspirational messages, beautiful music and tables set up with their accomplishments for the year. The parents of the young women are, of course, invited, and it is something they prepare for for many weeks in advance.
I knew this would be a difficult evening, as I would have no available babysitter for the 5 littlest children. All of the young women would be at this meeting and the young men also had a separate, unrelated meeting at the same time, thus, all six of us, including the 5 nine and under, would be attending. (John was out of town on business.)
This time, however, I wasn't going to be caught unorganized. I had decided the day before that instead of trying to make dinner, we would go out to eat in the big town where the meeting was to be held, thus avoiding the dinner prep and clean-up process. We would leave in a timely manner, giving us the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely meal before the meeting and the kids wouldn't need to snack during the presentation because their tummies would be full.
Because it's a 30-minute drive to the big town, I knew the twins would fall asleep on the way home, so this time, I would bring extra diapers and sleepers, we would change them at the church before driving home, and upon arriving home, we would carefully carry them to their cribs where they would stay asleep for the night.
I would bring their favorite books to the meeting and prepare to cuddle with them as need be to keep them entertained during the hour-long presentation.
I could do this!
As the evening approached, I timed everything perfectly. Because we had to leave at 5:45 in order to enjoy our leisurely dinner, I would shower at 4:45, have the kids help me get the 3 three and under ready, and we would leave at the exact moment planned.
This is when things began to unravel. What I didn't realize was that the 14-year-old girl would be at basketball practice (as the practices seem to come and go) and the 13-year-old boy would be at basketball try-outs. This was okay, though. The 17-year-old boy was home and he could help with the dressing of the 3 three and under.
As I entered into the kitchen to ask for his help, however, he, before I could open my mouth, quickly walked up to me and asked if I had any Febreeze and if I knew where the vacuum was because he was cleaning out the car. He was cleaning out the car? I had not asked him to clean out the car. What was going on here? Regardless of his motivation, I knew I couldn't squelch this rare initiation on his part and I wasn't about to ask him to stop what he was going to help get the babies dressed.
So, I was left with the 9-year-old boy...
Thus, we left 15 minutes later than originally planned, despite my most strenuous efforts to do otherwise.
It was on the drive to the event that the 14-year-old girl announced that she thought they would be serving dinner there. Because of this new revelation, I decided that we would simply get a snack before the meeting, then enjoy the dinner afterwards. Since she wasn't sure of this fact, however, we drove by the church, I dropped her off to run in and ask, she did, in Spanish, and confirmed that dinner would indeed be served after the presentation.
After spending 20 minutes at our favorite paleta (popsicle) stand eating nachos and paletas, we were ready to enter the church for the program. We arrived 5 minutes early, which I thought was just right, until, of course, I remembered about MST (Mormon Standard Time). Everything starts 15 minutes later than it is scheduled to. Thus, I sat with the 5 children for 20 minutes on the pew before the program even began.
By the time it started, the twins had already tired of their books, the 3-year-old had decided that standing up on the pew was the best way to see, and the 9-year-old boy thought it would be entertaining to try to make the 3-year-old boy laugh as much as possible.
I did my best to keep them quiet during the young women's recitation of scriptures, values, and sacred music, but many of the members of the audience looked back at our family to see who was shuffling programs, thumping books in the hymnal holders, stifling laughs, and angrily hissing "SHHHHHH!"
One man, in particular, looked back repeatedly, unlike the others, who only looked once to see who it was. He had three older children, was probably about ten years older than myself, and must have turned back to look at us more than 15 times. Some of those times I caught his eye, but this didn't deter him. As the music went on, and more and more people turned to look at us, I began to feel completely humiliated and my eyes began to sting and hot tears started to roll down my face, completely wetting my cheeks. They just wouldn't stop. I finally told myself that if this man looked back at me one more time, I was going to leave. He did. And I did, but not before grabbing the 9-year-old boy's arm and whispering to him that he and his sister were to stay in the chapel for the rest of the program while I took the 3 three and under out to the lobby. I scooped up the twins, motioned for the 3-year-old to follow me, squeezed between the man and the pew on the outer edge of the bench and quickly walked out the back exit.
The moment the door closed behind me, it was opened again by a gentleman asking me, in Spanish, if I would like to go to a room where the program was being broadcast by speakers. I politely declined, stating in my own broken Spanish that I could barely understand anyway, and it would be even more difficult to comprehend through speakers.
So, I sat in the lobby, while the 3 three and under literally ran in circles on the slippery tile in front of me. Not a minute had passed however, when another gentleman walked out of the chapel towards me. This man was the husband of the woman running the program. He and his wife have 7 children, of whom 6 live on their own, and they are pillars of strength and righteousness in our community. Although this man had rarely had occasion to interact with me or my children, he walked up to me and asked if he could take one or more of the babies so I could go back in. I discreetly turned my face away from him, hoping he wouldn't see the tears, and wet cheeks and red nose, and said "thank you, but they won't go to anyone but me". He politely said okay, then walked back into the meeting.
This made me cry even more, but these were tears of gratitude, gratitude that this man would be so thoughtful as to offer his help, knowing I had come to see my daughter and not sit out in the lobby.
As these tears fell, these tears of gratitude, others began to fall with them in a stream of hormonal emotion, tears of confusion, doubt, and hopelessness. Questions went through my mind such as....
-Why do I even try to attend events such as these with all these little children? It seems as though all I end up doing is either sitting out in the lobby or leaving the event in tears (see THIS post).
-With John's work schedule the way it is, him being out of town most days of the week, should I continue to have more children, bringing them into this situation where I can't possibly meet all of their needs all the time? I had always wanted God to plan our family, but was this really the best thing?
-What right did I have to feel so sorry for myself, when a 16-year-old boy who was accompanying the young women on the clarinet had a younger brother who had only awakened from a coma two days earlier, after falling out of the bed of a pick-up, and who, this very day, also has an older brother who is going under the knife for brain surgery to try to remove a deadly tumor? How selfish could I be?
I eventually stopped crying and pulled out my compact mirror to see how bad I looked. Yes, my nose was bright red, my eyes were bloodshot and my lipstick was smeared where one of the twins repeated grabbed my mouth to get my attention as he wanted to show me a painting of Jesus. I reapplied my lipstick, but that is about all I could do to improve my appearance.
Almost the moment after I put my compact back in my purse, this same man, the husband of the woman in charge, walked up to me again, looked down at me as I sat on the couch in the lobby and said, "The girls from our ward are about to sing. Are you sure you wouldn't like me to sit here with your boys while you go in and listen?" (Even as I write this, again, tears of gratitude are beginning to fill my eyes.) By this time, the 3 three and under were down the hallway, and I knew they wouldn't see me if I sneaked in to hear my daughter and her peers sing. So I accepted his offer. He directed me to his empty chair in the back, as all of the pews were filled, and walked towards my boys as the chapel door closed behind him.
Hearing my daughter and her friends sing the beautiful praises to The Lord was what completely opened the flood gates. I sat there, alone, but next to the man who had offered to show me where I could go to hear the program, and sobbed silently and marveled at the beauty of the music. I watched my daughter sing, and move her head and her body in rhythm to the strains of music. She was doing what she loves to do best, and because of this man, I was allowed to witness it.
After her group sang, I went out to the lobby again, meekly thanked him, as I was again embarrassed for him to see my tears, and sat down with my babies, who looked very concerned, but had dealt well with being watched over by someone they didn't know.
The events of the evening have since caused me to reflect on a few things. First of all, we never know what effect our actions will have on someone, whether they be thoughtless gestures, or a random act of kindness. Being the recipient of both of these types of acts during the course of the night made me want to be a better person. It made me want to look for ways to help and serve others in the hopes that I can make someone's day a little brighter, the way this man did mine.
I also had cause to reflect about the man who seemingly didn't understand or consider my situation. As I thought more about him, a realization struck me. This man was not a member of our faith. This was significant for this reason; as most of you know, Mormons usually have large families, and our children go with us to most of our church meetings. Therefore, Mormon services are sometimes a tad, um, shall we say, more boisterous than your average church service. This event was probably one of the only Mormon functions he had ever attended, and perhaps he was just shocked to see that there was any level of noise tolerated at all, as in other churches, there would be more of a quiet atmosphere as the children would be in the nurseries.
Thinking about this man in this manner helped me to understand where he might have been coming from and helped to melt away my anger towards him. And for that, I am grateful.
The rest of the evening did not go as planned, as well, but I won't go into that now. Suffice it to say that the 14-year-old girl had misunderstood the meal plans, post-presentation, and instead of a dinner, we received a slice of vanilla cake. Thus, despite my best efforts, our children consumed chips, paletas, and cake for dinner. Ce la vie!