John is not a fan of glorious princessy raiment. When the weekly father-daughter showdown rolls around, and he must once again go head to head with the Princess at the back of the church, he finds that Sunday finery gives Resi an unfair advantage. Such was even more the case at midnight Mass, where she sported one of her THREE Christmas gowns.
John objects to Sunday dresses on the grounds that they are too “slippery.” He spent Midnight Mass at the back of the church, “wrestling a fish.” A large, loud, fish, which chirped like a bird and was determined to wriggle out of his arms.
The rest of us spent Midnight Mass admiring the altar servers. The boys requested the office of serving at Midnight Mass, and we rearranged our Christmas plans around them. The fact that Midnight Mass was actually at 8:30 made it just a little more feasible, and a little less painful, for the whole family. I think it may be the first time in our married lives that we have attempted Midnight Mass with all the children. It wasn’t too bad. The boys didn’t fall asleep on the altar and Resi didn’t fall asleep until we were in the car on the way home. And then she screamed for an hour in her crib before she could go to sleep for the night. But it seemed like a small price to pay.
Midnight Mass was only the second of FOUR Christmas Masses that John and Marietta attended. Marietta sang with the Cathedral choir at the 4pm Christmas Eve Mass; the whole family attended Midnight Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul; John, Ginger, and the girls attended Christmas morning Mass with the Bishop at the Cathedral; and then John and Marietta headed out to the Carmelite Monastery where our friend Fr. Girotti was saying the Mass of Christmas day. At the first of these Masses, Fr. Dorner asked facetiously, “How many of you are going to four Masses?” John realized that the question was rhetorical just in time to avoid raising his hand.
Other events of our first Green Bay Christmas included an expedition to cut down our own Christmas tree that resulted in . . . the most perfect tree any of us had ever seen! John took the big four with him, and the differences of opinion were so great that Marietta started praying to St. Jude for a tree they could all agree on. The saints came through with the finest tree of all time.
Our one regret was that we took the tree down too early. We left it up until mid-January. But the custom around here seems to be to leave Christmas decorations up until Lent. Not a few of our neighbors still have the Christmas decorations bedecking their homes and we can see in the front windows that some living rooms still boast a Christmas tree. We regret discarding the perfect tree so early; we’ll know better next year.
We loved having Ginger visit over Christmas, but we didn’t love the fact that she got sick almost immediately upon arrival and didn’t feel better until she was just about ready to depart. But it didn’t stop us from putting her to work helping us paint the ground floor.
I saw a paint color on the walls of a furniture store that really captivated me. I called the store to find out the color. John, who took the message, told me the color name was “SW6226.” What? No “Twilight Sky”? No “Ocean Mist”? Yeah, there was some poetic name too but how is John supposed to remember something like that? It turns out the color was called, “Languid Blue.” I wasn’t sure I liked that until I remembered the Psalm, “The barren wife bears seven sons, and the mother of many languishes.” (It being as great a miracle for a mother of many to sit and relax as it is for a barren wife to bear seven sons.) We were on our way to Mass when we exchanged this information about the paint color. Guess what the Psalm reading was.
But I wasn’t prepared to open a large birthday present from John and to find inside paint rollers. I thought it was a joke at first. We had just watched a comedy sketch in which Santa Claus gets banished to the couch by Mrs. Claus for giving presents like a paint brush and a gift card to Home Depot, “because you’ve been wanting me to paint the kitchen, and now you can!” But then I saw the two cans of Languid Blue and it kind of took my breath away.
John doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet once he has an idea. He almost immediately started painting. The first strokes made us all panic a little: on top of our Robin’s Egg blue walls it looked like Pencil Lead Gray. Fortunately my brother Micky had shown us an optical illusion on his last visit here. It was a chess board in shadow, and the white squares could look black based on what was around them.
Now that our entire ground-floor has been painted with Languid Blue, it looks unmistakably blue, and very soothing. I think I’ll just languish here admiring it.
Other highlights of our Christmas were visiting a nursing home and visiting our old Latin professor, who is now our near neighbor in Milwaukee. Fr. Reginald Foster spontaneously treated us all to pizza . . . and treated me to his magnum opus, his Latin teaching method newly published as a hefty tome!
Our boys’ school, the St. John Paul II, had the ingenious plan to mount an Epiphany pageant rather than a Christmas pageant. It was the most beautiful and prayerful Christmas program I’d ever seen, and others who have seen many more agreed with me. The program featured Latin hymns, a recital of a passage from one of John Chrysostom’s Christmas homilies, and a lesson in contemplative prayer. We are the proud parents of two Wise Men.
We’re also the proud parents of two men who are perhaps not so wise. But there’s always room for improvement.