Each morning of our present indoor confinement due to the “world virus,” I try to offer myself a little “pep talk.” Today my self-message was “try to find joy in the very small things.” This brought to mind…
Dad: The Alternate Sunday Mass Usher
Whether a phone call came or he was a last-minute tap on the shoulder at the church, Daddy somehow took great pleasure in his post of alternate usher. Best was when he did know in advance because he would spruce up especially for the occasion. I remember one time he came down the stairs and into the living room grinning ear-to-ear. He wore a light gray suit with fine plum threading, a pink dress shirt with long sleeves, French cuffs and links, and a complimenting necktie. His shave and hair-comb were impeccable, and there was a hint of Old Spice cologne. Next he would stop in front of the little coat closet’s full-length mirror and straighten his collar and tie. One time I swear I saw him winking at himself while fingering the knot on the tie; but when he saw me looking he quickly returned to his “professional” expression. Then, he asked: “Marie, Pat, Nancy, are you ready to go?” If we were not ready to leave quite so early, Dad would excuse himself and head across the street to the church. We would follow soon enough after and hold his place. I’m pretty sure he could have waited a little longer for us, but the subtle truth is, although his well-ahead of time departure was attributed to the pride in his volunteer position, there was another small pleasure hidden in this Sunday event:
The Sunday Morning Tribune
Yes, the Sunday paper was the main reason he left earlier than he needed to get to the church. He would have plenty of time before the Mass to pick up his usher badge and offerings basket. But it was important as well that he have his copy of the Sunday Morning Tribune. It was a very thick folded over paper with the “funnies” section in full color. He was an aspiring although not actual cartoon artist, so he loved that particular part of the Sunday paper. For sure, the Sunday Morning Tribune was a once-a-week pleasure. The papers were sold to the congregation as they streamed out after the service until all copies were exhausted. So, before Mass, Dad would first visit the man with the stack of Sunday newspapers in the breezeway of the church, pay him in advance to hold a copy of the Tribune paper, and pick it up after the Mass and his usher duties concluded.
Sometimes we would have to wait for him on the front-of-church sidewalk square, but it gave Mother a chance to have exclusive chit-chat time with Father Halperin. Soon enough Dad would come down the church’s front stairs, and there was that secret smile again. At home, he would walk-back the suit-coat/tie attire, roll up his shirt sleeves and sit in his one-and-only forest green stuffed chair. With the thick Sunday treat at his feet, he began his weekly ritual, going thru section by section, until he reached the “funnies.” With each section he finished, he neatly folded it back and placed it in the bunch very ready for the next family reader.
Mother cooked the Sunday meal; we set the table. There might be a Cubs game on TV afterward. Clearly and simply, “all was good.” We were all together, tucked in our house. Truly, all was more than good.
I like to speak of the lessons learned from my memories of growing up. Here, I learned from Dad’s little pleasures to plan ahead, dress for success, appreciate yourself, and of course, find the joy in the very smallest things! I wish you an extra dose of joyful findings each day of our present worldly struggle.
Angel Blessings~ N