“Would your family like to bring up the gifts?” the usher said to us, as he leaned cross the pew.
“No!” I thought to myself.
“We’d love to,” my husband said.
“Wait, was that out loud?” I thought.
“Wonderful,” the usher said with a smile. “Bring your family to the back when the Credo begins.”
It was out loud!
I forced a smile on my face for the usher as he turned to leave.
I sat there wide-eyed wondering what had just happened. Did I just get blindsided by my husband? I thought we were supposed to make these decisions together. Afterall, it was our family. Us. We. Plural.
I turned to him.
We exchanged silence; then I furrowed my brow the way my five-year-old does when I tell her she has to rewrite her name on her homework — “No, write it nicer this time. So your teacher can read it. Use letters, please.”
“What?” he whispered. “You don’t say no.”
“Why not?” I whispered back. “We don’t have to do it. It’s not a commandment.”
Our seven-year-old leaned in. “Why are we whispering?”
“Because we’re in church,” I whispered.
“Shhhhhh!” our five-year-old said.
“People are praying,” our three-year-old shouted.
“SHHHHHH!” we all said to him.
“We’re bringing up the gifts,” my husband whispered to the kids.
They were excited. They quietly clapped chattered to each other as if they had just been asked to present the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus Himself.
“I want to take the wine,” one whispered.
“No, I want to take the wine,” the other one whispered.
“No! I am,” the first one fired back.
“You take what the lady gives you,” my husband quietly told them, and hushed them into silence.
My stomach knotted as I sat back in the pew.
I have avoided doing this for our entire marriage. It’s not the first time we’ve been asked. Last time, about six years ago at a different parish, I told the usher, “No, thanks. we’re good.”
For the most part, avoiding this has been easy because we are almost never on time. But this was Palm Sunday, and we arrived thirty minutes early, so we didn’t have to stand in the back like we did last year and chase our three-year-old around the statue of Mary — which isn’t even in the back. You get my drift?
He’s much better managed at Mass when he’s contained in a small area, unable to escape unless he climbs. Which, oddly enough, he hasn’t tried to do yet.
Had I known that rushing everyone out that morning would mean all eyes on us during one of the busiest days of the liturgical season, I would have absolutely second-guessed my efforts and let everyone eat their waffles at a natural pace. Which meant they would have finished around Memorial Day.
Taking up the gifts is an honor. I should’ve been thrilled, but deep in the back of my mind, I kept worrying about what might go wrong. I had stomach butterflies at the thought of our three-year-old running up the aisle and grabbing the sanctus bells at the foot of the alter, violently ringing them while singing, “Johnny, Johnny, yes Papa, eating Jesus? No, Papa.” I had visions of him trailing behind us continually shouting, “poop!” while we approached the priest and tried to act like he wasn’t with us.
“Whose kid is this?” we would ask the first two rows.
“Yours!” someone we know would say.
The woman in the back handed me two glass containers of wine and water.
“Hold them from the bottom,” she instructed.
“Great,” I thought to myself, “now I’m completely helpless.”
My daughters both had a closed container of hosts, and when I saw my husband planned to hold our son, I felt a wave of relief wash over me.
He was contained.
Then the woman handed my son his own container.
Eyes wide again, I stared at my husband.
We exchanged more silence.
Our son dutifully and carefully held it with both hands. My husband passed on holding anything, so he could have one hand free to intercept the container in case our son opted to throw a Hail Mary pass down the aisle to the priest — who I’m confident would not have caught it.
We walked up the aisle side by side.
I looked down at my five-year-old out of the corner of my eye. Her hands gripped the sides of the container tightly; her face was serious, her eyes fixed forward. That’s when I saw the container tip down towards her, and the lid began to slide off.
“Holy Mary Mother,” I thought. “Patron saints of metal bowls, physics, and gravity, help her! Don’t let those hosts fall out of that container and onto the floor like an unleavened trail of bread crumbs.”
If the top slid open far enough, all the hosts would not only come tumblin’ tumblin’ down, as John Mellencamp sang but, she’d never see it happen and would continue on unknowingly punting and stepping on most of them because she had tunnel vision.
There was nothing I could do.
My hands were full.
I focused forward and despite the extreme and sudden intense perspiration under my arms, we made it.
I wanted to cheer and shout “Yeah! Woo!” and high-five myself. Instead, I smiled at the priest, bowed not nearly far enough and walked quietly back to the pew.
I was relieved and, of course, felt silly for worrying about it. After all, wasn’t it Matthew who said not to worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself? Easier said than done sometimes — but a practice worth working on.
What could I have done about anything that would happen anyway? Not much. What did I learn from taking up the gifts? That in that moment, God gave me gifts of His own: the reminder to not worry about what I can’t control and a reminder of my blessings. Taking up the gifts was an honor for our family and I was blessed to have a family to do it.
Although, I’ll partially credit the patron saint of nervous moms at Mass that helped us hold it together that morning.
“Let’s do that again,” our seven-year-old whispered, as we sat back down.
“Let’s do it every Sunday forever,” my five-year-old said.
“Mommy, I said poop,” our three-year-old shouted.