"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Very Tall Mouse and Very Short Mouse

(Sister Deb with Eva)

"Once there was a very tall mouse and a very short mouse who were good friends. When they met Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello, Very Short Mouse.' And Very Short mouse would say, 'Hello, Very Tall Mouse.'

The two friends would often take walks together. As they walked along Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello birds.' And Very Short Mouse would say, 'Hello bugs.'

When the passed by a garden Very Tall Mouse would say, 'Hello flowers.' And Very Short Mouse would say, 'Hello roots.'"

-From MOUSE TALES by Arnold Lobel

(Sister Deb, busy painting the girls' playroom on her day off)

When I realized that we were moving to New Jersey, one of the few things that excited me was the thought that I would be closer to my friend Sister Deb Wilson, MSBT. Sister Deb was one of my classmates in my M.A. program. She made a good impression on the whole class when she showed up one day for 500D with loaves of pumpkin bread for each student. But even beyond that, she seemed to be such a calm, happy person (not to mention smart but humble).

So I shortly accosted her and persuaded her to join a prayer group that I was starting. She later told me that she felt obligated to say yes because she thought it would look bad to refuse, since she is a nun. But thank goodness she joined! For the first two years, our group was blessed with her peaceful presence. Then Deb graduated and was sent to Connecticut, to Trinita, a retreat center run by the MSBTs.

Being a Missionary Servant of the Blessed Trinity keeps Deb pretty busy, but she managed to come out to visit recently while Jeff was away at a family wedding (ahem, where no children were invited). If you think that my version of hospitality is to let a friend enjoy her day off in a relaxed fashion at my house, you're wrong. I warned Deb in advance that we'd be painting the girls' playroom.

I've been itching to paint something (first-time homebuyers' syndrome, I guess), and the playroom seemed like a great option. (Jeff's too busy for these kinds of projects.) I showed Deb the room the Friday night that she arrived (after working a whole day and driving three hours to Jersey), and she assured me that there was no need for ladders, "I scoff at the thought of ladders - ha-ha-ha!" she said, looking around the room.

So Saturday morning we headed to Home Depot for some paint, rollers, brushes, and a really crappy (but expensive) canvas drop cloth that leaked paint all over the floor. We started taping and preparing the room at about 8:00, after both girls were finally asleep for good. Then we painted. Deb did the high parts, and I did the low parts - since she is a Very Tall Mouse, and I am a Very Short Mouse. It didn't take too long... but we ran out of paint.

(A glimpse at the finished project - a cheery shade of yellow)

There we were, after Church the next morning, back at Home Depot buying more paint. Only now, what were we to do? Jeff was gone, so I was still watching the girls. Deb needed to leave, but the room was unfinished. Deb excused herself from the living room and went upstairs, changed into her painting clothes, and painted by herself while I raked leaves with the girls. (Take this as a warning, friends...if you come to visit you may end up painting a room all by yourself.) When Jeff got home, I was able to help finish up the job, but I never could have done it without my Very Tall Mouse.

(Eva tries out the new playroom)

It was great to see Deb, and, in addition to our disparity in heights, I reflected about the different ways we live out the Catholic life. John Paul II calls it "complementarity." (Check that out - "complementarity" in TOB is more often in reference to religious life and married life than to the relationship of husband and wife.) Deb kept suggesting that I needed a nap, seeing how exhausting it is to take care of the girls. For me that's just daily life, one of the many sacrifices I make as a full-time mom. "Middle-class asceticism" is my best option for growing closer to God these days, and it comes in lots of little ways.

Deb, meanwhile, endures a different set of hardships, which she mostly laughs about and takes in stride. These are things like living in a space where she doesn't have room to stretch her arms straight up above her head. Or having to act like a "friendly, happy morning person" when she'd rather not. All just part of being a missionary, she says.

I say, thank God for Sister Deb! And not just because she painted the girls' playroom, but because she makes me appreciate both of us more.

(Maia and Eva playing in the playroom)

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