It is both sad and wonderful at the same time when a little baby becomes a hip baby. Where did my tiny one go?
It was another gorgeous day in the south of France, not as hot as before, a beautiful breeze, clear skies, and lots of food to eat and classic French scenes to see.
On our way to the weekly market in the center of the city, we stopped at the Montpellier zoo for an hour. It is simple to do, as the zoo is free. Sadly the morning began with two skinned knees on Edith which colored the rest of her day. I can’t blame her, as she fell onto those rocks with great gusto.
The Montpellier market is at the base of a Roman aqueduct that runs through the city. It is quite a striking place, and again, a detail that must be barely noticed by the locals. Imagine living somewhere that this is normal!
The market itself, as one can imagine, was full of beautiful fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, meats, olives, and flowers. The children enjoyed some perfect brioche, tearing off large chunks of it as we strolled. I love that experience: buying a loaf of bread and tearing off portions.
Axelle got some delicious paella for lunch, one of those dishes that will forever remind me of my grandmother and my own mother.
We ate like royalty at lunch, although somehow this was a normal sort of meal in France. Paella, four different kinds of cheese from the market, baguette, fresh fruit, and a magical lemon tart.
After naptime, the children thoroughly enjoyed time in the pool, so much so that Edith never wanted to get out.
This evening, the neighborhood was having their “block party,” which mostly consisted of a lot of food and French karaoke. As well as a boccee tournament where I got a kick out of watching the men get out the tape measure every time.
Again, we had such simple but beautiful food, finished, of course, with cheese and fresh fruit and then an amazing tiramisu. I have had a few good laughs thinking about and explaining to our friends what the block party on our street in South Bend is like every summer, compared to theirs. Burgers, macaroni and cheese, beans, bouncy houses, a “band” in the middle of the street… As I sat tonight, sipping wine and eating Brie, I was struck by how different but how beautifully similar the two parties really are. They are both neighbors, trying to build friendship, establish a connection, and enjoy the good things of life together. I wish that one day we could have a merger of these two block parties.
The kiddos and I left Munich early yesterday morning (accompanied by a very kind husband to carry bags and push a stroller up to security) for a week in the south of France with old friends of my family. The last time I was here was with my sister, when we were 16. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 11 years, as so much of the landscape and the place is quite familiar. The children have been troopers with yet another change imposed upon them and although it has proven a bit of a challenge the last few days to keep spirits up, children sleeping, and to do it all on my own without Travis, I couldn’t be happier to be here and to see my children get to know these people and this place.
The children were lovely travelers for me and they are becoming quite used to the routines of trains and security lines and airports.
We arrived easily in France, napped, and enjoyed the backyard at our friends’. It is a lovely little backyard, and I enjoyed sitting and soaking in the sun and blue skies while the children explored.
In the evening, we headed into the town center of tiny little Grabels, their village, for Alina’s orchestra recital. The evening of music was put on by the local public and music schools and was held in the courtyard of a very-old looking building. I laugh to myself when I realize that I sit at an event like that and think about how not typical that is for people like me, and just how typical it is for the French that they probably don’t even think twice about the venue.
The beauty here is just so quintissential and striking, and I have found it particularly special to realize the many happy memories and connections I have to my family in this country, thanks to the trips we’ve taken before and the food that I grew up eating. France is truly my favorite place not just because I’m a snob (according to my husband, at least) and like good food, but because it holds connections to my family and my past that I am sure I will rediscover every time I am here.
“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.” (St. Catherine of Siena)
I count the children in the pew a few rows up. Seven. Wait, the mother is wearing one too. That makes eight. A few rows ahead, six. I watch another mother chase her son to the back of the church only to realize he has, somehow, already made a full circle back to the front and is dashing across the room in sight of the whole congregation.
My own toddler walks and falls, walks and falls, in the back of the church. She leans against the windows of the cry room and bumps her head on the glass—purposely—again and again. We go out into the lobby instead where she inevitably finds the staircase hidden away in a dark corner. The baby in my womb kicks and somersaults and suddenly I can hardly breathe, let alone lift a protesting, back-arching fifteen month old because I just can’t imagine chasing her up the stairs. A mom herds three children out of the doors and settles onto a bench. I feel exhausted just looking at her.
Is this my foreseeable future? I am so tired, and I only have one. Is this where I am asked to attend the Supper of the Lamb for the next countless years of my life, on the other side of heavy doors, listening to the words of consecration through lobby speakers?
Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
I kneel and feel dread sink into my heart. I love my babies. I love this one that I know, and this one that I have yet to come to know. But I am afraid. Afraid of what will be asked of me in the future. Afraid of more kids, and then even more kids. Afraid that my life will be full of herding children in and out of mass, the grocery store, the (large) van, the bathroom, the house, the park. I know there is beauty in all of that, I do. I know that life enlarges love, and with each new life, there is only more love; but sometimes it is hard to remember.
Is this really what you are going to ask of me, Lord?
I lift my eyes, and there is the Lord, hanging on a cross. This is what He asks of me. Sacrifice. Self-gift. Suffering. Love. It does not matter, and I need not fear, the means by which he brings me to the cross with Him. I fear the means that He will use to bring me to Himself. How silly that sounds when I realize it. In the end we are all asked to join Him in this act of dying, each in different ways, all of them painful and hard but ultimately life-giving. And these little ones are not keeping me from praying. They are prayer. They are the Lord bringing me to Himself; not in silence and contemplation, but in sacrifice and in an offering of my life for theirs.
He desires only union with me. Communion. Oneness. Love. Divine life. Sonship. And He offers me the means to that end. I need not fear them.
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.