Thursday, August 18, 2011
There is a place in the back of our church called The Crying Room - a tiny room in the rear of the nave, partitioned off and divided by a huge pane of glass. It is a room where parents can bring their crying babies, loud toddlers, or any one who may not be ready or able to sit through an hour church service without being disruptive. You can see and be seen. You can hear (through the sound miked in over the speakers) but not be heard.
There is a separate entrance to the crying room out in the hallway and when you are contained inside its walls, the fourth wall of glass is supposed to make you feel comfortable and included. To me, however, it feels like I'm in the Pope Mobile or I'm some expensive painting behind a wall of bullet proof glass. Yet I am acutely aware of the fact that I am neither as holy as his Imminence nor irreplaceable as the Mona Lisa.
Out of courtesy, I sit with CB back there along with the young moms and their tiny children as she is a bit too squealy, screamy, and physically agitatated to be out in the congregation without freaking everyone out. My husband sits out in the real world with our three other girls. I see the backs of their heads bent in prayer or whispering to one another when I know they're getting bored. I see life go on through a transparent dividing wall.
For me, the experience of being in the crying room is probably much different from the other moms who frequent this place, knowing that their time in here is limited and expected due to the developmental age of their children. They know that this is a "way station" and that one day they will graduate to the outside world. For me, this room is the literal expression of the gigantic metaphor of my life as a mother to a significantly disabled child - participating in life from behind the glass. Sitting in the proverbial fishbowl. Holy surreal.
It's stressful for me back in the crying room, though much less so than if I were sitting out there with the masses. I worry because there are families in there who I'm sure don't understand what CB's deal is. She's banging on the walls, incessantly kicking the chairs in front of her, jumping up and down in her seat, scratching the flesh off of my arm, profusely drooling and 9 times out of 10 will poop in her diaper and smell up the joint.
I try my best to pay close attention to the service because that is why I'm there - not just to be present in body but also in spirit. If I'm just there in body and my mind is elsewhere, then what's the point? I should have just stayed home. Yet I'm always anxious and tense and feeling raw and exposed, and when you are gritting your teeth together and feeling frustrated it's pretty hard to be all holy and stuff.
Last Sunday back in this crying room, the priest spoke and the congregation chanted in unison, and....
She called out "Mommy!" as clear as I've ever heard CB say a word.
CB's language consists of babbling, sing-song, repetitive sounds and a few one-word verbal approximations that mostly involve food and her favorite "stim" items. I waited 8 years before I heard my first born child call me Mommy. Some people never hear it in their entire lifetime, so I was okay with the prolonged wait. It kept me in suspense. In the past 16 years, I can count on one hand the number of times CB has mumbled something that resembled "Mommy" and have cherished it dearly. Plus, I have three others who say enough "Moms" in one hour to make up for all the years I missed. The "typicality" of my other lovebugs can dull the nagging ache of not hearing it from CB, but voids like these can never truly be filled.
So here is CB on a typical Sunday morning suddenly moved by something (and I cannot fully connect the dots as to what), calling out without prompt or provocation a resounding "Mommy!" as clear as a church bell straight from the heavens. She followed it about half a minute later with a loud and equally clear "Daddy!"
The significance of where we were when this happened was not lost on me.
On the other side of the glass wall the music soared, the people chanted in unison, the priest carried on, no one missed a beat. While, inside the fishbowl, a frustrated mother and her misunderstood little girl were granted the small but sweet gift of a moment of grace.