Magazine article U.S. Catholic

November: This Morning She Pauses, and Leans Both Her Lovely Hands on the Kitchen Counter, and Weeps

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

November: This Morning She Pauses, and Leans Both Her Lovely Hands on the Kitchen Counter, and Weeps

Article excerpt

Here is my mother, making sandwiches. It is seven in the morning. She is forty years old. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is president. She makes four sandwiches, one for each of the older children; the baby does not yet eat sandwiches, although there will come a time, not too many years hence, when he will eat more sandwiches in an hour than you would believe a boy could eat unless you saw him do it with your own eyes, as his siblings did, some of us watching with exactly the same sort of awed fascination with which you watch a lion dismember a deer. You would not easily believe that a boy, however tall or burly, could eat as many sandwiches in an hour as there were apostles; but I, Brian, heard and saw this, and I tell you it is true.

In another version of this story my mother would be making eight sandwiches, but three of her children do not eat sandwiches, whereas they live elsewhere, perhaps among the glittering stars, or perhaps dissolved into the uncountable growing things in this world, or perhaps pillowed in the billows of heaven, where they chat amiably with the One, and make bets about how many sandwiches total their kid brother Tommy will eventually be able to eat in an hour, God abstaining from the bet because He already knows that amazing number, and has in His subtle way provided the means by which our parents can obtain the ingredients thereof, the mustard and cheese, the thin slice of bologna when times are flush.

When she is finished with the sandwiches for the four children who are not wearing diapers today she makes another sandwich for her husband to take to work, and she listens to the droning news on the old yellow radio on the shelf, and she listens for the mewling of the baby who will someday mill through an incredible number of sandwiches on his way to being a tall and muscled person, and then this morning she pauses, and leans both her lovely hands on the kitchen counter, and weeps suddenly and silently for her three lost children, the three who went on ahead, the three who opened their eyes so briefly in this world, and milled the sweet holy air of this world with their infinitesimal lungs, but then all too soon ceased breathing, and so their spirits vanished from what had been lively squirming vessels for those miraculous spirits, and where their spirits reside today no one can say, not even the mother in which they lived for a time, curled and thudding beneath her heart. …

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