Mass With the Bare Essentials

Hi everyone! I’ve decided to republish some of my old Home Truths columns here. I’ve set up a Facebook page for “Kate Moriarty – Writer” and I’m trying to gather all my writing to the one place.

This column was first published in Australian Catholics Easter 2016

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I long to see the day where I sail into 9am Mass with six children all clean and combed in their Sunday bests. I’ve always yearned for people to describe my children as ‘well turned out’. Especially church people.

Today was not that day. My husband had taken Matilda early so that she couldn’t be an altar server, and it was up to me to get the remaining children clothed and in the car and to Mass on time. Harry was dressed and ready like a champion. Unfortunately, his outfit was the same one he’d been wearing obstinately for the past three days. Christopher was performing a slow tai-chi dance with his breakfast, but was dressed at least. Annie was barefoot in her pyjamas staring blankly at her toast like it was the last clue in the cryptic crossword. The twins were fast asleep. And it was five-to-nine.

So I started gathering bags and babies, shepherding everyone into the car. The pyjamas Annie had been wearing looked enough like regular clothes to get away with. It was only later I noticed the vegemite stains all down the front.

Annie and Harry were putting their seatbelts on in the back of our van as Christopher and I organised the twins. “Annie, are you wearing shoes?” I call back whilst grappling with a four-month-old in a five-point-harness. “Yes, Mummy”, Annie responds in her sweetest voice.

And we were on our way, but we were oh-so-late.

We arrived. Annie grinned broadly, “Actually, I forgot my shoes!”, she announced triumphantly, like the punchline to some wonderful joke.

In all of the shouting and searching that followed, Annie alone was calm and unruffled. We found one shoe. There was only one. I think this was a million times worse than if there’d been no shoes at all.
The homily had just started as I sidled into Mass with my rag-tag posse of children. Annie remained unshod. If we kept a low profile, we might get away with it. In a quick exchange of sign language (I believe I employed the international sign for ‘I wish to strangle my child’), I brought my husband up to speed with the situation. His response was devastating, his expression deadpan:
“We’re on Offertory.”

In theory, being invited to bring the gifts to the altar is a wonderful privilege, I should have felt honoured that my husband was asked to participate with his family in this special way. Unfortunately, the idea of parading my dirty, barefoot, misbehaving children down the aisle for all to see was not altogether a tempting one.

When it came time for the Offertory Procession, I assumed a confident expression. Perhaps, if I smiled bravely and walked tall, nobody would notice my three-year-old was sans footwear. That aisle seemed much longer than usual. Father Jacob, flanked by Matilda and another server were miles away. After traipsing barefoot through the gauntlet of parishioners, Annie imperiously insisted on delivering her bowl to Matilda and not the priest. Father Jacob swallowed a snort of laughter.

I spent the remainder of Mass alternatively blushing and shushing. As we prepared for a swift exit, a lady grasped my elbow.
“It gave my heart so much joy to see your family bringing up the gifts,” she said with genuine warmth. My heart melted a bit. Mrs Thomas is almost old enough to be my grandmother. She has raised six children herself and was recently widowed. Mrs Thomas chose not to see the unwashed clothes or exposed feet or complete lack of liturgical style. She saw a family trying their best despite their imperfections, and loved us. In that moment, Mrs Thomas was God to me.

I opened my mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud yowling. Annie, it would seem, had stubbed her little toe on the kneeler.

And that, my dear, is why you should always wear shoes to church.

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Job Fail

Stair with incorrectly installed bannister.  Text: you had one job.

So here’s the thing: I had an experience that was perfect blog post material. I was actually composing it in my head as it was happening to me.  I would have called it ‘Job Fail’, and we all would have had a nice laugh about it together.  But then I managed to pitch the idea to my editor and got it published.  There is something truly beautiful about getting paid for being daft.    But here’s the other thing: when I put stuff on my blog, I have a certain luxury of anonymity.  I can blather on about things to my own secret club and nobody really notices.  After my article was published in the magazine, however, I got an email from one of the chief characters in my fail story, who had recognised himself straight away, despite my attempts to conceal his identity.  He was so gracious and lovely, but I wanted to sink through the floor. How mortifying!

Anyway, please read it.  It’s called The Hassle of the Hustle (aka “Job Fail.”) and you can find it on page 26 (print page 24) of the April edition.  Can you see how I linked to it twice?  That’s how much I want you to read it.

Reflection on the Nativity

Traditional painting of Our Lady breastfeeding (or trying to)

Don’t you hate it when they get to that distractible age and won’t focus on breastfeeding? Stop looking at the angels, Baby Jesus!

 

Have a look at a piece I wrote for Pray.com.au on the Nativity. It got me reflecting on what it felt like to be a new mother. Did Mary feel this way too?

More Excitement!

So I haven’t got around to telling you yet (unless I know you in real life, in which case I’ve probably told you far too many times!), but I won an AWARD.  My editor at Australian Catholics entered one of my columns in the Australasian Religious Press Association awards and it won GOLD for ‘Best Humorous Article’.   I’m so super stoked!  Apparently, the other entrants weren’t particularly humorous, so I wasn’t so much the funniest as the only funny one, but I’m still going to see this as a win.  It was AUSTRALASIAN, not just Australian, and it was RELIGIOUS, not just Catholic.  I’m mega smug.

So I’m going to reprint the winning article here.  Enjoy!

Minimum Wage Barbie in McDonalds uniform

What a Girl Wants

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s anxious research.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I read. Information soothes me.

When my eldest daughter was born, I devoured every book I could get my hands on, from What to Expect When You Expect to be Expecting, to Embryo Einsteins, to Have a New Newborn by Friday.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that simple toys could reinforce oppressive gender stereotypes and cripple the cognitive development of my wee girl-child.  So, from the very start, I endorsed train sets, puzzles and every variety of Danish plastic construction system. Now, at almost twelve, Matilda is assertive and articulate and wants to be a mechanical engineer when she grows up (when she’s not busy being the Prime Minister of Australia).  This, of course, is all due to my wise parenting methods. So I knew exactly which approach to take when my next daughter was born.

Annie, however, in all her four years of life, has politely declined Thomas and His Friends in favour of all things pink, sparkly and monarchical.  

“Mummy, I want to be a princess!”

“That’s a good idea, Annie.  Did you know that princesses are wise rulers and important decision makers?  Let’s pretend your kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and implement free and fair elections for all of your subjects!”

“Do I get to wear a shiny dress?”

“OK, sure…”

The real challenge came for me last Christmas.  Annie’s wish list had only one item on it. Her large brown eyes shone and she spoke in hushed tones of finally owning . . . a Barbie doll.

Oh, Lord.

I know the marketing executives would tell me that this tiny mannequin is actually an empowering role model, a true feminist.  Didn’t I know there is even a Doctor Barbie?  Girls can be doctors too!  I try to swallow this, but it sticks in my throat.  Barbie is, above all things, pretty. Literally, she is an object to be dressed and admired.  I want more than this for my daughter.

“What else do you want for Christmas, Annie?”

“Just Barbie.  If I tell Santa something else, he might not get me the Barbie.”

“What would you do if you got a Barbie?”

“Play Barbies.”

“OK.  But you know Barbie’s not all that great.  What does she do? Wear clothes? Sit around her dream house bemoaning the lack of space her vital organs have to function within that tiny tiny waist?  There are better toys than Barbie!”

“Oh, I know you don’t like Barbie, Mummy,”  Annie says composedly.

“You do?”

“Yes.  That’s why I’m asking Santa to get me one”

But for all that, Santa, in all his wisdom, did not get Annie a Barbie doll.  I imagine he couldn’t bring himself to turn into the lurid pink aisle at the toy section of Target and fork out thirty dollars for an 11-and-a-half-inch eating disorder just waiting to happen.  I’m sure he tried. I’m sure he went back again and looked and scratched his beard and called one of his best elves for advice. But it was not to be. On Christmas morning, Annie ran downstairs and opened her pillowcase to discover a Lego set for a pink princess castle, complete with flowers, princess and pony.  I held my breath. Annie looked up at me – and beamed.

“Look, Mummy!  Look what Santa got me!  It’s just what I wanted! It’s just what I asked him for!”

Wait, what?  Had she completely forgotten our conversation?  And how could she have asked Santa for this Lego set?  She’d never seen one before!

Shut up, Kate!  Just shut up! You’ve almost got away with it!  Smile! Nod!

“Oh, yes, Annie.  Gosh, Santa is very clever.  You know, I think he’s even smart enough to be a princess!”

 

Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)