There is an image in the Adoration Chapel this week: an artist’s depiction of the Pietá — but unlike Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, this one portrays Mary looking straight ahead as she cradles Jesus in her arms, holding him so that His face is next to hers.
Her eyes are not downcast as she holds her crucified Son. They are wide open, staring back at the beholder, filled with emotion.
But what emotion, exactly?
Defiance? I can imagine that her inner Mama Bear comes into play here. She grasps her Son’s body and looks straight ahead, daring anyone to take Him from her.
Shock? She has just watched her only Son complete his earthly mission, culminating in a death so horrible that no one would wish it on his worst enemy, and she witnessed it all. Is she numb from the shock of it?
Grief? Surely. Those eyes, partially in shadow from the veil that covers her hair, are deep pools of grief and pain. Her heart has, indeed, been pierced.
Strength? No tears are on her face. She is hanging on, not allowing herself to give in to those other emotions, sitting straight and not crumpling to the ground, holding Jesus and not letting go.
She will have to let go soon enough. She will have to allow Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body from her for a hurried burial before the sun goes down.
But not yet. Not at this moment.
For now, she holds on — to her Son, to her composure. She looks straight ahead.
My maternal grandmother never wore pants a day in her life until she was in her 80s and had to go to physical therapy following surgery. They wouldn’t let her wear a dress for that.
Around her home, she wore “house dresses” (dusters) and “house slippers.” She never left the house in these. If she went anywhere–the supermarket, the beautician, the dentist’s office–she put on a dress or a skirt and blouse, stockings, and dress shoes.
When I was in public grade school in the early 1970s, my mother made me wear dresses and knee socks and nice shoes every day. Not just on picture day, but every day. When I got to fourth grade and we had gym class twice a week, I wasn’t allowed to wear my gym suit (those awful blue one-piece numbers) under a pair of jeans. Mom always said, “You’re not going out of here looking like a slob.”
I didn’t even own a pair of jeans. I had pants, but they were generally corduroys that came with a top that had an appliqué made of the same corduroy as the pants. So stylish in 1974.
Right now I’m wearing sweat pants. I work from home, so I can do that. But other than driving my kid to school in the morning when he’s missed the bus, I don’t leave my house in these.
I don’t have a problem with that dress code. I wish it applied to all passengers. If you’re old enough not to require a car seat on the flight, you’re old enough to get out of your pajamas. And leggings? NOT pants. Put a skirt on, ladies.
Last summer I flew both for vacation and for work, and I saw far too many people wandering around the airport in workout wear and pajama pants. Many of them were also not wearing shoes. Sloppy AND unsanitary!
Over the weekend, the Street Urchins made an appearance. One of them arrived, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, in pajama pants. Those were all the clothes he had–when Hubs took the boys to the diner Sunday morning, that’s what this kid wore.
It’s about time we upped our standards for dress. I’m not suggesting we return to my grandmother’s way of doing things, but it’s time to take a little more care about what we look like when we venture beyond our own front doors.
The other day, the 10 Minute Novelist tweeted that her two teenage daughters had landed summer jobs that were local–and in their fields.
“They have fields?” I replied. (They’re still in high school.)
Turns out that they’d gotten jobs that were related to their career aspirations. And that’s great! But looking back at the summer jobs I held through high school, college and a my first year teaching, I realize it wasn’t so important to work “in my field.” Lessons and skills I learned in these jobs, regardless of the field, have been useful over the years.
Honestly, I was in those jobs for the paychecks (except the summer-camp job which barely paid anything). The life skills were a bonus I appreciated much later.
Not surprisingly, on this job I developed better research skills. I also learned the truth of the adage, “do what you love and the money will follow.” I started at the library as a volunteer and they eventually found money in the budget to keep me.
I didn’t bake anything here; I worked behind the counter. I memorized all the prices and learned to keep orders in my head (and even to add up the bill in my head); anything to move customers out quickly during busy hours. On a weekend or holiday morning in a bakery, speed was essential.
In the bakery I also learned the value of cleaning as you go and using any few minutes of no-customer time to refill bins of bread and rolls, wipe down counters and sweep the floor. Doing what needed to be done when I saw that it needed to be done meant I didn’t have to stay after my shift to finish the work.
Never underestimate the importance of clear handwriting and the ability to take notes quickly. Those skills were hugely valuable on that job.
The only summer job I ever quit before summer was over. I finish what I start, but working in a non-air-conditioned warehouse in summer in New Jersey was awful. I lasted less than four weeks. I was “picking and packing” socks for a mail-order clothing business. We had to track how many packages we sent down the conveyor belt in an hour and best that number on a regular basis. We were also continuously under suspicion of stealing, so our handbags were inspected each day when we left. And despite the awful heat, we had to wear long pants.
At that job I learned that constant suspicion was not a sign of a healthy working environment, and that if I was going to get in trouble for needing a bathroom break, minimum wage wasn’t worth it.
I can trace my tendency to count as I go to this job. If I’m baking cookies, for example, I’ll count them as I put them on the baking sheet. Working in the parts department of a company that built computers for Navy sonar, I spent 8 hours a day counting tiny little screws, washers, capacitors and circuit boards. Counting as I go has come in handy while cooking, both for recipe-writing purposes and for nutrition calculation.
I’m not sure how much I learned here, other than trivia regarding numbers for envelope sizes. This job did play a part in my developing office-supply addiction, however!
As the business manager of a Girl Scout camp one summer, I did everything from running the camp store to running all the errands and running injured campers to the hospital (there’s a reason for the rule against running in camp. I transported more kids with ankle injuries because they broke that rule and tripped over tree roots…) I learned how to pump gas (the camp was in New York State), how to drive a minivan and how to check the toes on an injured camper’s Ace-wrapped foot while driving to make sure her bandage wasn’t wrapped too tightly.
You never know when some skill or bit of knowledge learned on a summer job will come in handy later. It’s not where you work all summer that counts, but what you learn while you’re there.