The waitress took our orders and asked where we were from.
"Indianapolis," we said, though neither of us grew up there; it's where our marriage began.
"So what brings you here?"
"Oh, we live about a mile up the street."
"But you're from Indianapolis?"
"We moved here from Indianapolis."
"About six years ago."
"And you still say you're from Indianapolis?"
My husband and I had driven by three different bars, looking for the hot spot where everybody in town goes, before we settled on the one closest to home. We never did figure out where the locals hang out. No, this town does not feel like home.
We finished out the evening prank calling our siblings in the wee hours of the night, which always makes you feel popular, especially when they hang up on you. But it's an activity I loosely advocate as a marriage building exercise, just because it's better to be tools together than tools rattling around on their own.
I find it more and more difficult to make new friends as I get older. We're trying to teach our kids how to be Catholic, and we're trying ourselves to be Catholic, and we are gradually emerging as a family known to the world as "The Duffys," though what it means to be a Duffy is still yet to be known. We get in trouble a lot. We're a little eccentric. And we keep crawling back to the Church, usually arriving late, and with much noise.
A couple weeks ago, I went to Confession after the School Mass, and when I came out of the confessional some of the school moms were standing around in the Sanctuary of the Church, talking. There was no way to get past them and do my penance without greeting them in some way, so I went and said hello. I was in my freshly washed state, like a locust nymph, giddy with new life.
(perhaps understandable if they were put off)
The ladies were talking about one of their mothers who is ill. I didn't know the woman or her mother well, and the conversation seemed too personal for my intrusion, so I said I would pray for the sick mother, and attempted to release myself to do my penance. The woman with the sick mother didn't hear me because she'd been talking. So one of the other moms tapped her shoulder to draw attention to the fact that I'd spoken to her.
All the moms turned to look at me then, and I had to say it again, "I'll pray for your mother, Leslie."
Her look was strange, like "Why would you do that? You don't know me." She said thanks and and went on speaking to the other ladies with intensity, and I did my penance with a fresh case of vanity to work through. They must think I'm a holy roller. Not only did I just come out of the confessional, now I'm the lady who can't relate on anything but praying, and even that, poorly.
Even though the woman was clearly upset that her mother was sick, I managed to work myself into a tailspin of self-pity for poor me, my lack of friends--one of those dark moods that come upon you, and you don't realize nothing in your life has actually changed. You're only freshly aware of a dark thread moving back through your history, and forward through eternity that cancels out every good you have received and makes you think that things have always been bad, and always will be bad, even though, objectively, things are not bad at all.
I wanted to scapegoat somebody. Catholics must do better at bringing people together! Those ladies must do better at being my friend! My husband must spend thirty minutes each day listening to me! All of which assume that there is an surefire cure to the periodic demon of loneliness, that there's a way to feel perfectly at home at all times in a life that is exile.
My daughter threw up exactly one minute before we drove away to the ten thirty Sunday Mass this weekend, so I stayed home with her, and caught the Spanish Mass later in the afternoon. Once again, a lone gigantic blonde woman in a sea of petite dark haired people, I felt like an alien.
At the front of the Church, I recognized a woman who at the Daily sits in the back with a little huddle of children. She often looks uncomfortable, makes herself small, like she's hiding. She has a child in class with one of mine. I know she doesn't speak much English.
At the Spanish Mass, her husband sings in the choir, and is a lector. She sits radiantly in the first pew. At the sign of peace, she's up and down the aisles greeting people with kisses.
Shamefully, it had not occurred to me that she had any other posture than the one huddling in the back of the Church. I don't know what this observation offers by way of resolution, but you can always find people who appear both more at home in the world than you do, and less at home--sometimes the same person, different day. And it would affirm Amy Welborn's assertion that the Mass is the ultimate small group study, that it brings people from every background to the contemplation of the One Thing--assuming we can take our minds off ourselves.