Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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Dejection: What Are You Trying To Teach Me, God?
It started April Fool’s Day if you can believe it. We’d been going to the Friday Fish Fry at our new parish all of Lent, and it had really become the highlight of our week as we loved the community we found there. We left our house a little later than usual and unfortunately arrived at the end of a line of about fifty people. We had brought separate food for Olivia (who is allergic to dairy and eggs) so she and I parked our stuff at a table while Brandon stood in line with Lina. As we waited, a man at our table with a terrible hacking cough threw the napkins he was using to cover his mouth directly onto Olivia’s plate of food. Shoot. There went her dinner. Brandon ended up waiting in line for an hour, after which Lina started to break down because it was so near her bedtime and Olivia because she was hungry and we had no food for her. We dejectedly drove home with the girls crying the whole way.
The next Friday came. Brandon had a meeting out of town but had plenty of time to drive back to Austin, pick up our car from the mechanic and get home so that we could make the Fish Fry on time this week. I was very much looking forward to getting out of the house so I made sure everything was ready on time. I got the house cleaned up, Olivia bathed, Lina fed, both kids in clean diapers, and Olivia’s food packed. We were all set. Brandon called to say he was pulling up to the mechanic. This is only two minutes from our house, so I got Lina in her car seat, Olivia’s shoes on, set the alarm and we waited in the garage for Brandon to pull up. And we waited. And we waited. Apparently after Brandon arrived, the mechanic still had to put the car back together and print out the quote before Brandon could leave. By the time he got home, it was too late. No fish fry. And, oh yeah, we needed to come up with about $4000 for the car. I stormed out of the house needing some alone time, dejectedly bringing Sonic fish sandwiches back for dinner.
Then the next weekend rolled around. My parents had come into town for the second day of the MS 150. It’s a big deal as far as bike races go and my parents are awesome to be able to trek so many miles. On Sunday they left at 4am so Brandon could drive them to the starting point. Brandon was supposed to get back in time for us to be able to make 9:30am Mass. I got the girls all ready: fed, dressed, diaper bag packed with Mass essentials. I was expecting Brandon any minute when I got a call about complications. My dad’s bike decided to be difficult requiring a lot of tune-ups. They ended up starting the race an hour later than they wanted which also meant Brandon had to drive back to Austin in the middle of some 13,000 cyclists. He got home just in time for me to hand off Lina and race to Mass with Olivia. We arrived incredibly late, dejectedly grabbed one of the scraggly palms remaining and stood in the back of the church.
The MS 150 course goes right by our neighborhood so we had planned to watch my parents pass by in the late afternoon. Olivia never naps well so I wasn’t worried about her nap running late. Of course, that day it did. After she woke up I grabbed her (hair sticking up this way and that from her nap) and ran both girls to the car, jumped in myself and raced the six blocks to where we were supposed to meet my parents. I parked, put Lina into her stroller, yanked Oliva out of her carseat and ran. Olivia in one arm, and pushing the stroller with the other, we finally arrived where the cyclists were passing — just in time to get the text message that they had already passed and didn’t see us so kept going. All day we’d been telling Olivia how we were going to see grandma and grandpa on their bikes and she was so excited. Shoot. Olivia threw a huge fit. One second she wakes up from her nap, the next second she’s standing in the blazing sun by the side of the road, and no grandma or grandpa anywhere in sight. We dejectedly turned and walked back to the car.
We just can’t win. God, what are you trying to teach me? I am trying so hard. I’m trying to find some semblance of routine and order in our life. I’m trying to be a good mother. I’m trying to get to church on time. Trying to be a faithful person. And I am shot down every time. Every time.
Then came the next Friday – Good Friday. The youth group at church was going to mime the Passion of the Lord at 3:30pm and we thought this was something that could really keep Olivia’s attention so we planned on going. We drove to the church, but with traffic unexpectedly horrible we didn’t arrive until 3:55. Brandon checked inside. It was packed. Standing room only and we would have been walking in 25 minutes late. We turned around and dejectedly drove back home.
Easter Sunday. Alleluia! We didn’t want a repeat of Good Friday so we all woke up extra early to get ready for Mass. I was excited about the girls’ matching Easter dresses. Everything was going exactly according to plan. We ate breakfast, everyone was dressed, Olivia was in a good mood, and we got to church early finding perfect seats. Mass was going great until I caught sight of Olivia (who my mom was holding). Her face was puffy and red and blotchy and she was furiously scratching. Along with her food allergies, Olivia is really sensitive to fabric dyes, fabric softener, perfumes, etc. I suddenly remembered that I never washed her new Easter dress. Shoot. It was the dress. I ran to the bathroom and changed her. I dejectedly changed her from a really cute Easter dress into a white undershirt and black pants a size too big.
After Mass there was an egg hunt right outside the church. We were ready. We got the basket, the camera, and Olivia was super excited — until she managed to find the candy right next to an anthill. Her candy was covered in ants, as was her basket. We dejectedly threw the whole thing away.
Really? Really? I mean, really? I keep trying to think of what lesson God could possibly be trying to teach me this Lent. What can be learned from constant dejection?
I feel wronged. I have been trying so hard to make things work out and it just doesn’t happen. It’s not anything I could blame on anyone — things have unexpectedly gotten out of everyone’s control. But I am impatient with slow progress. I want things to work out perfectly all the time. I don’t want trial and error. I don’t want to slowly learn how to be a mother. I want to know all the tricks of the trade now.
I suspect that this is not at all what God wants for me. Instead, God probably desires a very slow, long journey down the road of motherhood. And when I think I’ve finally reached my destination, I’m sure my kids will hit puberty or something and I’ll just be at the beginning of another long and winding road.
For now, at least writing it out has helped me laugh about it but I still don’t get it. God, I’m still waiting to understand.