Since the inception of TRS in 2000, I have written about life "on the road". By plane, train, or automobile, I tell the story of trips; but the real story in each one is about the journey, not the destination. On March 15th, 2008, Daddy's Little Speed Bump was born. 21 months later, Speed Bump Number Two arrived. I thought it fitting to create a place, with a Road Scholars theme, to share this new journey.

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The Year I Got Kicked Out Of Church

Every year, immediately after New Years, my wife and I begin an annual tradition. It has nothing to do with black eyed peas. Once the dust settles, the lights are packed away, and life as we once knew it begins to resume (say around the first week of February), we each lay down the law about what we’re absolutely not going to do next year. During the course of what is often “heated discussion”, neither of us thinks to write any of it down. As a result, nine months later we start arguing about exactly how and where we’ll be miserable for the upcoming holiday season.

Part of the problem is that my company shuts down at the end of the year and, with a few strategically placed personal days, I usually end up with close to three weeks off. That means 21 days to carefully and fairly balance between my family, my wife’s family, transportation to and from the family, my sanity, my bank account, and my bottle of Johnnie Walker—you know, to celebrate Christmas.

If I were Charlie Brown, my wise-beyond-his-years spiritual philosopher friend Linus would probably sit me down and give me a long speech with his blue blanket about how Christmas isn’t about all that; “Christmas is about Jesus” he’d say. No, it’s not. If Christmas is about Jesus then why did I spend seventy five bucks on a dead tree that I dragged out of my house nine days before Christmas so I could drive 1200 miles across the country with a wreath tied to the bumper, lights wrapped around the luggage rack, and presents piled so high I couldn’t see out the rear-view mirror? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Jesus’ idea to stop every 75 miles to change a poopy diaper either. We’d have to be out of our minds to do all that for Jesus when there is a perfectly good Catholic church fifteen minutes down the road with plenty of Jesus for everyone. No, Christmas is about sanctimonious Christmas letters from people you don’t really even know and 21 days of high octane super concentrated family.

Like every good family man amidst all this Christmas cheer, I try to find the perfect mix of Clark W. Griswold and Linus. And what better time and place to contemplate the Christ in Christmas than Christmas mass together as a family. As many of you know, Kaitlyn’s “Papa” is a musician and in recent years has increasingly shared his musical talents on weekends and religious holidays with Catholic and Christian churches throughout the county. Last year, he played at all the masses on Christmas Eve at Corpus Christi “Catholic-Christian Faith Community”, which meant he would be unable to join us for any of the high octane family fun that night. We decided to attend one of the Christmas Eve masses in order to be with him. Despite arriving thirty minutes early, it was standing room only. We settled in against a wall near the back of the church and I scouted a single chair a few yards away for Jen, who you may remember was pregnant at the time. When I returned from getting her settled, a member of the “Faith Community” had taken the opportunity to occupy my one square foot of standing space and nearly shoved me out of the way when I attempted to reclaim it. I spent the duration of mass contemplating everything but the Christ in Christmas. I vowed not to return.

This year, in an attempt to be conciliatory, I agreed to return to Corpus Christi for Christmas mass in order to again be with my dad and the family. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about, right? This time, in order to avoid the loving Christian hostility of the crowd, we went to the 8AM mass on Christmas Day. To our delight, the church was barely half full. We found an empty pew in the front row and settled in for a peaceful Christmas mass together as a family—three generations worth ready to put the Christ in Christmas! Linus would have been proud. As I glanced down the pew at my family, all dressed up, and my dad up near the altar on his drum set, I was proud and content. For a few minutes, I even forgot about my friend Johnnie who got left at the house with the dog.

Just then, Jen leaned over to me. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen a woman walk over to her and say something quietly. I figured it was probably another woman doting on Kaitlyn’s cuteness. At home it usually happens to us every week at church. Jen whispered in my ear as she picked up the diaper bag, “we just got asked to leave”.

That old sentimental bastard Johnnie Walker missed me. He saw the content look on my face and got scared; figured our relationship was over. So he sent over an angry old woman to ask us to move into the crying room. I looked around the church. The congregation had been singing the entrance hymn accompanied by a full band—A FULL BAND. Kaitlyn, in her usual way, was smiling and laughing and cooing amidst the noise. It didn’t seem to be bothering any of the other ten people at mass, yet this wench wanted us out—ON CHRISTMAS DAY!

I leaned over to Jen and said, “stay here”. I had no intention of leaving, at least not voluntarily. My wife, on the other hand, was now self-conscious. She grabbed the child and the diaper bag and walked off to the crying room. Steam began pouring out of my ears. If the church had a steam room I’m sure the church Nazi would have sent me to it. Reluctantly, I grabbed the remainder of our things and followed my family as the other ten parishioners watched. My sister was a few steps behind. As I passed the crotchety woman with white hair and red velour’s, I muttered a “Merry Christmas” between clenched teeth. I’ve been asked to leave plenty of bars, but by God this was a church and I wasn’t even drunk! 

I spent the next thirty minutes trying to forget it, but every time I saw my mom and brother sitting there in the front row, a few feet from Cruella Deville, I was reminded of how hard we worked to get the whole family to mass at the same time so we could be together. Now I couldn’t even appreciate the music because I was hearing it through a pair of tin cans in the ceiling.

About thirty minutes later it was time for the collection and we realized the woman who asked us to leave was an usher. That made me even angrier—ON CHRISTMAS DAY! We were practically alone in the crying room and Kaitlyn was passed out in my arms. The usher came in with the basket. I did my best to avoid eye contact while my wife shot laser beams out of her eyes. The usher, obviously picking up a negative vibe, came over and said she hoped we weren’t offended by having to leave the main church. I told her I absolutely was offended and pointed out how much of a disturbance my daughter turned out to be. She told me if she hadn’t said something, Fr. Fred would have. 

I had just spent the better part of the last half hour trying to be loving and forgiving and calm but all the time wondering how this woman could be so mean-spirited to a baby. After I found out she was just carrying out the boss’s orders I spent the next thirty minutes wondering what could possibly possess a Catholic priest to banish children from the church—ON CHRISTMAS DAY! After taking down our Christmas tree nine days before Christmas to drive a packed car halfway across the country, stopping every 75 miles for two days to change a poopy diaper, and then having to make sure everyone got their equal share of time with their son, daughter, niece, and granddaughter, I just wanted to go to mass with my family and watch my dad play the drums. It turns out at Fr. Fred’s church, that’s not what Christmas is about.

Of this I can be sure; next year the last 21 days of the year will be miserable--but it won’t be at Fr. Fred’s church. This year I’m writing it down.



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Reader Comments (2)

Hey Sean,
Why didn't you approach Fr. Fred and ask him WHY he wanted a baby removed from church on Christmas?? His response could never have justified his request. And knowing your wit, you could have withered him with a few words at most.

Take care,
Kathleen in Havasu

February 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

This entire entry gets a stamp. Hilarious.

There's always the confidential confessional to ask Fr. Fred for the answers you seek. The ultimate comment card...

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

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