We Had A Splenda Time

Everyone has their own spiritual path, and I respect it. Until Pascha. When our Orthodox Easter comes around, everyone in my household is forced to go to church. They can sin their butts off all year, but when it turns midnight, and the Paschal liturgy starts, I want those butts dressed up and sitting in the pews. Then standing. Then sitting. Then standing. 

What I want and what actually happens usually disagree. On Holy Saturday, I cleaned our place for the Easter Bunny, just like I do for any visitors. At 10pm, Zach, who is now four, claimed he was “starving” for spaghetti. We’re supposed to fast before communion which should be easy for little kids because they are happy to starve. Wasting my time and money each mealtime is their passion. Not that night. I offered alternatives that would take 2 minutes to prepare, but he only wanted spaghetti. Once again, I was put in the position of setting limits, or having a crabby child in public. I chose the one where strangers don’t silently accuse me of being a bad mother, and afterwards put another invisible dollar in the future therapy fund. 

Since my mama was Sicilian, I’m not allowed to use jars of Prego. I didn’t have time to simmer anything, so I improvised with canned tomato sauce, basil, garlic salt, and a packet of Splenda. Buon appetito. 

To preserve their church clothes, Zach and Kate chowed down on their noodles in the buff. Meanwhile, 14 year old Ben was trying on his dad’s pants because the dress pants I got him last August for Kate’s baptism split in slapstick hilarity when he bent over. Jason’s pants were big on him and only stayed up because I didn’t have a slide-whistle on hand. 

When I finally had a chance to dress myself, I had a choice between two outfits. I picked the one that didn’t need Spanx. Tight underwear and high heels only appealed to me when I was young and didn’t need them. Now I’m on a perpetual quest for physical comfort as my body turns against me. My mattresses need mattresses, and I can’t sleep because I’m too hot and too cold. I pay a fortune in electric bills running the heat with the window open.

By the time we got out the door, it was already the time we planned on being there. Upon arrival, we learned that Kate had taken off her clear Cinderella jelly shoes in the car which seemed to have become invisible at the stroke of midnight. We couldn’t find them, so we had to settle for the only other pair of shoes in the car. They were green tennis shoes covered in dried mud. I had taken them off after she did her Peppa Pig impression at Ben’s baseball game. 

We found a pew in the back corner so that the kids would bump into walls if they tried running around. Our phones were on silent, but Kate still found one to mess with, which had a frantic group message from Jason asking me to come downstairs. 

I found him in the basement and the resale Armani shirt I got him didn’t have wrist buttons. It’s expected that men who own Armani shirts have at some point in their lives received cuff links as a mindless gift for Father’s Day. Moments like these shrink me down to size and remind me which deck of the Titanic I belong on. No life boat for me. We’re just normal Pittsburghers, not steel tycoons. Recently, my delusions of grandeur were curtailed when I heard myself asking Jason to stop using my Aldi quarter for scratch-offs. 

His sleeves ballooned clownishly, so I tried over and over again to roll them up, but the fabric was too well threaded to be cooperative. Finally, I gave it a “good enough” and we were back in the church just in time to join the end of the communion line. Jason grinned and said, “This is the length of service I could go to every Sunday.” I gave the obligatory disapproving scowl, but OMG yes. Definitely. Just a quick service where I get my sacramental needs met, then enjoy my post-Eucharist day where I try not to yell at anyone for the rest of my life. On my best days, I don’t even make it to the parking lot. 

We got in line, and Ben took Zach who won’t open his mouth for anything that isn’t in nugget form. I never thought I would raise a picky eater. There have been days Zach hasn’t been allowed to eat until he tries a bite of dinner from the night prior. The stand-off lasts until he throws up stomach acid, and I relent. For some reason, he’s convinced that communion doesn’t please his palate even though by this point, he can’t possibly remember what it tastes like. Each time the priest serves communion, everyone in a ten foot radius tries to get Zach to take it. My sweet boy who draws thank you cards for the Easter Bunny and says he just wants everyone to be happy turned into a horrific turd. He sobbed and yelled, “Nooo! I hate it! It’s yucky! (Gasp, gasp) I can’t stop crying!” To his credit, his head didn’t spin around. Vincent Price’s voice wasn’t heard over the music. Still, it was mortifying. Maybe even more embarrassing than the time Kate saw the communion spoon, called it a fork, then repeatedly yelled the eff word because she can’t pronounce “r” yet. 

Afterwards, we went to the basement for the feast. I brought coleslaw that I threw together in thirty seconds: a bag of shredded cabbage, light mayonnaise, lemon pepper, and the rest of the packets of Splenda. To my surprise, it was a hit! It stood out among the long line of delicious Syrian food, which I don’t have the courage to recreate. My husband is Syrian, not I. I fear someone would take a bite of my goat stew, throw the bowl against the wall, and scream, “Imposter!” 

All in all, we had a wonderful Pascha. A perfect night for us means memories to laugh about for years to come.

Christ is Risen!
Time to go home and assemble Easter baskets at 4am.