Awkward and Holy
by Dana Bowman | April 15, 2020
I write this with both of my boys locked out of the house. Every day, from 12:30 until 2:00 p.m., I unceremoniously shove them outside, lock the door, and wave sweetly.
It’s their PE time.
I also bake bread all the time because I have found my inner prairie woman, and if I can make homemade bread for my family then everything is going to be ok.
I wipe down mail. Also groceries. I have been known to wipe down children.
I wake up thinking about the pandemic. I make the horrible mistake, each night, to read news. My dreams reflect this.
I find very little time to write or work on anything remotely professional. This article is a total fluke.
I don’t remember the date or the day of the week (but honestly, I never was able to do that).
Every time someone coughs in my household I eye them intensely. Usually it’s a kid, and he answers, “What?” and then wipes his nose. With his hand.
I lose my mind. We wash our hands.
And on it goes.
I don’t know how long we have been staying at home. It is somewhere between two weeks and 40 years.
I have kept my sense of humor, but it’s sporadic and askew. It is often paired with hysterical laughter. The other day my husband walked in on me while I was disinfecting the container of disinfecting wipes and I froze, like a frightened and clean rabbit. This turned into a fit of giggles that brought me to tears, the good kind.
There have been the other kind of tears, but these occur mostly up in our bedroom or in my office, when the day affords a moment of alone time. That’s when I worry. I worry about our healthcare workers, and the first responders, and the tired teachers, and all of our small businesses. I take a breath and continue, loading my arms with worry like my germy groceries from the car, not wanting to leave any bag behind. I wipe down and worry over each item with concentrated care until I just cry and ask God, “Please. What is going to HAPPEN?” I remind him that this is not a rhetorical question. Certainty has become my new addiction and I sharply grieve its loss.
We had our own communion,
in our living room,
with saltine crackers and orange juice.
The Lenten season has been here all along, hunkered down with us as we stay home. On Palm Sunday we sat in our pajamas and watched our church’s virtual service. At one point, old footage of last year’s Palm Sunday was aired, and I spied my boys walking in with their palm branches, singing, and stealthily whacking each other with the fronds because that’s how we do Palm Sunday. My eyes filled with tears as I spotted them, in their rumpled dress shirts and ties, completely off-key and adorable.
And then we had our own communion, in our living room, with saltine crackers and orange juice. It was so very strange and wonderful to do so, with my dog circling our feet waiting for crumbs. Awkward and holy. All at the same time.
Later, the pastors set up a special Zoom call for us to join and give a “virtual handshake” to each other. This was to be our own congregational “get up and greet our neighbors” kind of thing, which is usually the part of the service that I avoid. I am an introvert and saying “Hi” repeatedly feels like a weird thing to do.
But now, I am all for it. I cannot wait to see the faces of my friends and pastors. And we all fill up the Zoom, like a Brady Bunch church, with questions and praises and prayer requests. At one point, my son Henry gets our cat, Bob, and waves her slowly in front of the monitor because the rules stipulate that all Zoom meetings must have at least one cat in them.
Today, I am all for it. This is togetherness, after all, and we need it.
At the end of the meeting, my friend Marilyn suggests we all sing a hymn together. “How about one we would know like ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’?” and I nod enthusiastically. Again, I marvel at this New Dana—the one who does not cringe at singing without accompaniment while my children look on in shock. Today, I am all for it. This is togetherness, after all, and we need it.
Friends, we butchered it.
Our “Holy, Holy, Holy” actually sounded like a dying animal. A really, really sad, dying animal. Also, about half of a verse in, my husband and I realized that we in fact did not know any of the words, except for the “holy” part. For the rest of this poor, mangled hymn we did the “Early in the smaaargha fa la la do si do si dooooooo” thing and hoped for the best. Brian kept eyeing me and singing stalwartly along, perhaps in tongues, and so of course I started to smirk. I don’t think anyone really noticed this because the feedback from all of us on the mics made the Zoom call burst into flames. Somewhere, some Zoom tech guy was watching this and muttering, “Oh stop. Please just stop. This was not what we had in mind with this platform at all.”
It’s ok. We gave God a good laugh, and I imagine he was grateful. And I am grateful too. Especially because our pastor was the first to say, at the end of the first mangled verses, “Guys. Even God didn’t think that was any good.”
And who else should I be sharing all this awkward and holy-ness with but my trusted friends? My beloved church, so far away right now, and yet always so very close.