This week, along with millions of other blue blooded, medium-hard-working Americans, my family went on Spring Break. And it was all pretty hard. This is a travel log of sorts. Loads of complaining. Some bright spots. And some dark spots when Jesus showed up.
Our kids are 2 and 6 years old. So we began every morning by ripping them away from the clutches of Disney Jr. so we could all head for the great tourist sites of San Antonio, Texas.
We stood in line for tickets for the Tower of the Americas. Twice. The first time they told me that once we got up to the top there would be a 45 minute wait to come back down. After envisioning this experience and getting a migraine, we came back the next morning.
We toured the Natural Bridge Caverns without anyone slipping into an underground lake. Our kindergartener kept trying to touch the “living rocks.” This is despite the fact that the tour guide had told us it would kill the rocks and was also, by the way, a felony. Our toddler walked the equivalent of 18 stories. It should come as news to no one that she’s the family badass.
By day three, I decided we should turn the volume up on “kid friendly” and haul their little booties to Sea World. No judgement, Whale Police. Its cheap Texas Disney. The place was a mad house. The staff seemed completely overwhelmed by the number of tourists. I stood in line waiting for their antiquated computer system to process my buying two bottles of much needed water. The irony of being thirsty in a place called “Sea World” almost made me lose my religion in front of Shamu Theater.
And in a day that cost us more money than any one day in our honeymoon, I decided we should all go out to dinner that evening at the Rainforest Cafe. And here’s an unasked-for restaurant review: their margaritas taste blasphemously like lemonade. I know. I was shocked too. Come on Rainforest Cafe, this is freaking Texas.
There were beautiful vignettes from the week. The kids loved running through the caves, as much as it terrified the rest of our group. Our son got to try his hand at mechanical bull riding in San Antonio’s famous Market Plaza. He did such a great job of it that strangers clapped when he finished. At Sea World, our daughter had her picture made with a mermaid. When she approached the mermaid’s throne, the adult in fish tales whispered to our little one, “Come here little starfish and sit by me.” I felt sure we were going to lose our baby to her New Fish Mom.
There was also crying, whining, slipping, hitting, and more hotdogs than we should be consuming this close to Houston’s swimsuit season.
By the last morning, I was done. My saint of a husband had put the kids in front of the television and packed our hotel room while I slept for nine (!) whole hours. And still, I woke up teary and exhausted. We stumbled down to our complimentary breakfast and desperately looked around for a place to sit.
Just as I was setting down our tray of pancakes, coco puffs, and donuts, the lady at the next table looked at a hotel employee and gestured to our table saying, “Did you sanitize their table? You know what just happened there.”
The employee nodded yes and I just thought to myself, “Dirty diaper? Meth lab? Can’t be that bad.”
And then the woman came to me with a package of sanitizing wipes in her hand. “A little girl just threw up on that table,” she whispered to me, “here, let’s clean it off again.”
A few weeks ago one of the most Godly women in my life told me that she has started referring to the Holy Spirit as “Mama Holy.”
That morning at the breakfast table I felt exhausted and a little lost. And this lady, seemingly a stranger, was genuinely worried about the health of my family. In a week of caring for everyone, it felt so comforting to have someone care about all of us. Call it whatever you want, but I’m calling her Mama Holy. And I damn near started crying and hugging her.
In that moment it occurred to me how we had to finish Spring Break. We needed to go to church. And as I am married to a saint, he went along for the ride.
We finished our week of theme parks, dark caves, and jungle eateries at the Mission Concepcion. It may seem odd for two Episcopal priests on family vacation to haul their children to a Catholic church. But we have old roots there and it was an odd kind of homecoming for me. Our daughter was named for a (many over) great aunt of mine, who is mentioned in the church records all the way back in the early 1800s. I wanted our Anastacia (meaning “resurrection”) to meet the OG Anastacia. As much as was possible.
As we came barreling into the church, I could not help but notice the joy my children exuded. People were respectfully milling around the old pews and reading the placards. Meanwhile, my two zoo animals kept pointing up at the crucifixes and yelling “Jesus!” They also sat in what was obviously the bishop’s chair and got dangerously close to the touching the altar. Our daughter found a beautiful icon of Mary and insisted I take her photo in front of it, whilst holding her newly purchased pink giraffe. People stared at us, at our children, in all of their unfiltered exuberance. I could have given less of a damn. Because I realized that my kids were in church, which meant that my kids were home.
Despite all of the pressure and expectations that a vacation intends, despite all of the planning and anxiety it can cause, despite the law of “amazing experiences,” it still falls short of what we ultimately long for. Mama Holy wasn’t just sending me to church that morning, she was sending them too. Hell, she was sending all four of us. Even on vacation, perhaps especially on the highly regarded “Spring Break,” we needed to be reminded of the rest we ultimately long for.
As RFC tells it, “Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers? Why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become.”