When we first arrive at the church, everything is all very exciting. Within 2 minutes, the inevitable comes:
"How much longer do we have to wait?"
"Not long, Honey. Just try to pay attention."
Well, I should backtrack to say that we were late (something that happens very rarely for Type A Me) because the parking was out of sight. I don't know exactly what it is about Ash Wednesday, but people *really* come out of the woodwork for this one. It's odd, because Ash Wednesday isn't even a holy day of obligation. And we all know what Mass attendance is like on those, don't we? (unfortunately). It must be a nostalgic childhood tradition for some people that ordinarily do not attend Mass regularly. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing whenever people come to church. I just always scratch my head at that one.
Anyway, did I mention it was also raining cats and dogs, and I'm 7 and a half months pregnant, AND I was traveling with a 5 year old? Combine this with a faraway parking spot, and you have us arriving as the Gospel is being read. Super embarrassing. Well, I should clarify that this was a scripture service with ash distribution, not a full Mass. So, see? I wasn't all that naughty in terms of my late arrival.
Regardless of the shortened service, Hank was still antsy. He managed to get water from our umbrella all over (a) the pew, (b) himself, and (c) me. I did somehow engage his attention at the blessing of the ashes, and then it was time for us to line up. The church was pretty full, but with both our priest and the deacon, distribution went pretty quickly. We scurry back to the pew, and immediately Hank notices something that I notice every Ash Wednesday:
"Mommy, yours doesn't look like a cross."
"I know, Honey. Ashes are kind of hard to smudge exactly into the shape of a cross. But Father made a cross sign when he put them on our foreheads, and that's the important thing."
*Hank touches his forehead*
"Honey, don't touch your forehead, because it'll make all the ashes come off."
*Hank touches his forehead*
"Don't you want to show Daddy your ashes when we get home? Don't touch them then."
*Hank sits on hands*
Finally, ash distribution is done, and we all rise for the prayers of the faithful. On only the second "Lord, Hear Our Prayer," I glance over at Hank. His forehead is completely empty of ash.
"Honey, what happened?"
"What do you mean, Mommy?"
"Well, your ashes are all gone."
*Hank frantically touches his forehead*
*Hank begins to cry*
Oh sigh. It took lots of soothing in the car to convince him that he didn't do anything wrong by wiping the ashes off, it's just that it's nice to leave them on a bit longer than, you know, DEPARTURE FROM THE CHURCH PREMISES. But I finally got him soothed, amid much protestations from the rear booster seat that he was merely "making the sign of the cross, I didn't touch my forehead for any other reason Mommy!"
Very pious of him, wouldn't you say?