Today was a longish sort of day, a difficult day. Ash Wednesday usually is. But it's supposed to be, right? It's a day of penance and fasting, a day when we're not only reminded of our own mortality and the grace and mercy of Jesus, but also the day when we're reminded that all our Lenten sacrifices -- things that are so hard for us -- are so very, very small when compared to the sacrifice He made for us.
So it wasn't a particularly jolly day, but not terrible.
When my husband came home, I was huddled on the couch with my feet up, covered from chin to toes with my big, thick Symphony on the Prairie blankie. I was drowsy, all warm and comfy with Wimzie curled up beside me. Hubby entered the room and said, "Are you going to be ready to leave for Mass in twenty-five minutes?"
"Yup," I said.
"What are we having for dinner?" he asked, looking pitiful.
"Mac and cheese."
"Are you in a bad mood?"
"No, I am not."
We went to Mass, which was lovely, praying our rosary on the way home. (We're adding the St. Michael prayer and the Memorare to it during Lent and probably thereafter, since this six weeks is a very habit-forming period of time.) As soon as we walked in, I put a pot of water on the stove for the pasta and set the cheese sauce to warm. I was bustling around in the kitchen and I wasn't aware of being terse or cross or otherwise unpleasant, but suddenly my husband turned to me and said, "Have you had any pop today?"
"No," I said, surprised. "I gave it up for Lent, remember?"
"No," he said firmly. "No, I do not remember that. I thought you said you weren't giving it up."
"I said I was."
"Okay, well, good. But you can't. You can. Not. Give. Up. Pop."
"I already have given it up!"
"Take it back. I mean it. TAKE. IT. BACK."
"Good grief. This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard! I am not taking it back!"
"Oh, yes you are," he said grimly. "Look. Lent is already hard with the other stuff we give up as a family. The no cookies, no candy, no jam on our toast. The Fridays with no meat. All that stuff. The last thing the rest of us need us for you to be suffering major withdrawal from your chemical dependency on diet pop."
I was wounded. "You make me sound like some kind of addict!"
"I'm just saying."
"Okay, FINE!" I tossed my head haughtily. "I'll think of something else. I hope you're happy."
"Oh, I will be," he said fervently, and reached into the fridge, pulling out a Big K Diet Cola, clean and cold and tempting. My eyes followed his hand as he popped the top and held it out to me. I grabbed it, somewhat in the manner of a cheetah culling a gazelle out of a running herd, and began pouring it straight down my throat.
My husband watched me in alarm, mental images of junkies with needles hanging out of their arms playing on the movie screen in his head.
"That is some goooooooood stuff," I said, coming up for air and wiping my mouth on my sleeve. "Goooooooooooood stuff."
"Would you like another one?" he asked politely, proferring another can.
"OH yeah." I took a couple of deep swallows and then said, "I heard this funny joke today. It seems that an invisible man married an invisible woman. They had a very happy marriage, had a couple of children. Their kids were both really nice, got good grades and the whole bit, but neither one of them was anything much to look at."
My husband sagged in relief against the refrigerator. "It is very, very good to have you back with us," he said. "Very good."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
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