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The “Jesus was an American” Assembly

 

I haven’t written about Darcy’s new preschool yet. And because she really loves her teacher and the school is such a sweet place I’ve stayed away from writing anything that—while I would mean it as humorous cultural commentary—would come off as hurtful. Truly, it’s a lovely little school.

Let me just set the scene though. I’m a solidly Northeastern girl who grew up Catholic, went to Catholic high school, and then onto Catholic university. Despite attending Methodist church for the past few years, Catholicism is really the dominant religious tradition in my mind. So the “bible” churches or nondenominational churches in Texas are a whole new world for me. While I love my faith and the faithful people around me, this is culture shock…big league culture shock.

Just as someone who went to church/school in Texas would likely feel if they walked into a Catholic school on the Feast of St. Blaise. Why are they blessing throats? What’s with the candles to the throat? How does one get to be a throat blesser? If you grew up Catholic, this feast makes perfect sense…especially if it’s school musical season. Get your throat blessed by St. Blaise! It really helps! But if you didn’t grow up in this culture, I can imagine it would be jarring.

So Darcy’s school is Christian. Just Christian. No denominations. I have elevated this school to “Super Christian,” like “Super Tuscan” wines or “supermodels.” Most of the time I really love her school. But there’s a small percentage of the time where I do a double take and say, “Yep, file that under Super Christian.”

Like when Darcy corrected Jackson for stating (correctly) that J is for Jackson.

“No, J is only for Jesus!!!” she yelled. Calm down evangelical TV pastor. We know J is for Jesus.

Or like when Darcy came home and randomly blurted out, “Baaaaddd decisions against God.” Turns out, the class was reading a story about sheep who didn’t obey God. But I felt the need to clarify something, “Wait, were you saying that to a kid in the class that misbehaved?” She didn’t. But for a second I was all Calm down, handmaiden.

Yesterday morning was the Veteran’s Day assembly, a ripe mixture of patriotic and religious narratives that simply cannot be ignored. It was an excellently produced pageant I have since dubbed “Jesus was an American.”

We began with the preschool singing some patriotic songs. I knew none except for “My Country Tis of Thee,” a song whose lyrics I still insist should be “of the icing.” Because icing is part of cake and cake is awesome and so is America.

My daughter’s class was downright adorable. When they finished, the classes were ushered off the stage as quick as their little legs could carry them. Darcy held up an index finger to my parents and I as if to say “#1.”

Maybe it was America is #1. Yes.

Jesus is #1. Agreed. Number one in my book.

Darcy is #1. Nailed it.

I saw that chubby finger and smiled at how she’s my little Texan baby.

Then came the pledges. You read that right. Plural. As in four pledges. Here’s what I pledged:

The Pledge to the Bible. Didn’t know this one.

The Pledge to the Christian Flag. Yes, there is indeed a Christian flag. It may be the same as the Crusades flag. My recollection of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves fails me here.

The Pledge to the Texas flag. This one is so redundant in its wording and yet I can’t seem to get it. At least I’m not just moving my lips and awkwardly looking around to see who notices that I have no idea what I’m saying. I was doing that for a LONG time.

Then, finally, the American Flag Pledge. Yes! One I know. Now I don’t feel like a terrorist. She doesn’t know the pledges! Take her down!

At this point we have been pledging for like 8 minutes. At least now, I understand while Darcy prays by saying the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. She’s conflated praying to God the father with pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes. But with four pledges and only four years of life, who could blame the confusion?

I stood between my parents. My mother didn’t know there were four pledges and false-started the Pledge of Allegiance three times.

“Not yet,” I kept whispering snidely.

My dad was on the other side of me, all basking in the red state glow, “You would never see this in New York.”

And then mom was all like, “A Veteran’s Day assembly? We had one every year. It was in Newsday.”

So while Mom was indignantly reminding everyone about Davison Ave School’s amazing Veteran’s Day assembly and Dad was all Making Jesus Great Again, I was in the middle figuring out how we could scoot from this event early. Darcy had, after all, finished her part of the performance.

I know I sound awful with my wanting to skedaddle. Here’s the deal though. I taught high school for seven years. I sat through countless assemblies—Veteran’s Day, 9/11 Assembly, Honor Society Assembly, Leadership Assembly, Graduation, Baccalaureate Liturgy. I don’t do assemblies and I don’t do lunch duty anymore. I go to an assembly if my kids are in it and then I have to fight every fiber of my being that wants to leave or play Candy Crush.

And I was hungry. I wanted pancakes. Mom and Dad promised to take me to The Original Pancake house for breakfast. This celebration of the American military stood in between me and pumpkin spice pancakes.

But my daughter’s class was seated right behind us. Drats! So I had to console myself with deep thoughts about America and how great it is to be American and how free I am to sit here and think about pancakes when I’m supposed to be thinking about America.

And then came the keynote. A 16-year Navy SEAL veteran whose title was “Master Chief.” He was there all the way from Tennessee to share his story about his commitment to God and military. And my first thought was “Yes, this guy has been ‘in the shit.’” I immediately imagined him yelling at his battalion or squad or whatever and saying things like “Stay frosty!” and “Get some!”

The children sat on the stage as he addressed them. It reminded me of a part of the Methodist worship service where the pastor calls all the children up to the front for a mini-sermon wherein he/she makes the scripture relatable to their age and stage. Do you like animals, children? Oh, ducks, you like ducks? Well, God created the whole world and everything in it. That means God made ducks.

Master Chief had lots of good reflections and stories. But I was surprised that he broke from the Veteran’s Day façade of “Thank you for your service. As far as the whole our-taxes-pay-you-to-murder-death-kill-our-enemies…Let’s not go there. But thank you for your service.”

Well, Master Chief was going there. He told a story about how his squad was taking fire and how it all happens in slow motion when you think you might die. But his faith carried him through and he stood up with his machine gun and started firing back. This Rambo move was the reason his squad was able to get out of the firefight.*

I only caught some of his story because I was using the restroom for the second time. But I filled in the gaps in my mind with Master Chief killed Bin Laden and Master Chief killed all of ISIS and Master Chief was Quinn from Homeland.

My dad wondered aloud if this ultimate sacrifice/price of war was a bit much for elementary school kids.

“Dad, everything here is a ‘bit much.’” I whispered back. Hello? Did he miss the four pledges?

Also, did he miss the music teacher conducting the audience through the Star Spangled Banner? That happened, by the way. The music teacher conducted the audience instead of the choir during sing-alongs. She wore a lovely sparkly wrap from Chico’s that fell off her shoulders as she waved her quivering forearms at us. And while no one is a better choir conductor than Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, this lady is a close second place.

And you know who didn’t think Master Chief’s Rambo-ISIS story was too much? The lady in the last row. She wore an American flag dress jacket with sequins all over it. I imagined her admonishing the dry cleaner about how to properly clean such a garment. She looked like she was about to coach the 1980 US Women’s Gymnastics team in Lake Placid. It’s the height of the Cold War. The only way to stop the Commies is with sequins and sticking the effin’ landing.

*At no point did Master Chief refer to himself as Rambo. Because when you’re a frickin’ Navy SEAL Rambo, you don’t have to use weak ass Hollywood references.

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A Brave New Pug

Thatcher had surgery yesterday. She had a small skin cancer tumor on her chest. The vet, who I really like, used phrases like “mastic cells” and “clean surgical margins” And I used phrases like “cost” and “bill.”

Go ahead and judge. But yes, with an 11-year-old pug, I have some concerns about spending good money to remove skin cancer that seems not to bother the dog at all. It wasn’t all about the money though.

I have concerns about putting my 11 year old pug under anesthesia too. Her face is pushed in. I bought her like that. It’s a “feature of the breed.” But with great beauty comes breathing problems. If a spec of dust gets up in that short nose, she walks around snorting and having an asthma attack until I cover her nostrils and she remembers she can breathe through her mouth. Now add general anesthesia to this and you’re living on the edge with my sweet puppy’s life.

This is not hyperbole. When I had Thatcher spayed, I signed a document saying I wouldn’t sue the vet for pug’s untimely death by anesthesia.

Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding

But I was brave and pug was brave too. She knew that whether this was big “C” or just her twin (a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding), it needed to come off. C.K. and I prefer the narrative that the tumor was her twin. C.K. thinks it adds to the drama of pug’s life. First we take away her ability to have children. Then we take her twin.

When we got to the vet yesterday morning, pug knew the game. Little claws tried in vain to grip the tile floor and scramble to the exit. No breakfast and now this.

Not. happy.

The vet tech–we’ll call her Brenda–came out to explain the procedure and tell me when I could expect to pick my dog up. Thatcher is sweet and Brenda petted her and told me so. Brenda then said sadly, “I had a pug. He was fifteen when I put him down a few months ago.”

Thatcher and I exchanged a knowing, conspiratorial glance, “Is this Brenda for realz?” Brenda, why would you mention the pug’s mortality at this juncture?

I fumble the response (surprise!), “I’m sorry to hear that. She’s eleven. I’m hoping to get fifteen years out of her too.”

Thatcher is absolutely flabberghasted at my response. Ears cocked to the side, her eyes bulged and she looked at me as if to say, “What am I? A car? A good coat?”

Brenda adds that her pug was fat. My pug, always happy to participate in fat shaming, looks proud and self-righteous now. I’m skinny. I will live forever. You will have to remove twelve of my twins before I’m through, mom.

Beware the cyclops pug!

“He was so food aggressive,” Brenda continues. “It’s how he lost an eye.”

What the? Why does the office always turn left in the most brilliant ways? This conversation goes from awkward to “pay attention so you can blog about this!!”

I contort my mouth to hide my smile, “Oh! What happened?”

“The wolf. He got into a fight with the wolf.”

A Lisa-Frank-esque Wolf. Brenda would approve.

Let that set in.

Here’s where my first-person-investigative-journalism skills failed. I got so uncomfortable that I just abruptly said my goodbyes and left. I know I should have stayed. I’ve deprived everyone of what was probably a great story.

You have a wolf? An actual wolf or a dog that looks wolf-like? Is that legal in Texas? Where do you live? What do your neighbors think? Do you let the wolf out to hunt? Does the wolf have emotional issues because he’s a lone wolf?

When I picked Thatcher up, she looked thoroughly exhausted but happy to see me. “Thank you for coming to get me from the place where rapey things happen in the name of science,” she grumbles.

Brenda raved about  how great Thatcher did. She gave me the pain pills. “I split them in half for you,” Brenda beamed. You’re a saint Brenda, owner of wolves and fine motor skills genius.

Then Brenda presented Thatcher  with her “Certificate of Bravery.” This is real thing. It is full color with a picture of Thatcher and printed on card stock. I provided a picture in case you didn’t believe me. Basically it’s a surgery diploma.

As you can see, it even has black pugs on it. The office created it just for her. C.K. and I joked about how they must have been sifting through Google images for cartoon pugs. “Who screwed with my Clip Art? I can’t find the black pug pictures anywhere!” Since black pugs are rarer than the usual fawn with black muzzle, I appreciated this effort.

This certificate, while sweet, is wholly unnecessary. This next statement should be obvious but Thatcher is dog and therefore she is illiterate. She also probably can’t grasp the concept of bravery.  Thatcher is also NOT a Millennial.* She has no need of this worthless parchment.

But because I AM a millennial (an old one by some definitions), I hung the certificate on the fridge after I made Thatcher take a picture with it for my Insta.

*Dear Millennials,

I can make jokes about Millennials and trophies because I am a Millennial. The oldest  Millennial in fact. The Original Gangster Millennial. The Gandalf of our generation. Did you think you were the first child to be terrible at organized sports and still get a shiny trophy?

You’re not. I am. Welcome to the 80s. 

Love, 

Me.

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Grandma Pug, her physical, and my healthy distrust of cats

“Be right back,” the vet tech says smiling as he closes the exam room door. No, you won’t be right back. Just tell me about how long I’ll be waiting on you. You have no intentions of being right back. The lies begin.

And with that, Doug leaves me and Thatcher in the sixty degree exam room with it’s distinct funk and cat posters. I look around. We got a cat room. Now I have to deal with this anxiety-ridden pug in a cat room.

(I hate cats. I have nothing against “cat people” but I do not trust cats. A cat scratched me right underneath the eye when I was little. Granted, I was trying to pick it up. But I don’t think aggravated assault was an appropriate reaction. That cat tried to blind me. Ever since them, I’ve despised them. They are small demons here to do the dark work of Satan.)

Now I can focus only on my irritation with this cat breeds poster (aka Demon’s Notebook). Th pug can focus only on the impeding indignities of an annual exam. The butt probe. The shots. The bright lights to the eye. The new vaccine that gets squirted in her nose.

She knows what’s coming. She’s sweating. I pick her up and notice the wet under her little pug arms. I put her down. Gross. The smell of urine covered by the smell of ammonia (thanks for using a component of urine to clean urine, vet office!!) has hints of dog body odor.

And I forgot my phone. Surprising because my phone is literally attached to my hand.

I look at the magazine rack. Only a Better Homes issue from September 2014 and a book of pithy cat quotes called Cataclysms.

Hard pass.

Still waiting. I attempt to give Thatcher a treat. She looks at me with utter disgust. I’m complicit in the rapey things that will happen to her when the vet tech comes back. She looks down at the treat then up at me. You eat it. It’s probably paleo and you love that shit, she seems to quip.

I swipe two lollipops for the kids from the same area of the desk. (I would swipe more human pops  after the tech shows me the price for the “senior dog” annual exam.)

Doug finally returns. He explains the pricing for the physical. “It’s more than last year’s $140 because she’s a senior now.” We prefer “pug of a certain age,” I think to myself.

Doug has questions about Thatcher. Eating, pooping, drinking, sleeping. Yes to all. Heartguard medicine. “Yes, from Sam’s club,” I lie. The actual answer is that I bought the three month supply last year and didn’t follow up. She’s a healthy weight though. I congratulate myself on being an awesome dog parent.

Doug picks up Thatcher . He winces when he feels the sweat in her armpits. Yes, Doug. She’s afraid. The tail is down. The sweat is up.  I ponder if I should have dabbed some essential oil on Thatcher before coming.

I tell Thatcher it will all be okay. Another lie. She looks back at me forlornly. She’s no Fulbright scholar but  knows why we are here. The only way to tell if you are healthy is to stick long doctor’s office q-tips in you. I’m sorry.

So I wait. And I wait. Just me, this cold room, and this cat poster. Now I’m sweating too. I blame the cats on the poster. Kill Doug, the Bombay with the golden eyes seems to say. And now I’m casting out demons.

The pug comes back. She is happy it’s over. Doug says she did great and I just shake my head. I’ll never actually know what goes on when the tech leaves the room with my dog. Maybe Doug took Thatcher to be hypnotized by some cat demon underboss. And now she’s under a spell. Thatcher circles the legs of the chair so excitedly that she strangles herself and starts coughing. The cat poster snickers. A spell indeed.

An overweight pug. Not quite a fur balloon just yet though.

Finally, the doctor comes in. I like her. She sits on the floor with the dog instead of making Thatcher scramble on the metal table. She comments that Thatcher is a healthy weight and looks more like 8 or 9 years old rather than 11. These, Thatcher knows, are the best compliments any female can get. Thin and young-looking.

The doctor even comments that most pugs  look like ottomans by 11 years old. A pug ottoman is such a delightful image that I am momentarily distracted from the evil cat poster.

The rest of the appointment goes well. We look at Thatcher’s gross skin tags. Harmless but I’m still convinced they could be her twins (a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

Then I check out. I write them a big fat check for the rapey things they did to my supermodel pug. And we both leave feeling icky.

 

 

 

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