I read this, and gnawed at a cuticle. My obligations if listed on fingers now stretched well into the second hand. But there had been a fair amount of turnover at church in the previous weeks-- people leaving for new positions and people going to seminary, that sort of turnover—and they did need help. I had a little time each week. The insidious guilt-Macarena started playing in head. I wrote back, offering help, but I did it in what I freely admit was the most mealy-mouthed, passive-passive-aggressive way ever. I listed every single one of my obligations, including the home-schooling and the book which I was still finishing; the only thing which prevented me from noting how much time hand-washing undergarments takes was my fear it would make Josh feel funny. Many obligations later, I sent it off, pleased that I had technically offered and confident that he’d write back saying, “Oh, Quinn, I couldn’t possibly ask you to do more. In fact, let me swing by this afternoon and find out why the dryer keeps making that noise.”
About five minutes later, the phone beeped, indicating an email. Josh was thrilled to hear from me and would gladly take my offer of help. But, considering my life, he thought I’d be best-used by being one of the altar-attendant parents. Each group of eight altar-attendants has one parent who corrals them before the service, monitors them into church, glares at them if the word of God grows less interesting than poking another attendant with a hymnal. It sounded reasonable; it sounded more reasonable when I read that Josh would have me be the back-up parent, learning the job for a year with a seasoned veteran before I had eight of my very own to corral, monitor and glare at. It wasn’t like sleeping in on a Sunday morning, but I could be of service while also carrying a low risk of disaster. I wrote back and accepted.
It’s a great job, being second-parent to this group of altar-attendants. The father who was the primary parent, Bryan, has done this for two years and knew everything and what he didn’t know the senior altar-attendant, Rebecca, did. I would follow Rebecca into battle, which is odd to say considering how she’s in tenth-grade, but every time she’d organize her attendants and snap on her gloves, I’d practically tear up in relief. The grown-ups were in charge, and the idiot here could do no harm. For three Sundays, it was all just a beautiful dream.
Thursday, October 27th, I received an email from Bryan. Our group was attending the service the upcoming Sunday, but he had an obligation; could I handle it by myself? I stared at the screen, my breath catching in my throat, because I was in no way, shape or form ready for my first solo-performance as an altar-parent. My breath also caught in my throat because I was in the fourth day of a small but pernicious asthma attack and the Sunday service was All Soul’s Day, the only service of the year which used incense. I might as well just start using my trachea as a meat-smoker. But I had Rebecca who knew all and I had my inhaler and how bad could it be? I gulped, and then coughed a little, and wrote back saying "Sure, no problem."
Next time: How bad could it be?