A Scene Stealer

It was my first Pack meeting, and it was Tornado S’s last.

I was volunteered/conned into the leadership position of Cubmaster/Chairman. I prefer Cubmaster to Chairman and Den Leader to Cubmaster. But someone has to lead, and I have the most leadership. I will be damned if I let this Pack go down. Besides what else do I have to do when I’m not mothering, teaching, den leading, or writing? Nothing.

So it was my first Pack meeting as Leadership.

I called the boys in, so we could start promptly. (My first order of business. Start all meetings and events on time. Damnit.) Then I realized that no one had been assigned to the flag ceremony. Ah-

I turned to the Webelos 2 leader and asked if his den would like to run it as it was their last pack meeting. Two boys instantly volunteered for flags. Tornado S volunteered to lead.

Heaven, help me.

If I had none, we would’ve practiced. Tornado S is not a fluent reader with his stops and breaks and stutters. I had no paper, just my phone. He was my introvert. And he’s, well, he’s my Tornado S.

The leader: I have no problem with that.

I pulled out my phone, found a ceremony online, and handed the phone to Tornado S.

He bounded up the stairs to the middle of the stage.

I blessed myself.

Tornado S took center stage. He help up The Ears and waited, a peace sign stuck up as far as he could reach. I mirrored it with a finger to my lips. The boys, in drips and drabs, mirrored it. Some of the seasoned adults mirrored it.

We waited.

He waited for the rustling to die down.

We waited.

He waited.

The leader: Tornado S, I think we’re good.

Then Tornado S started to read.

Two sentences in, I realized he was reading the positions that everyone should be. I stared at him for another sentence, wondering if I should shout at him. When he started the next sentence, I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Me: (putting my hand on the phone) Just read the leader parts.

Tornado S: (smiled and kept reading.)

Me: (Through a forced smile) Tornado S.

Tornado S: Color guard, attention.

Me: (Through my forced smile) Louder.

Tornado S: Color guard, march!

And it went well until we got to the pledge. Where Tornado S decided to say the whole thing in one breathe. The Scout Oath wasn’t any better as he ended the speed recite in a mutter, and I was grateful for the Boy Scouts in attendance to loudly recite the Oath. I stopped Tornado S before he could mangle the Law.

Me: Thank you, Tornado S. My son, everyone.

With that, he gave a huge smile and magnanimous wave.

My DNA runs strong in that kid, especially when the rest of the night he took every opportunity to steal the show.


Little Devil

Me: Tornado A, what do you want to be for Halloween?

Tornado A: Satan!

Me: Ok.

My mother: You’re letting him be Satan for Halloween?

Me: Sure, why not?

My mother: Because. It’s not right. How about you go as a devil, Tornado A?

Tornado A: Satan is The Devil.

My mother eyed me. I shrugged. I envisioned a red suit with red shirt and tie.


The Fem Spot: Maybe you could call him something other than Satan? Doesn’t Paradise Lost have other names for him? Like Lucifer?

I had just finished telling her the costume plans. I decided to ask Tornado A what he wanted to wear, just in case he preferred red sweats and a red turtleneck (none to be found). He asked for a black suit and red shirt and tie. AND HORNS, MAMA!

Me: Well, I am Catholic and an English teacher. I should be able to come up with something….. The Morning Star, The Light Bringer, The Deceiver, The Fallen One. He Who Must Not Be Named. Wait. Wrong book.

The Fem Spot: You’ll think of something.


So it was my youngest son went as the Lord of Hell with a black suit, red shirt, red tie, a pitchfork, and HORNS. And the best joke I heard was at a Halloween event at the zoo.

Comicon Guy: Why isn’t it The Man, himself? Hello, sir. Good evening. But I believe you’re early, and that is a breach of contract.




The boys were lounging on my bed as we watched YouTube videos. Some Honest Trailers.

Me: What do you want to do now?

Tornado E: Nothing. We don’t have any time. Daddy will be here soon.

Me: Sure, we do. Tag.

I slapped his leg lightly. His brothers scrambled out of the bed and ran out of the room. I walked out. I walked down the hall.

Tornado A: Mama! Run!

Me: Naw. I can walk. Your brother is too slow to catch me.

That was it. Tornado E ran out of the room at me.

So started a ten-minute game of tag so funny that I nearly peed myself from laughing so hard.

Tornado E is not nearly so fast that I can’t play a game of Gotcha Last.


Tornado E: But why are we here?

Me: Because it’s your brothers’ duty to sell popcorn for their pack.

Tornado E: But I’m boooooard.

Me: You could’ve stayed home. You’re old enough.

Tornado E: But it’s scary to be home alone.

Me: Well, it was your choice.

Tornado E: Why do we have to stay longer?

Me: Because no one else signed up for the second spot, so we’re helping out.

Tornado E: But why?

Me: They call this character building.

Tornado E: But the only characters I like are in cartoons!

The other mom started laughing. I sighed and ignored him.


We don’t go to Mass as much as we used to. With the 50% custody and the illnesses and homework and trips. Life. When we show up after a break, people greet us as though they were worried that we wouldn’t show up again. Who would miss three rowdy boys and their beleaguered mother?

Today, thanks to Tornado A’s inability to leave the car in a timely manner, we arrived right before the procession. Like right before. I scanned the church and was defeated.

Nearly two years ago I learned the boys did not know the parts of the mass, did not understand the mass, did not know the prayers, the chants, the responses. Why was I killing myself to take them to religious classes every week? What were they learning? I bought a couple of children’s Mass books. I sat us in the middle of empty rows. Like I was explaining baseball or football, I whispered the parts of the Mass, explaining what they meant. I had the boys follow along with their books. I pulled up the daily readings on my phone and handed them to follow. Six months ago, I learned that the older boys were sorely behind in their prayers. We know spend the time after communion reciting prayers as I whisper the prayer line by line so they could repeat them. About a month ago, I started bringing rosaries, letting the boys hold them and ask questions.

Today there were no safe places. So we sat in a pew in front of an older woman. I stood straight, squared my shoulders, and refused to show any shame as I whispered things to the boys. I did as we normally do, even though giving peace became a full-contact sport of wrestling and crushing under the guise of hugging.

The boys were on rather good behavior. I didn’t have to threaten the loss of doughnuts. Doughnuts are the consequence for behaving well at church. Consequence, not bribe. If the boys can tell me what the homily was about, I buy them a candy bar. Tornado A takes notes. Tornado E is getting better on grasping the main idea, not just a few interesting details. Tornado S always gives me the first few details.

Today Tornado A was too busy drawing to take notes.

At the end of the services, the woman behind me said, “My youngest is 28. I had boys too. I miss those days. But a friend once said to me that God gives mothers of children special grace for taking their children to church. I hope you received your grace.” And she left.

And I wondered. Had she noticed that once the congregation sat after communion’s prayer, after I recited prayers with the boys and asked them to sit, that I remained kneeling, grasping for a few moments to pray honestly, earnestly, passionately? Did she noticed the tears in my eyes when I opened them as she returned to her seat? Did I reach up and wipe away a tear or two?

I smiled at the boys. Yes, we can leave. Yes, we can go do the labyrinth. Yes, we can go get doughnuts. Yes, we can go to the Children’s Museum.