Many people complain about the unpleasantness of lives lived behind face masks during the pandemic. For me, it hasn’t been all a rainy day. I recall one instance where mandatory face coverings taught me something important about one of my children.
My son Jack, nine years old, is the youngest of five children. As is often the case with the last of the litter, his eyes and ears always are wide open. This means Jack has learned much—good and less so—from his older siblings, and is somewhat worldlier than they were at his age.
One area where, strangely, the kid still acts his tender years is during the collection at Sunday Mass. Here without fail, he insists on making the family’s donation into the basket. That we give electronically means next to nothing to the little cutoff man. Jack expects the family, through him, to cough up some scratch for every physical collection, even if it’s just a few singles.
Recently, though, God’s muscle rather uncharacteristically slipped up. The collection basket was fast approaching my family’s pew, and Jack had neglected to shake me down in a timely fashion, something he usually handled during the Entrance Hymn. Worse, he was struggling to express himself—and the moment’s urgency—behind his face mask.
Of course, I knew exactly what my boy was trying to say. But Jack is what football coaches across America call a “high-motor guy”: he never takes a down off. As often as he runs me ragged, then, I took the momentary joy any parent can understand in watching him sweat his situation a little. Besides, I’m a child of Generation X raised on television’s ever-resourceful “MacGyver.” I wanted to see what workaround he’d come up with as precious time ticked away.
Workaround indeed. Jack, growing as frustrated as Sir Patrick Stewart teaching summer theater to juvenile delinquents, gave up entirely on verbal expression. Instead, glaring at me he lifted his left hand palm-upward, as if expecting to receive a high-five. Then he slid his right fingers over the surface of his left palm in a quick and repeated crumb-wiping gesture.
My eyes became dinner plates the instant I realized what I was witnessing. My nine-year-old, it seems, knows the universal sign for “making it rain” in a gentleman’s club. Not my proudest moment as a father.
He’s worldlier than I thought; something I’d not have known but for face masks. For that I am thankful. I think.