Maundy Thursday, I felt an urge to run. It was not my panic urge to run, which is chemical, biological. It reminded me of the people in the book I just read about exorcisms. The people who flinch when you set a crucifix on the nape of their neck. I just felt, not here, I don’t want to be here.
I don’t believe in demons, exorcisms, or any of it, but I don’t know if they believe in me.
The service is also my favorite. Foot washing, always delightfully awkward, especially among Episcopalians, and the biggest communion of the year, and the stripping of the altar.
Pandemic years, I stripped my mantle and washed it, the way they wash the altar. I once washed the feet of my cats. They weren’t happy about it.
This year I went into Maundy Thursday crushed. There’s no way out of this school year but through. There’s no way out of the pandemic. Just through.
I was just explaining “through” to my students, when we wrote, “Butterflies go through metamorphosis.”
I spent $40 on caterpillars who will turn into butterflies. I’m trying to spend less on shit for my kids, but then is $40 worth getting to show them the caterpillars every day? Especially the first time? When they realize what I’m saying about butterflies (mariposa) as they look into the plastic container that would usually hold marinara for breadsticks?
It’s a lovely look in their eyes. Oh!
The caterpillars arrived tiny, and they are now three times as big. They arrived living in a mound of caterpillar food that has quickly eroded with their eating and eating.
Last week, I sat with a student who was suicidal and cutting. And I led my students out of our classroom so the police and their dog could search our belongings. This week, a student at a nearby middle school was stabbed and killed by another kid. One of my students has a sister who goes there. “I was nervous at first,” he said. “But then I heard it was a boy.”
“So how are you doing?”
“Things happen everywhere, all the time,” he said.
Which describes how I felt. I think I’m on about a two-day delay as far as processing trauma. It wasn’t until I was at Maundy Thursday that I saw a stabbing in my mind, and I thought, oh, my God, his teachers. His teachers. His teachers.
Now, at my school, all the bathrooms are locked, except one set that is guarded all day.
I told myself I could leave if I wanted to, but I stayed at church. The crowd was smaller than I remember. Of course, I haven’t been to church for the holidays in years. Foot washers were also a smaller minority than usual. Another woman walked up to the front at the same time as I did, so we washed each other’s. She wet a towel to gently rub mine, so I did the same for her, figuring that was what she was comfortable with. She forgot to dry mine, so I just traded places with her, and knelt on the wooden floor of the cathedral, and made wet prints. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s okay,” I said. “It’s been a long time.”
I bought this book, Enrique’s Journey, about a kid who travels from Honduras to the U.S. I wasn’t sure I could actually read it. I know, intellectually, that my students have suffered. They wouldn’t try to get here if they hadn’t suffered, if their families hadn’t suffered a great deal. But to read specifics?
Sonia Nazario does a wonderful job telling the story. I was engaged and intrigued and amazed.
This is the part that haunts me: “people in the Mexican state of Veracruz care for the migrants who come through: “the towns of Encinar, Fortin de las Flores, Cuichapa, and Presidio are particularly known for their kindness…. Here, in rural areas, 30 percent of children… eat so little that their growth is stunted.”
Still, these people “have watched and worried as their own children struggled to reach the United States. They know it is harder still for the Central Americans to make it.”
People of Velasquez Nazario describes:
Priest Ignacio Villanueva houses and protects migrants in the church. He argues with the police who have tried to come in and arrest them.
Leonardo Santiago Flores tosses oranges, watermelon, and pineapples to migrants on the trains.
Maria Luisa Mora Martin, who is over 100 years old, sends her daughter with torillas, beans, and salsa to give to migrants.
Raquel Flores Lamora gets up every night to toss food and clothing to migrants. Sometimes the clothing is from her children who have immigrated to California.
Gladys Gonzalez Hernandez takes crackers, water bottles, and pastries to give to migrants. She’s six. Her dad takes her because he wants her to “grow up right.”
Esparanza Roman Gonzalez, and her children Jesus and Magdalena bring bread, tortillas, and lemonade to the train.
Priest Salamon Lemus Lemus houses up to 600 migrants in the church where he works. Church members have organized to protest police treatment of migrants.
Luis Hernandez Osorio picks up donations, deals with the police, and recruits new donors.
Alfonso Pena Valencia guards the church and the migrants every night.
Maria del Carmen Ortega Garcia has had 17 migrants stay at her home.
Francisca Aguirre Juarez has hosted 80.
Baltasar Breniz Avila told the police that a migrant was his cousin from the country.
When police beat and incarcerated 15 migrants, including a pregnant woman, residents of El Campesino El Mirador took rocks and sticks to city hall. Eight police officers were fired.
Today at Good Friday services, the priest spoke about how Jesus had to blah blah blah and how we don’t pray like we blah blah blah and I thought it nonsense. The Jesus I imagine (spiritually and historically) wouldn’t say anything to people who are crushed. He would just stay.
I thought through every painful memory of the last year, and felt the crush of it. It’s less than some people’s, and more than other’s, maybe, I don’t know. I just know it’s heavy. And that to sit with it, together, is good, even if some of the talk sounds wrong to me. Kissing the cross is not wrong. Singing “Were you there” is right. The cello solo is so right I always choke.
Image: Hacha in the Shape of Bound Hands, 4th-7th century, Veracruz, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario, Random House, 2006. The portions I reference referring to Veracruz are pages 104-119.