Susie Lloyd, Sophia Institute Press, 192 pages, $14.95
A mother’s life is absurd.
I have washed down peanut-butter toast crusts and a handful of Teddy Grahams with a pot of coffee and called it breakfast. I have sung show tunes while running the vacuum cleaner at 3:00 a.m. to entertain a wakeful baby. I have scraped the sticky remains of a wad of gum from a favorite sweatshirt in a desperate attempt to restore peace between its seven-year-old owner and the four-year-old who left said gum on the back of a chair.
Fans of Lloyd’s work in Faith & Family magazine and her first book will not want to miss this latest collection. Bless Me, Father is an unabashedly honest peek into the life of a homeschooling mother of many. A few times while reading, I had to look over my shoulder to be sure the author wasn’t peeking through my windows — so eerily accurate was the absurdity she described.
Take, for example, “Feast Your Eyes, Not Your Face,” her chapter on grocery shopping and meal preparation:
The way I see it, when I get home from a $500 shopping run, lug in the grocery bags, and put it all away, the thing to do is to let the food alone for a while — let it get used to its new environment. It must be scary, being surrounded by nine people looking at you intensely as if they want to do away with you. That’s a lot of pressure. Just leave it alone! Turn off the pantry light, and close the door. Let it get comfortable, and maybe it will reproduce.
But, as every mother knows, they won’t leave it alone. They’ll wipe out the pantry in less time than it took you to swipe your debit card and subtract the $500 from your bank account to pay for it all.
We all know and love a mom like Lloyd, the veteran homeschooler who has seen it all, done it all, and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. No topic is off limits. In Bless Me, Father she takes on a series of hot-button issues — the ones that only other Catholic moms will recognize for the hot-button issues they are. Among others, she dares tackle educational philosophies, homeschooling co-ops, head covering at Mass, family size, and sex education.
Lloyd approaches these usually divisive issues with such honesty and humor that I can’t help but think Catholic mothers everywhere will find themselves laughing — not so much at each other but, in a soul-healing kind of way, at ourselves.
You might see a bit of your neighbor in the caricatures Lloyd describes: the Super Mom who attends early morning daily Mass with a pew-full of immaculately groomed children; the hyper homeschooler mom who aims to educate unceasingly, speaking German at dinner and looking for spheres in the sandbox; the battle-weary homeschooler “eating a box of Tasty-kakes in her pajamas while her kids watch a spelling video.”
But if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that we see a bit of ourselves in these crazed creatures as well. And Lloyd paves the way for unabashed honesty by fearlessly admitting her own hilarious weaknesses and failings. Her description of her organizational challenges and her favored “file retrieval system,” for example, had me wiping my eyes in laughter:
When it comes time to find something, my method has three parts. First, I pick through the odd-sock basket unsuccessfully. Then I walk through the house, yelling, “WHO moved my stuff? I’M GONNA KILL SOMEBODY!” After that I dump out the various baskets, throw things out of the cabinet, and sweep all the papers from my desk onto the floor.
Catholic family life is challenging, serious business. So challenging and serious, in fact, that we Catholic moms might sometimes run the risk of taking ourselves too seriously. But that’s where Lloyd comes in, the generous patron “saint” of desperate housewives and harried homeschoolers everywhere.
Though raising a Catholic family in a contrary world can sometimes feel impossibly difficult, it can be funny, too. The tales in Bless Me, Father are a healthy reminder to stop, take in our surroundings . . . and laugh.
One need only peek through the windows of a large family’s full-size van on its way to a homeschooling dairy farm field trip to know that God does indeed have a sense of humor.
If we don’t laugh, we will surely cry. In the end, it’s necessary stress relief — good for our emotional and spiritual well-being — to do a bit of both. Lloyd’s latest work allows us to do just that: laugh, cry, sigh with commiseration, and smile with recognition as she shares the absurdity, the hilarity, the faith, and the fun of her abundant blessings.