Monday, June 25, 2012

A Case of the Whodunnit

It was Sunday morning--yesterday morning, to be exact.  There I was, contentedly flipping some pancakes on the griddle, while Chris and Mary were playing the keyboard together in the living room.  

I love Sunday mornings, I thought to myself.  From outside the kitchen window came the cheerful call of birds while I hummed along to the keyboard's song.

Then, like the abrupt and jarring sound of the alarm in the morning, came the nagging noise of a car horn.


Must be the neighbors.  Well, that's alright.  It will stop soon.


Where are they, right outside our door?

"Who's that?" Chris called.  So I peeked out the window to see a black jeep driving away.

"They just left," I replied.  

Back to the flapjacks.  Cue the bird chirping.  Resume the keyboard song.  


You have got to be kidding!  

"They're back again?!" Chris yelled to me above the honking.

"Who owns a black jeep?" I replied.

This time we both went to the window.  The jeep paused by our driveway, as though waiting for us.  Then, it drove a few yards, circled back and paused again.


All the while, the constant, blaring noise of a car horn continued.  

What kind of a jerk goes around beeping their car horn on a Sunday morning?  

"Do you think you should go out and see what's going on?" I said to Chris, as I now scrambled the eggs.  Pretty soon the neighbors were going to be annoyed, if not already.

"Maybe he has a gun?" Chris asked.  

The beeping was really getting to me and I was sick of this guy in his jeep disturbing our Sunday morning.  So I went out the kitchen door and up to the jerk, expectant to hear what on earth was this guy's problem. 

"Are these your keys?" he asked, dangling an all-too familiar set of keys before me.

I stopped, dumbfounded.  "Yes, they are!"  

"They were sitting in the road.  I was just driving by and felt my car run over something.  I couldn't believe it when I saw the keys.  I've been hitting the car alarm so I could find out who they belong to."

Oh.  The car that was beeping, that sounded so loud?  That was our car, in our garage.  I was the kind of jerk going around beeping my car horn on a Sunday morning.

After thanking him profusely, I returned inside to an equally perplexed and sheepish Chris.  

Then came the case of the whodunnit: how did our keys end up in the middle of the road?

So we did a rewind to the night before, to a lovely BBQ we went to hosted by some friends.  As we were leaving their house, I distinctly recalled saying, "I've got to keep these keys in one place in the diaper bag so I can always find them."  There were my keys, in my hand.  

Chris kept Mary company in the back of the car as we drove home, arriving to our house around 8:30 PM.  From there things got a little hazy in my memory.  I knew, out of habit, I took the keys out the ignition and closed the garage door.  I also remember carrying Mary upstairs, leaving Chris to collect the salad bowl and diaper bag.

A few things were clear: the garage door was shut.  No one went outside that evening or the next morning before leaving for Mass, at which time we first realized the keys were missing.  And all the doors of the house were locked.

So, it begged the question: how on earth did our keys manage to find themselves in the middle of the street?

The most likely criminal when it comes to missing or misplaced objects is our seventeen-month-old daughter.  However, she was off the hook this time: she can't go outside without one of us beside her.

I came up with a new suspect list.

Suspect #1: the neighborhood cat.  We had just seen the black cat snooping around in the neighbor's bushes.  Perhaps the cat snatched the keys, thinking them as food, and then dropped them in the street.  However, how could the cat get inside the garage?  And, as my Dad pointed out, cats are smart enough not to mistake keys for food.

Suspect #2: Chris.  Maybe he actually went out to check the mail when I brought Mary upstairs.  On the other hand, I remember him being really exhausted Saturday night.  Perhaps he ended up sleep-walking into the street?  But, alas, there were problems with this hypothesis, too.  We got our mail on Sunday during our afternoon walk, meaning he didn't check it on Saturday.  And I have yet to see my husband sleepwalk.

Suspect #3: The guy in the jeep.  Did he really just "come across" our keys?  Perhaps he found them earlier, made copies of them, and was just trying to determine which house they belonged to, so he could come back at night when we didn't suspect him.  I mean, come on!  Would you really notice running over a set of keys?  

So the jeep guy was the frontrunner on my list of suspects.  As I drove around this morning with Mary doing some errands, I was feeling a little anxious about returning home.  Would I be alone, or did someone really break into our house to get our keys?  And would he or she be there, waiting for me?

Such were my musings as I pulled into the garage, got out of the car, and opened Mary's door to take her out of the car seat.

And then it all clicked in my mind.

There, in front of me, sitting on the roof of the car, were my keys.  Out of instinct, I placed them there as I prepared to unlock Mary from her car seat.  

So, on Saturday evening, I must have done the same thing.  Sunday morning, when we couldn't find my keys, we used Chris' set.  As we drove out of the driveway to go to Mass, my keys must have fallen from the roof and into the street.  And that Good Samaritan took the time to patiently track us down...not to kill us in our sleep or to rob us, but out of sheer charity.

The suspect wasn't the cat, my darling husband, or the guy in the jeep.  It was me.

Out of all the hypothetical situations that arose in my head, the concept that I might have been the culprit never crossed my mind.  In fact, I recall quite clearly saying to my Mom, "Well, I know I didn't lose them.  I didn't leave the house that night."

I was the jerk who also lost the keys.  Go figure.

And, if God didn't want to drive this point home enough, He made it even more explicit as I sat with Mary at Mass this morning.  The first line of the Gospel today: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged.'"

Judging was the name of the game for me in this whole case of whodunnit.  The cat, my husband (because, clearly, out of the two of us, he is obviously more likely to lose keys, right?), and that poor man in his black jeep.  My first thought of the stranger beeping the horn wasn't that he was lost or in need of help, let alone trying to help us.  It was that he was...well, a jerk.  

I find this judging happens most with my husband.  Instead of rallying to his defense or cutting him slack or generally thinking the best of him and his intentions, I much more frequently judge him.  

So, I'm the one whodunnit this time.  It was Cassandra, with the keys, on the car roof.  

Lessons I have learned from this escapade...

1.  Don't leave the keys on the car roof.

2.  Try thinking the best--as opposed to the worst--of people, most of all my dearest Chris. 
3.  Get working on the wood beam in my own eye.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

PB & J

So I want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  What do I need to do?

Pretty simple, right?  Grab two slices of bread, slather one with peanut butter and the other with jelly, stick them together, and there you go!

Really pretty easy.  Straight-forward.  

What if, say, I were to put peanut butter on both slices and put them together?  Could I rightly call it a "peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"  There's no jelly!

And let's say I were to slather jelly on both pieces of bread, leaving my Peter Pan jar in the cabinet?  I might have a jelly sandwich, but I wouldn't have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

It's definitional, isn't it?  

If I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I need both peanut butter and jelly.  

Double peanut butter won't suffice.  Extra jelly won't make up for the lack of that nutty, crunch deliciousness.  You need the sweet and the salty, the fruit and the nut.  They are different and, because of their differences, they are beautifully complementary.

There I was this morning, at 3 AM, thinking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and how they perfectly illustrate what, not too long ago, also used to be very definitional, very straight-forward, and very fundamental.  

I haven't been able to stop thinking about a recent experience I had just last weekend.  I was pushing Mary on the swing at the nearby playground and couldn't help but overhear the conversation taking place between two ten-year-old boys on the swings beside us.

"Well," began the one boy to his companion, "If you have a man and man, that's a husband and a husband.  If there's a woman and a woman, it's a wife and a wife.  And if there is a man and woman, you have a husband and a wife."

I felt a range of emotions, but one of the strongest was amazement--amazement that what used to be so simple, so obvious, has become anything but that for many people.  

Marriage is a religious thing (for Catholics, it's a sacrament), but it's not exclusively religious.  It's something that goes back to the very beginning of the human race and covers all creeds, all continents.  And when you look at marriage as an institution, you consistently--no matter the time, the people, the faith, the location--find two very basic, very critical things:

1.  It's a man and a woman.

2.  It's for the purpose of raising children.

Just like our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, people are not all the same.  There are women; there are men.  These two different sexes are just that...different.  Equal in dignity, but different.  Men and women are physically different, but they are also different in the way they think, feel, interact, and express themselves.  

When it comes to raising children, it has been statistically proven, time and time again, that children best thrive in a home environment where there is a mother and a father in a committed, total, faithful marriage relationship.  Why?  The child is receiving the wisdom, strengths, and gifts that are inherently characteristic of a man and a woman.  

My husband gives Mary something I cannot give her, because he is a man.  And I give something to Mary he cannot provide, because I am a woman.   

But, let's even take a step back.  Before we can discuss raising children, let's consider the actual conception of children.  It's built into our very natures.  No matter your faith, look at the biology.  Natural reasoning tells us that it takes a man and a woman (not a man and a man, or a woman and a woman) to create new life. 

Marriage is uniting two persons in every possible way--two becoming one--which is naturally only physically possible between a man and a woman.

"That's discrimination.  If two women love each other, why can't they get married?" you might be asking yourself.  

I don't want to deny people rights to which they are entitled.  If two woman want the same tax advantages as a married couple or the same legal standing when it comes to health proxies, I have absolutely, positively no problem with that.

But I do have a problem with changing something that can't be changed.  You can't change the institution of marriage--which has existed for all of history in a certain way (for good reason) and which is physically "written" into the complementary bodies of man and woman--to cater to a particular group's desire.  

Marriage isn't just about love.  If "all you need is love," then what's to stop us from calling the union of a man and his dog "marriage?"  Or if you have two sisters, sharing an apartment together...could they be considered "married?"

Marriage is the loving commitment of a man and woman to become one flesh with the purpose of begetting and raising children.

The family is the fundamental unit for civilization.  It has been from the very beginning.  And it's in society's best interest to protect and defend the family.  

Marriage needs a man and a woman, just like PB & J needs peanut butter and jelly.