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All Saints Day, so the school mass is full of costumed kids, and moms and dads and little siblings who couldn’t get to bed the night before

spill from the porous edges of the gym. Laura steers her Lucy, Charlotte’s dad kneels, late, Bekah and her newborn pace the floor…

My four-year-old threw up out in the parking lot (surprise!) and so I’m sitting out there, too, in the milling vestibule, where we strain to catch

a phrase that could be God’s, and sometimes stand on cue. Except Alyssa’s Thomas is about to lose his cool. Two-foot-five and the crusader type,

he starts to pitch his train and pling the fountain. His mom maintains her grace and redirects him but he escalates: he’s banging now

and incantating some tenebrous toddler phrase that turns out, as his volume cranks, to be “I don’t like— don’t like—don’t like Mom.” His wail climbs,

she chastens him, he runs. And then her shame— I feel it come—suffusing, Noah’s flood. She birthed a devil-like disturbance. Worst of moms!

She has to take him to a classroom, then leaves early (which I should have done). We turn our eyes, assuage her shame, commiserate,

go in to snap our photos of our saints. And yet I still can’t shake that picture of her ache, trying to soothe an unrelenting toddler.

She’s raised her teens, and at her age, she could have called that done. Why’d she make room for this wayward son?

I’ve pondered on the Virgin’s young amaze at coming into motherhood, seeing God— but what of the mom who’s borne it all before,

then gets a naughty one? What wonder’s there in that? And as for me, I’ve been another’s gateway, housed those kicking guests.

I’m ready to close out, a vestibule graduate. But then her courage sings like a bowed reed. Alyssa loved. She sacrificed.

She’s not the saint I want to emulate— caught in my ambitions, hardly coping. And yet, outside the gym, she makes an opening.