Took Monday off. It was the last day of August, the official end of summer for me, and I'm all for standing at attention while it passes in its flag-draped box.
Monday capped a weekend of much musical activity, but when I look back on the last weekend of summer 2009, I will think of incredible paella and Kennedy.
Paella? I didn't tell you that Saturday's gig included a fresh seafood dinner? Standing in the buffet line in front of the most gigantic wok of paella I have ever seen in my life (sledding for four!) I clasped my hands together, looked to heaven, and said out loud, "Thank you, God, for music."
It nearly overshadowed how I'd spent the day: glued to the TV set with hubby and Mini Me, watching Kennedy's funeral. I wasn't quite prepared for the number of questions a three-year-old would ask during the less-than-riveting programming.
Waiting for the motorcade the day before had been easy: "What are we doing, Mommy?" "We're waiting for the important man to come in the black car." Once the black cars came and passed, questions ended. We moved on to the carousel at the mall.
But when it was four hours of programming and a flag-draped box, the questions were persistent and pointing. I decided to err on the side of honesty.
MM: "Where is the important guy, mommy?"
S: "He's in the box."
MM: "Why is he in the box, mommy?"
S: "Well... he died."
MM: "Why was he so important?"
S: "He did a lot of things to help people."
MM: "Where is he?"
S: "Right there, in that box."
MM: "But why is he in the box?"
S: "He died."
MM: "Did he die?"
S: "Yes, he died."
MM: "But why did he die?"
S: "He was very sick."
MM: "I get sick sometimes."
S: "He was VERY sick. And old."
MM: "Old like nana?"
S: "No, much older. Sometimes old people get very sick and they don't get better."
MM: "Can I have chocolate?"
And so it went. A long day. It takes something rather significant to get me to sit down for more than ten minutes, and this one was hours--evidence enough that something was different this time. And it left its impression on the smallest member of our household.
The next morning, Mini Me's first request: "Mommy, can we watch the show about the dead guy again?"
We spent the rest of Sunday in our musty, messy basement, attacking clutter. Mini Me was playing quietly on her own in a newly cleared space, when I walked in to find her standing at attention, staring intently at the washing machine. I asked her what she was doing.
MM: "I'm playing highway. Wanna play?" she said, not moving.
S: "How do you play highway?"
Still standing at attention and staring straight ahead, she said, "You stand here like this and wait for the black car."
Of course, while I was going ga-ga over the funeral, skeptics in our midst were shrugging. "Hmph. Kennedy. No saint."
To be sure, to be sure. But if death can be the great leveler, perhaps it gives us the chance to balance and forgive... and it's far simpler to forgive Kennedy than to forgive the other contentious figure who died this summer.
I visited Wikipedia to see how sainthood is defined.
The anthropologist  Lawrence Babb in an article about Sathya Sai Baba asks the question "Who is a saint?", and responds by saying that in the symbolic infrastructure of some religions, there is the image of a certain extraordinary spiritual king's "miraculous powers", and to whom frequently a certain moral presence is attributed. These saintly figures, he asserts, are "the focal points of spiritual force-fields," exerting "powerful attractive influence on followers but touch the inner lives of others in transforming ways as well."
I admit it, I'm from Massachusetts, which automatically qualifies me to recognize the Emperor's new clothes. But when a person's public accomplishments can far outweigh personal transgressions, if political ends can sometimes justify the means... then I'm all for letting him keep his golden halo.