Looking Catholic

The other day, my family went to the dentist because some people (me) just don’t take it seriously when the dentist says that chewy candy isn’t good for your spacer. 

As the kids unload themselves from the van . . . and why does this take so long? Haven’t they ever gotten out of a car before? Why do they have to behave like it’s some kind of novel experience to get out of their seats, and why are they so baffled by the process of stepping from the car to the ground? And what makes them think that the next logical step, once they are finally on solid ground, is to lie down in the dirt in the middle of the parking lot? Who are these children, and why do they treat me this way, when we’re already late, do you hear me, we’re running very, very late?


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As I encourage the little tykes to step lively, I notice a minivan parked next to our maxivan. There are several rosaries draped over the rear view mirror, a few pro-life bumper stickers in the back, and in case you missed the point, the license plate says “STJSPH.” So I figure that, at least for once, we won’t be the only freaks in the freak show.

I like being a Catholic; I do. I like people assuming we must be Catholic.


But what gets a little old is . . . you know, looking so Catholic all the time. I know there will come a time in my life when rust, ink stains, and spit-up are no longer the sacramentals of my vocation, but that’s how it is for now. I can’t help checking out other big families, to see how well they pull off Appearing Normal. 

So we hurtle through the dentist’s door, a mere seven minutes late, get the little patient checked in, and then we settle down. It’s a tiny room and is already chock full — and very noisy. I look around for the Catholic mom, and — uh-oh, there she is, looking mean.


She is decked out in painfully practical denim, and she wears glasses in a style designed to frighten children. She has a ferociously grim set to her jaw, is angrily bouncing a pretty little baby on her lap, and keeps barking orders at a tangle of wrestling boys at the other end of the room. They ignore her, and she growls and mutters to herself while changing the baby’s diaper on the chair. 

Oh boy, I think, this doesn’t look good for our team. We’ve all had days like this, but I do make an effort to put on a good front when we’re out in public. (Some days I even try to be pleasant when no one’s watching!) Seriously, if you have everything but the “I use NFP” tattoo on your forehead, I think you have a certain responsibility to at least appear as if you tolerate your many children. But this lady is just one mean mama.

There’s another lady in the waiting room — a slim, fresh, well-dressed woman, wearing expensive jewelry and clothes both chic and unusual. She keeps smiling sympathetically at the angry mom, and making little cheerful comments about how difficult it is to bring the kids to the dentist; but mean mom isn’t having any of it. She just chews her gum and yells at the kids.

After a while, the mean mom gets up, gathers all her junk, and leaves the office with her kids — both of them.


Only two are hers, and once they’re gone, the waiting room is calm and peaceful. I watch her drive away, in a sedan without bumper stickers or rosaries. 

The rest of the little boys stand up and walk over to the pretty lady. “Ambrose,” she trills, “the dentist will be calling you next.” Ambrose’s brothers — Tertullian, Polycarp, Athanasius, and Melchizedek — all wait respectfully while she smoothes their eyebrows and adjusts the collars of their pristine polo shirts.

Now that I think of it, she did look kind of Catholic.


  • Simcha Fisher

    Simcha Fisher is a cradle Hebrew Catholic, freelance writer, and mother of eight young kids. She received her BA in literature from Thomas More College in New Hampshire. She contributes to Crisis Magazine and Faith & Family Live!, and blogs at I Have to Sit Down. She is sort of writing a book.

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