Sunday, October 04, 2009
When I first landed here in Los Angeles I was entrusted with a small group of 4th graders from a Catholic Charitable organization who had the bright idea of giving these children a little bit of money and allowing them to go on a little Christmas shopping trip. The idea here, I think, was to have them budget the money and experience picking out and paying for items at a check out counter, something that they would have not experienced otherwise. Not losing the money in the first place was an issue.
With all I had on my plate that day, from making sure no one lost their moolah, to helping them do the math in picking out small gift items, to what to buy for whom and what some person I had never met might like as a gift, to a couple of meltdowns about not having the money for what someone would really like to have (like a giant video game system), to not losing anybody or anything anybody had purchased and getting them all over to the free gift wrap table, the last thing I thought about suddenly became the biggest most frightening event of the day.
We were in a big indoor shopping mall. You know the kind, with four stories of shop after shop and a couple of department stores on either end. There are four parking lots at this place, one on each side. We arrived in a flurry of excitement and we left exhausted but happy in a hot dog stupor from the food court. There we stood, the six of us, five children (one for each seat belt) and little old me.
Where did we park the car? I had no clue. I wasn't even sure in which lot I had parked. East? West? What row? What level?
I had that sinking feeling I had had as a girl when I came to feed some horses we owned one day and the gate was open and the horses were gone. Gone. There was no way to tell which way they had gone in the endless countryside. The only way I could even think to find them would have been if I knew someone with a helicopter.
Even a helicopter would not have helped in the mall parking lot. It was all indoors.
Left to my own devices, I would have just started at the bottom and trudged to the top of each section until I found the car, but this was not going to fly with this crowd. I would have lost a kid, or some of the gifts or my sanity.
I'm good in a crisis, though, I'll give myself that. I've seen maintenance people driving around in golf carts in those lots. If I could just flag one of those down, I was sure he could just drive us all through the place until we found the car.
I stuck my head around the corner of the first level of parking to see if I could find such a person and...there was the car. Just like that.
Anti-climactic, I know, but....I have never ever not known where I parked ever again in my life. I take stock of everything about where that car is, including the first things I see as I enter from the parking lot, so in the end I can retrace my steps.
Sometimes, I can give St. Anthony a break.
But if you can't:
Which tried and true saint helps out with failing memory, specifically finding one's wagon in a parking lot? (Dear St. Anthony has been a steadying friend over many years for help with items that just require an occasion for more prayer.) Probably, it would be the Saint of gadgets like those car-key triggered alarms that start barking on activation, the 'Clap-on, Clap-off' Saint.
I would still go with St. Anthony on this one. Everyone is aware that we always ask for "Holy Tony" to "come around" when "something's lost that must be found". But no one ever really thinks about why.
St. Anthony was one of those people with a photographic memory, which is why he was such an amazing extemporaneous speaker. He could remember everything he ever read, so he could talk about anything at length.
I believe that before television endowed us all with a ten minute attention span, this was not an unusual gift. When the Union took Atlanta during the Civil War, the Northerners gathered outside the house of Secretary of State William Henry Seward and he stepped out and graced them with a three hour speech, a speech that the newspapers say was one of his all time best. The Lincoln-Douglas debates lasted for over three hours each as well, with tens of thousands of people in attendance who actually listened and hooted and booed and cheered through the entire thing. They didn't have the even questions screened and scrubbed or have Tom Brokaw to keep things moving.
At any rate, St. Anthony's gift of memory is the reason he can remember where your car is parked. Who ever said St. Anthony only finds small items?
I did not pray for the intercession of St. Anthony the day the horses got loose. I actually had the wherewith all to track them like Sacagawea and found them two pastures over. But I'm sure St. Anthony would have been a fine helicopter.
If that doesn't float your boat, may I suggest St. Boniface, the patron saint of parking spaces. If he finds you a space in the first place, he will surely remember where that space is.