Fifteen minutes into my thirty minute drive to school that June morning the week after my father’s funeral in 2011, I can visualize the exact location of my school keys. They are nestled in the pocket of my purse. Minor detail--it's the purse on the shelf in my home office. Not the one beside me in the car. What will I do? Will anyone be at school at 7 :30 a.m.? How can I compact my early moning to-do list into whatever time becomes available? I visualize myself circling the school, looking for a light or a shadow in any room, banging on the window in the desperate hope that someone will hear me. Ugly.
Turning into the school access road, I am philosophical. Whatever. I’ve invested the last half of the trip fleshing out contingency plans. I’ll make it work. Just then, passing the door near my classroom on my way to my parking spot, I notice something peculiar. The door does not seem to be flush with the outside wall. In fact, it seems ajar. Is it possible? Could the door not have locked properly when the last person entered or left? That never happens. I unload, lock the car, and amble up the walkway, eyes trained on the door. Well. It’s not closed!! I giggle.
I’m in the school. I’ve sumounted the most difficult hurdle. Surely, now I’ll be able to find someone with keys to open the classroom. Later, the office will lend me a set for the day. Only a few steps into the dark hallway, I notice light coming from my classroom. That’s impossible. I know I shut the lights the night before. No, it’s really true. Not only is there light—the door is open, and the maintenance staff is wiping the tables and sweeping the floor. I can't remember that ever happening before in this school. I can barely speak. So, I’m in, and I’m ready to go.
The disbelief carves a smile on my face which nothing the day might bring will be able to crack. I think of my father. I can't help looked around the room and say, "Thank you." I feel his caress, his reassurance, even his gratitude for the time we shared before he died.
Inexplicable confluences of circumstance dot my life. After 40 years, I am reunited with a woman with whom I went to high school. She moved to a community near mine; I was working with her sister at the time; we both love to do liturgical music. Then, comparing our children’s birth dates one day, a friend of mine and I are amazed to learn that our daughters were born hours apart the Christmas of 1983 (hers on Christmas Eve, and mine on Christmas Day), and that our youngest children, both sons, were born in March of 1989. Another head-spinner.
Stories abound. At Christmas Eve last year, we await the beginning the Midnight Mass at our daughter’s church. Nostalgic at the memory of commemorating her Christmas birthday with "Happy Birthday" at the end of so many midnight liturgies in our home church, I remind her that we won’t be able to do that this year. We settle in to imbibe every molecule of the characteristic joy of liturgy at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Winnipeg. Father Kevin has just proclaimed, "The mass is ended," and wished everyone a joyous Christmas. The music director steps up to the microphone. Instead of the recessional hymn, he announces that it is Fr. Kevin’s birthday. The entire congregation belts out "Happy Birthday." Of course, we sing to Dominique as well, and the tradition of the Happy Birthday after Midnight Mass continues. One for the books.
Then, just the other day, checking email, I see that the mineral makeup I use is on sale. Good time, then, to stock up, and to take advantage of sales on a few other items as well. Not ten minutes later, I drop the small terra cotta jar of my current supply on the bathroom sink. It splits, spilling the precious contents. I cannnot believe I have done this. With a small spoon pilfered from the kitchen, I scoop up what’s still dry like gold dust, and preserve it in a plastic container. As I wipe the orange stain from the sink, the vanity, and the floor, I mull over yet another concours de circonstance, as we say in French. Only this time, it’s not heureux.
At one time in my life, I would have looked for the mystical in these occurrences. Now, three weeks shy of my sixtieth birthday, mystery has supplanted mysticism. In ways I can never understand, I am spared stress when I can least manage it; I am reunited with people I never expected to see again; my life parallels that of a stranger who later becomes a close friend; traditions echo in foreign places; bizarre coïncidences give pause. I revel in awe, freeze-frame the moment, and try to be grateful for the experience. I have come to terms with mystery, I think.