Once upon a time, when we lived in Panama, I was walking the dog and passed a construction site where the workers were engaged in a furious argument. The Spanish flew too fast for me to catch every word but anger came through in every red-faced yell and hostile gesture. The whole block rang with the shouts between a worker on the would-be second floor of the roofless structure and another on the ground below.
As we passed I wondered if bad karma was being transferred from the workers’ anger to the house. Would it silently bleed over into the lives of the people who would one day live in that place?
It made me think of an opposite scene I’d witnessed in Greece, when a family gathered at a construction site in our Athens neighborhood to have their new home blessed. The Greek Orthodox priest, resplendent in his embroidered robes and gray beard, solemnly intoned a blessing while swinging a huge golden incense brazier over the cement foundation. The extended family, all in their Sunday best, stood proudly together in the mud of the construction site, responding to the prayers. They would have a good life in that house, I thought at the time, living in a place infused with God’s blessing.
I grew up in such a house, a long duplex that my grandfather built. My family lived in one side and my maternal grandparents in the other. As a very small girl, I recall being frightened by a school presentation about fire and asked my mother what would we do if the house burned down. Nothing bad could ever happen to the house, my mother informed me, because when he poured the foundation my grandfather had dropped religious medals into the cement. Mary and Joseph were part of the house and would always protect it.
Years later, my husband and I were raising small children. There were no blessings or religious medals factored into the construction of suburban builder homes to keep us safe. We were on our own.
My toddler daughter was scared, she told me one night as I tucked her into bed. There could be monsters in her room that came out when the lights were off. Maybe in the closet.
“Daddy doesn’t allow monsters in the house,” I replied.
And such was the Power of Daddy that the issue was never raised again.
To this day, it remains the smartest thing I ever said as a mother.