“Well where’s the hood?” he asked.
“The hood?” H- replied in kind.
“Which side is the hood facing?” he repeated.
The father-daughter duo were back in the tent from an early morning bathroom run. H- had really needed to go.
“Yeah, on good sleeping bags like yours they put a hood where your head goes for when it is super cold,” he explained.
With wide eyes and delicate hands she proceeded to maneuver the sleeping bag around until she thought it matched her father’s words.
“Good,” he confirmed. “Now get in like normal,” he suggested. “That’s right. Now-”
H- needed no further instruction. Once in, she pressed her head up against the top of the hood and pulled down on the sides, experiencing that sensation which must fall within the bounds of what more studied men call pure delight. Soon, no longer seen by H-, he observed that she had let the hood fall over her eyes all the way down to the tip of her nose. After she fiddled with the drawstring she carefully exposed her finger from within the bag once more, this time to touch her nostrils.
“What are you doing?” he inquired, chuckling to himself.
“What?” she feigned.
“Were you just checking to see if you could still breathe out of your nose?”
A pause–probably much longer for the girl in the dark.
H- answered, “Officer Judy is from Zootopia.”
“Zootopia, eh? When were you watching that?”
“So you wake up early enough to watch movies before school when you’re at your mom’s?” I asked.
“I wake up when my alarm goes off.”
“What time does your alarm go off?”
“I go down stairs and eat breakfast and then I change clothes.”
“You change clothes downstairs? Why downstairs?”
“Well, my mom throws down my clothes, and then I put them on and watch tv until it’s time to go.”
“I see. Where is your mom while you are watching tv?”
“She’s upstairs with C-.”
“Oh,” I said, cutting myself off quickly. Unable to resist the pull to follow inquiry further, I rejoined with, “What is she doing with him?”
“I think they play with each other.”
“Hmm. What do you mean? Like play games? Maybe play video games?”
“No,” she held the note, “not video games.”
“I don’t think I understand, H-. What are they playing?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
As if Truth’s gateway, the rear-view mirror reflected that her searching eyes did not notice mine.
Finding no satisfaction, H- concluded, “More like wrestling, I think. I don’t have the word.”
Not sure the reason, I found myself standing in the kitchen, holding the Krusteaz Belgian waffle mix box. (H- adorably calls said mix ‘sugar’.) She was finishing her waffles at the nearby table. That’s the reason! I was putting the box back on top of the refrigerator. Beside it, I also keep the cereal and–my favorite non-perishable treat–the Nutty Bars up there. Like her ol’ man, H- too had experienced love at first sight with Little Debbie’s delectable wafers.
“But you can’t give me the peanut butter and chocolate bars for snack time,” H- declared out of the blue.
I turned to look at her. She turned to look at me.
“Oh yeah?” I asked, carefully dividing my attention between the waffle iron and H-‘s mind.
“Why can’t you have them at snack time?”
“Because some kids are allergic to peanut butter.”
“Don’t they eat lunch with you too? How can you have Nutty Bars at lunch, but not at snack time?”
“At snack time the kids sit at the same table as us and they can smell the peanut butter,” she answered steadfastly.
This smelling problem being news to me, I resumed my inquiry with, “Okay, so what do they do at lunch?”
“They sit at the peanut butter table. There are not very many of them.”
“Ha. The ‘peanut butter table?’ What’s that?”
“That’s the table where you can’t have peanut butter.”
“So the poor kids who can’t have peanut butter have to sit all by themselves?”
“No,” she corrected. “They just sit at the peanut butter table. Anyone can sit at the peanut butter table as long as they don’t have peanut butter.”
“So there is no peanut butter at the peanut butter table?” I asked.
To be clear, this is the working end of H-‘s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flavored kid’s toothpaste tube. Though more slowly than after brushing with my Arm and Hammer Baking Soda toothpaste on vacation because I forgot to pack hers, she still runs to get a drink of water after spitting because–her words–“Hot!”
(I just wanted to give you something to ponder while you wait, breath bated, for me to complete the first short story I’ve written in 355 days.)
“I’m so excited about St. Patrick’s Day because I get to wear green and my mom’s favorite color is green!”
“Ha. That’s true. When is it?”
“I think it’s Thursday next week.”
“Are you going to wear green?”
“Now H-, when have you ever seen me dress up for a holiday?”
“Do you want to get pinched?”
Looking at the still-stiff, sixteen year old, canvas duffel bag with his daughter, he couldn’t prevent the thought, “Man, I can’t believe I still use this bag-”
“What’s in that pocket, daddy?” she interrupted. “Socks?” she guessed as she reached with a raptor’s velocity into the opening. Looking up at him, her excitement was betrayed by her breathlessness and she said, “A glove?!”
“Your gloves,” he answered, pulling out the second one, anxious to keep the pair united. “From when you were smaller. Just give them here.”
“But I want to wear them.”
“Fine. Whatever. Actually, no. Don’t put them on just yet. We have to go to church-”
“-But,” he continued, “I’ll put them in the go-bag and you can put them on after we change into comfy clothes for the trip. Deal?”
Finding themselves changing in the old church’s random nursing station, the father couldn’t have had more on his mind. Remnants of the adrenaline his body released earlier that morning whilst playing the piano for the congregation lingered, and also capturing his attention was the anxiety of starting a road-trip from an unknown location in the city.
“My hands are cold, Daddy.”
“Okay, H-. That’s fine,” he said. “We’ll be in the car in a minute.”
Upon her entry into the back seat, she found the gloves and put them on.
“Clevah gairl,” he mumbled to himself.
“So you’re hands were cold, eh?” he asked, laughing. “You sure do have a one track mind. ‘I see gloves. I want to wear gloves. Dad controls gloves. Gloves make hands warm. I need cold hands. Must share hand temperature with Dad.’ Ha.”
“Daddy, I’m hungry. When are we stopping for lunch?”
“We’re headed to Limon for lunch. I just want to knock out a bit of the trip before we stop. Sound fair?”
“H-, where are you going? The restroom is over here.”
“Huh-uh,” she said, pointing to the family restroom sign.
“Ah. Okay. Good call. Let’s go then. We need to hurry and get back on the road.”
She stood and watched as he ran his hands under the faucet.
“You gonna wash your hands or what?”
He watched an incredulous look come over her face as she began to fiddle with her hands.
“You want me to take off my gloves?”
Mirroring the mood with his own bewildered look, he answered, “You still have your gloves on? Fine. Okay. Nope. I guess there’s no need to wash your hands if you went potty with your gloves on. Come on. Let’s go.”
In a stunning turn of events whose deeper meaning even I am still struggling to discern, I just finished my first week at seminary where I am taking courses which line me up to earn a Masters of Divinity, with a major in theology. Smile, people. I am.
I don’t really have time to be writing for free at the moment, but I just feel like sharing some observations about this new journey.
First, this news should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I love talking/thinking/studying Christianity and theology. It only makes sense that I’d end up doing it in a formal school.
Second, I can now pronounce and write the Koine Greek alphabet in upper and lowercase.
Third, did I mention I can’t stop smiling? Here’s why. I was late to the orientation where the few other theology majors were chatting with the department heads. When it came time for questions, I asked, “So. Say a person doesn’t really know what theology is. How would you explain it?” My heart was pounding. I didn’t have time to add/drop courses etc, and so I didn’t want to discover that I was in the wrong room. Yet I had to ask the question. When he began to answer I played it cool and listened, though I am sure my eyes had a sparkle. When he stopped, I couldn’t suppress my excitement any longer. Boom. Huge smile. I was in the right place. I said, “You just made me happy.” The two professors couldn’t believe it. Ha. They chuckled and said, “We don’t usually hear students say that…” B, for one of my courses, I have to write a book report on a book called War in the Bible and Terrorism is the 21st Century. Knowing my own stance on war, post military service which included combat, I couldn’t help but feel like I just showed up to an all you can eat pizza buffet and discovered that there was also a dessert buffet. Read and write about whether “love your enemy” stops somewhere short of unless they’re building nukes? Yes sir. I’ll take another piece. And some ice cream.
Fourth, what this really boils down to is “I want to know what I believe.” I just want to know.
Fifth, as I’ve shared what type of Masters program I’m in with non-believers, I have chuckled nearly every time upon the discovery that while I’m the one attending, they seem to know more about my future as they say, “You want to be a preacher?” Ha. I have no idea. I just want to learn for now. It’s funny that learning as a virtue is totally gone. If there is no professional monetary endgame, then people become confused. “Why are you going then?” (Naturally, at this point I have to insist it’s to get in to heaven.)
Sixth, I cannot describe the feeling I get while on campus. Forget Jesus (forgive me Jesus), forget God (ditto), forget theology, forget the Bible (I’m really going to hell now), forget Christianity. Forget it all, and the place is still shocking. Unlike all the jobs and co-workers I’ve had, unlike the folks that constitute my beloved Toastmasters club, unlike those who attended my Mark Twain Listening Club, the seminary is a place filled with people who honestly want to make the world better. They’re not selling t-shirts, they’re not handing out business cards, they don’t have a desperation in their voice about closing the sale, they’re not trying to get the upper-hand in the conversation, they just have come to a place in their lives where they see service to others as their mission and want to do it in an as informed a way as possible. The campus, the offices, the classrooms, the chapel, the coffee shop, it’s just oozing with heart.
Seventh, I will not become a robot. One ex-mormon blogger-friend comes to mind now and I can hear her disdain at this news already. Allow me to rebut. Whatever other seminary’s exist, and what goes on behind their closed doors, I don’t know. So far this one is not a brain washing factory. So far the professors are classic professors. They are extremely well-read (and traveled), they are decent public speakers, they challenge commonly accepted beliefs and paradigms, and they have adorable quirks that can only be developed after years of standing at the front of a classroom and of which they are unaware. Let it be known: If anything gets weird, I’ll share it. And then I’ll definitely stay in the program. Undercover student in a cult indoctrination? That job is almost cooler than actually believing I might be able to learn how best to actively glorify God and perhaps be on the contributor side of the equation that might lead to a pagan experiencing the joyful spiritual transformation that occurs after accepting Jesus as his/her personal savior. You might call that a win-win situation.
Eighth, one of my first devil’s advocate questions to any heathen reader right now is this: “Do you believe human beings possess the parts/capability to discern that a leader is speaking from (brace yourself) God?” Put another way, is it possible for me to convince you that I honestly believe (as a reasonable, sane citizen) that leader So-and-So’s ideas/rhetoric/vision/plan/mission transcends generally accepted scientific knowledge? That they are acting as an agent of some unnamed ultimate reality? Or will you always label me a “sucker” or “delusional”? Why or why not?
Ninth, on a wholly un-theological note, I think God might have messed up. As H- gets older and older it is becoming clear that she is supposed to be the daughter of a blind couple. Does anyone else’s kid announce every single thing they do? “I’m walking. I’m putting on my shoes. I’m jumping. I’m playing. I’m swimming. I’m dancing. I’m raising my hand.” Yeah, H-, I get it. I’m right next to you and can see what you’re doing. These eyes aren’t just for show. Shyat!
So I don’t like admitting that there are ever any parts of anything to do with Batman that I question, but for a long time I had a lingering doubt that the whole “Make the climb…without the rope” theory would work. You know, the idea that only when we are spurred on by the fear of death in all its finality will we truly find the strength to do what needs to be done. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The fear of death does increase jumping distance.
Picture this: H- and I at the pool. Goggles on. We’re in the three-foot deep shallow end. Every four seconds she’s adding the post-script to what I can only describe as an entry into a no-holds-barred splashing contest, “See, Daddy? I can swim?”
I smile and say, “Just about.”
Then she says, “I want to jump in.”
I say, “Go ahead.”
She gets out of the pool and with a decent running start proceeds to jump into this same three-foot deep shallow end of the pool. Her head never does go fully under the water and she says, “Ow.”
I say, “You should tuck your knees up so you don’t just land on your feet.”
She says, “Like a cannon-ball?”
I say, “Yep.” So off she goes for attempt number two.
“Ow. I can’t really do a cannon-ball.”
I say, “Well, then, you should come over to the deeper end and jump in.” She starts shaking her head and I soothe, “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”
Notwithstanding all the splashing, she actually can stay afloat a while during her attempts to swim in the shallow end. And if I remember right, swimming is like riding a bike. Add these things together, and you will see me a decent bit away from the wall in the hopes that when she jumps in, she may just start swimming to me and more importantly, realize she actually can swim. Ta da.
Instead, I learn that she can jump a helluva lot farther than I ever expected or have seen before as she nearly tackled me in a leap that can only be described as springing from legs attached to a brain that really thought a visit to the pool with her father might be the last event on her earthly journey.
The lesson: Teach kids how to swim before how to read the number four.
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