Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gather the little children....

Sometimes, church is just dang entertaining. Little children can totally make or break a situation like that, when reverence and quiet are expected. Young kids don't get reverence and quiet. They get "I want that NOW" and "I AM WHISPERING!"

Our little clan found our customary seat today, noticing that a particular family with a particular couple of hellions was much closer to the front. We would be free of mad scrambles under the pew for our purses, and the resulting dumping of said purses (should they be captured), for one Sunday.

In the pew in front of us sat one woman and her one boy. As services started, a particularly harried woman approached, with children in tow. "May we sit here?" she whispered to the seated woman, who nodded and moved to allow the newcomers into the pew. As they filed in, I counted. One, two, three, four, five.

The oldest boy looked to be about six years old. He watched over his two younger sisters and two younger brothers dutifully. The next oldest sister looked about five, and bore a remarkable resemblance to a child version of Ally Sheedy. The next was a boy, about four years old, who was extremely put out with Mama at the moment. The next was a girl, about three or close to it. And the youngest was Cody, the baby. He was about a year old.

But it was the four-year-old who was commanding attention. See, he wanted to site beside the boy who was already in the pew. Mama sat down in what he'd determined was His Spot. As she cradled Baby Boy in he arms, Four-Year-Old grew red in his pouty face, and refused to sit in his designated spot. She patted the pew seat and told him to sit. He stoutly refused. "I DON'T WANT TO SIT DOWN," he insisted loudly. Well, maybe not so loud, but it seemed so in the chapel.

"I WANT TO SIT THERE," he repeated, pointing at Mama's seat. She quietly, patiently said no, and patted the seat beside her again. She bounced Baby Boy on her lap, all the while. He was drooling.

I noticed that the two little girls had matching bright pink skirts, with matching headbands. I recognized home-stitched clothing, having made my own child's clothes at one time. And home-clipped haircuts. Oldest sister propped her feet up on the pew in front of her. One blue sock. One purple sock.

Methinks it had already been a long day for Mama.

At the same time, I become aware of a little girl, about two years old, in a pew to my left. After every prayer that's said, we all hear a delayed "AMEN!" at the end. The congregation mutters "amen." A beat. Then a bright shining "AMEN!" Cracked me up.

While I was distracted, Mama's patience with Mr. I-Won't-Sit snapped. Suddenly, she turned around to me. She held her baby out to me. "Please hold him so I can take him outside," she said. I nodded and scooped up Baby Boy. He looked stunned. In a flash, he went from Mama to a row of strangers. Strangers with interesting hair. He was mesmerized by curls. Mama hauled out his brother by his arm. The poor woman hadn't even taken off her trenchcoat yet.

I threw a look at my son's girlfriend. Her eyes were wide. Her mouth pinched shut. This was the best form of birth control I could ever hope for.

I haven't held a baby that age for a long time. I had forgotten why my left arm got so strong during those years. Luckily, I remembered how to dodge drool.

"LOOK!" came the little voice to my left. "THERE'S JESUS!" She was pointing excitedly at a little book in her mom's lap. "RIGHT THERE! LOOK MOMMY! THERE'S JESUS! RIGHT THERE!"

The speaker ended his talk about then. "And I leave this message for you in Jesus' name. Amen."


Baby Boy was captivated. I'll bet he marries her someday.

In front of us, Older Brother found a way to help entertain his younger sister. They were building towers with their children's books and all the hymnals they could find. Not stacks. No, no, that's too stable. They stood the books on end, making structures with roofs that were delightfully wobbly, threaten to crash at any moment. They were tickled.

Mama returned and somehow managed to bypass the wobbling towers. Baby Boy burst into tears at the sight of her. As she hauled him over the pew, into her lap, his brother curled up on the seat he'd previously shunned and promptly went to sleep.

Littlest Sister went into motion. She needed a piece of this Attention Pie. She plopped her little butt beside her brother's sleeping head and wiggled herself a space between him and Mama's hip. Baby Boy giggled and slapped her on the head.

Pleased with herself, she propped her feet up on the pew in front of her, like her multi-colored-socked sister before her. Her shoes were shiny sights to behold. Silver and glittery, even Dorothy would have envied them. However, the woman in front of her did not seem so the shoes tapped on the back of her neck.

Now, you have to understand this particular woman. She's in her 70s, trying really hard not to be. Her facial skin is stretched tighter than that of those who are truly as youthful as she wants to appear to be. Her hair is an eye-catching shade of pink-burgundy, but the front is a brilliant platinum blonde. And it is teased into a fluffy tower that would make any Texas beauty queen proud.

She does not want glittery shoes anywhere near her neck.

She shoots a look over her shoulder at Twinkle Toes. The little feet drop to the floor. There's some small shuffling, and the feet reappear to reclaim their spot. Sans shoes.

Twinkle Toes stared at her sleeping brother. You could see the wheels turning in her little head

She patted his hair. He didn't stir.

She patted his cheek. He didn't stir.

She touched his eyelid. He didn't flinch.

She stuck out her little thumb and jammed it against his eyelid. Slowly, she peeled back his eyelid and peered into his sleeping eyeball.

He did not flinch.

Can you imagine? Do you recall ever sleeping like that?

And she did it three times.

And here's the punchline:

When Mama turned to catch Baby Boy as he attempted to scramble away, her trenchcoat fell open and I noticed. Number Six is well on his (or her?) way.


Anonymous said...

Oh my . . . this is exactly why we have taken a little break from weekly church attendance. If, by the grace of God, I am able to get both myself and the children dressed and out the door in time for the 8:30 service, the amount of energy it takes to maintain everybody for that hour-and-a-half we are away from home does me in for the rest of the day! Bless her - 5 with one on the way?! Makes hubby and I look like weaklings for stopping at three!

Penelope Anne said...

You know one of the best places to people watch is a church.
You will see some of the greatest characters - from the little children to the older women aiming for youth in all the wrong ways.

You told this so dang well, I felt as if I was in the pew with you.

I worked for a church as the Director of Christian Education, and my favorite time was Children's Sermon which sometimes I was blessed to give...the candid answers the kids gave and the humor in watching them was priceless.

Blogget Jones said...

LOL Driving! No, it makes you look SANE! This poor woman...I really had to admire her perseverance.

Penelope - Thank you! I've been told I'm a visual writer. I love that :o)

And I know what you mean about the candid nature of kids! I once taught the 6-yr-old Sunday school. One little girl had outlandish stories to tell every week. LONG outlandish stories. One day she was knee deep in one of her yarns and paused to take a breath. The little girl beside her had been listening intently, and took advantage of the pause to say, "Know what? You move your mouth too much."

I about fell over!