Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Messy Imposition

Today is Ash Wednesday. We had services tonight at church. I imposed ashes on those who had gathered to worship. About halfway through the crowd there was my almost-four-year-old baby boy in front of me...waiting, both eager and curious about what I was going to do.

I touched my thumb to the ashes, then to his forehead. As I made the sign of the cross I said, "I mark you with God's claim" (I don't know what others say, but this seemed right for tonight).

After marking him with ashes, I was about to stand for the next person.

But he wasn't done.

He reached out his little pointer finger to touch the ashes. I first thought he just wanted to play and began to pull the dish back. He then pointed to my forehead. "You don't have any," he said. And he was right.

I put the dish back where he could reach and watched as he stuck his little finger in and then touched it to my forehead before getting a confused look.

There was a problem. "It didn't stick," he said.

But this boy knows how to solve problems. Reaching back toward the dish, he dug in with thumb and finger, gathering as much of the ashes as he could and lifting them gently to my head. I watched as ashes cascaded down my forehead and across my nose and cheeks. I held my lips together, not sure I wanted to taste the ashes. Then he repeated...after all, it is the sign of the cross we traditionally mark each other with and the cross has two beams. Another pile of ashes to my forehead and the crossbeam was in place.

He walked away satisfied.

I stood there, ashes thick on my forehead, scattered across my face, even around my feet. It was a messy imposition for sure, but one I will never forget.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Living with Reality

As you have heard me say previously, our community was hit by a tornado last spring. Eight months later it is clear that our reality is forever changed. All we have to do is listen to our children to know that.

(spoken by our daycare provider who has been in this profession for 20 years): Before May 22nd, I've never had children playing "tornado" - now it's a regular part of their play.

(a question asked on a recent windy night to my friend by her three-year-old daughter, they were in their basement as their house got hit by the tornado): Mommy, is the wind going to break this house, too?

(a conversation held between myself and my almost four-year-old son yesterday in my office when he found my hardhat from the repairs to the church after the tornado):
Him: Mommy, why don't you ever wear your hardhat anymore?
Me: Well, I don't need it now that the construction is done.
Him: So, you'll use it next time a tornado hits?

Part of me is pained by these conversations, these realities. Part of me takes comfort in the fact that children have an amazing way of incorporating even that which we describe as devastating into their reality. Part of me wonders what other conversations we'll have and what answers I'll be able to give.