Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Stories II: My Son, the Trendsetter

I am proud of my son ChinchillaBoy. He is doing very well in church. He pays attention during the service, and asks wise questions in Sunday school. In fact, he’s been doing so well, some of our church’s local traditions have been altered because of ChinchillaBoy.

For instance, we have a Christmas tree in church. First time we saw it, there was a beautiful porcelain nativity set under the tree. But when next Christmas came around, the nativity set was gone.

“Excuse me, didn’t there use to be a nativity set?” I asked the man behind the candle counter.

“Yes, we had it, but then last year, someone’s child fell on it and broke it, so we’re not using it anymore”, the kind man replied.

I was mortified, because the child in question had been, in fact, the two-year-old ChinchillaBoy! He had been very antsy during the Christmas service, and, it turned out, for a good reason – he had spiked a fever. Eventually, he fell right into the nativity set, and broke an arm off the porcelain Virgin Mary. I had hoped they’d glue it back on, but instead, the entire set was gone! Of course, I confessed and offered to either buy a new set or pay for one, but the kind man refused to take the money from me, saying kindly, “that’s no problem”. It’s been eight years, and the nativity set is still gone. I hope nobody remembers why.

A few years later, I was at the Christmas service with the five-year-old ChinchillaBoy. Now, one thing I totally understand is that it is very hard for a little kid to sit through an Orthodox service, especially when half of it is in Greek. (LilProgrammer asked me once, “Mom, what do you call this boring part before Sunday school?”) So, when the kids were little, each time I brought them to holiday services, I came prepared. I’d bring them something quiet to do, like books, or paper and pens, or some small snacks. That year, LilProgrammer was into multiplying large numbers on paper, so I brought him some paper and a pen. As for ChinchillaBoy, he loved snacks, so I got him a red push pop.

You know what a push pop looks like?

You know what it looks like after you’ve been working on it for a while?

You know how a person looks when they’re sucking on a push pop?

Well, I didn’t. Or should I say, I hadn’t thought it all through well enough.

We arrived early, and sat in the middle of a pew – myself in the middle, with my kids on both sides of me. Shortly thereafter, three teenage boys walked in and sat next to us. In fact, they sat next to ChinchillaBoy.

Some time later, ChinchillaBoy gets out his push pop and starts sucking away. It took the teenagers less than five minutes to catch on. They chuckled through the whole service. ChinchillaBoy, totally oblivious, went on sucking.

Oh well, at least a lot of fun was had by all.

The last one that I wanted to tell you actually didn’t happen on Christmas. It happened on Holy Friday, the year ChinchillaBoy was in second grade. Our church has a children’s program on Holy Friday. It starts at ten or eleven, the kids go through different stations, and it ends at 3 PM with a service that lasts a little longer than an hour. It is a very solemn event and the kids are usually dead tired by the time it’s over (LilProgrammer actually ended up in tears almost every year.)

That year, ChinchillaBoy suddenly developed a great desire to follow and understand all that was going on in church. At the three o’clock service, he took a place in the front pew, opened the book, and prepared to follow word for word, with a very serious expression on his face. Somber men in black suits were all around us.

The priest started reading from the book of Job. With a concentrated frown on his face, ChinchillaBoy was reading the text in the book. I turned to the new page, where it said how Job got all his possessions back and had all new children and houses and pastures…

“… and a thousand she-asses…”

Right on the top of the next page, there it was. I knew I had to act fast, before ChinchillaBoy either saw or heard that. Somehow I managed, while holding the book, to cover the offensive line with my one hand, and ChinchillaBoy’s mouth with the other.

Did it help? Yeah, riiiight!

He saw it, and he heard it.

Poor ChinchillaBoy tried his best to keep a straight face, but it was impossible. He let out a loud SNORT! I peeked around and saw a hundred men in black suits staring straight at us. I’d have given anything to sneak out of there quietly, but we were right in front.

My fellow parishioners are very nice people. No one ever said anything.

A year later, ChinchillaBoy and I were getting ready to go to church on Holy Friday.

“Remember about the she-asses, ChinchillaBoy. Be prepared. You cannot laugh this time.”

“I won’t, Mom, I promise I won’t.”

So we’re standing at the 3 PM service and listening about how Job got back all his pastures and his children…

“… and a thousand donkeys”.

I could not believe it. They changed the text of a church service because of my son! That’s what I call making a difference.

I’m not letting this kid quit church. He’s way too influential for that.

Coming up next – my children perform in front of a very excited audience.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:02 PM

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