3 Rivers and Catechism
My son is standing in the living room, a helmet on his head and shield and sword between his hands. He’s staring intently into the space in front of him. Not seeing the lamp and table, the fireplace or the arm chair or sliding glass door which form the mosaic background of his field of vision. He is still and staring into the space as I walk into the room looking for my book. It’s sitting in the space, in the field, down at the feet of the armchair where I left it last night. I squeeze past the knight staring intently and reach down and pick of the book. “Watch out, dad, there’s a monster.” I pick up the book and back slowly away. “Where, son?” “He’s right there,” he motions with a wave of his sword. I nod my head, “Good work, son, you get him.” As I turn to leave the room, the relative silence is punctured with the sputtering spittle of oral sounds coinciding with the lethal advances of the knight’s plastic sword. I smile with gratitude as I walk back down the hall. My home is once again safe, and I can rest securely knowing that my son is growing up a fighter, a cobelligerent in the cause.
I walk into our bedroom and my son is sitting up intently on the edge of the bed. My computer is steering a story of images and sounds on its final approach in search of the runway of rolling names and dates, the inevitable Farris wheel. The movie ends and I ask my son what he thought. He looks up, “It was a bad movie, dad.” Slightly surprised, I ask him why. “There was bad guys, dad, and big, pig monster.” “What happened to the bad guys?” “They got dead.” My son’s favorite movie right now is Bambi. I’m not really sure I understand. His last love, 101 Dalmatians, has only recently been eclipsed, and neither Toy Story or Madagascar seem to be able to compete, even though he’s occasionally in the mood. Our old VHS version of Bambi is also in terrible shape. It flickers between black and white and color from moment to moment and the sound is kind of fuzzy. But my son sits on our bed, wiggling around with eyes on the screen. His body doesn’t ever come to a complete cessation of movement. His hands poke and scratch, his legs flop and he routinely rolls to one side or another peer out among blankets and pillows, smiling, laughing and repeating his favorite lines like a litany. But Princess Mononoke was a bad movie. He watched intently just like usual, but he said it was bad and he didn’t want to watch it again.
He’s sitting at the dinner table and his spoon is on the floor again. I look at him and he looks back at me questioningly. I give in. I give him his spoon and give him the ultimatum. Eating resumes. A moment later, I hear a clink and thud. My son looks at me; I look at him. I ask him about our arrangement, what were the terms of the covenant? He repeats back that he wasn’t supposed to drop his spoon. I ask him what happened, and says, “It, it, it went by itself.” He pleads his case like an experienced trial lawyer. I pantomime, and ask him, “Did it go, bounce, bounce, bounce, aaaaahhhhhhh! off the table?” River laughs with smiling eyes and nods eagerly. I retrieve the spoon once more and repeat my instructions to be careful. The rest of the meal is fairly uneventful. Most of the food is making it most of the way into the proper orifices. There is conversation, there is communion, there is fellowship. And it’s only at the very end of dinner that I hear the old familiar clink and thud and turn to see my son leaning half way out his booster seat examining the utensil down below. “What happened?” I ask. He smiles and springs his hand across the table “bounce, bounce, bounce, aaaaahhhhhhh!” and mimics the jumper’s fall.
My son is in armor again. His helmet has a face guard that leaves a small slit for the eyes.
“Amy got me this helmet, dad.” He’s pacing up and down along the side of the bed.
“That’s right, son.”
“She’s a good lady, dad.”
“Yes, she is, son.”
“I fight bad guys, dad.”
“That’s good. What else do you fight?”
“I fight dragons and monsters and bad ladies and bad guys.”
“What does the bad lady do?”
“Her lips drip honey.”
“What do you do when you see a bad lady?”
“What I do?” I haven’t asked him this part before. I tell him the story of Joseph and how he ran away from the bad lady.
“Run away.” He nods.
“In the beginning…” I begin.
“God made heavens and earth.” He finishes.
“Who is the ruler of the day?” He’s swinging his sword around and making exploding sounds.
“The sun!” He exclaims.
“Who is the ruler of the night?”
“And the….?” I’m sitting at the table that serves as my desk. My head is turned. He’s marching up and back stabbing the air.
“The, the, the… stars!”
“What did God tell Adam and Eve?”
“Do not eat the fruit.”
“What did the dragon say?”
Playing the part he nods his head and speaks in his nicest and most reassuring voice, “You can eat the fruit.”
“What did Adam and Eve do?”
“They ate the fruit.”
“And what happened?”
“They were nakey-buns and they died.” It’s hard to explain to a two year old that Adam and Eve were naked before this and yet it was only afterward that they seemed to notice it. My son loves being naked, and doesn’t really understand why it would be a problem. So that’s why it only comes in here. He knows they did not obey God.
“But what did God do for them?”
“God made clothes!”
“And God promised to kill the dragon. Who killed the dragon?”
“How did he kill the dragon, son?”
“Died on the cross, and rose from the dead, and, and, and…” His voice grows to a slight cresendo, “and now he’s alive!”
“Where is Jesus now?”
“What’s he doing in heaven?” My son is sitting down now, tugging at his helmet absentmindedly, one of his legs is twitching, kicking in and out. I turn back to look at him, and he looks up, smiling.
“Destroying all his enemies.”
I’m really very grateful for my son. He’s just two years old, but he very capably tells me the story of Noah and of Moses. He knows about the bread and wine at worship and regularly, he can be heard exclaiming from the back row, “He broke it, mom!” or “Memorial!” It’s hard to want to tame such exuberance; it’s hard to argue with such imagination and joy, such a militant, childlike faith.