15 April 2005

the mouth of babes

Our two year old often pretends the steps are a train. She piles them with various stuffed animal passengers, grabs her hat and blanket, as well as a purse bulging with odds and ends ranging from beads to those flimsy plastic "credit cards" one gets in junk mail.

"Daddy!!!" a voice yells. "Come sit in my train." She points to a six-inch wide space she's left for me. I squeeze in obligingly.

"So," I ask, "where are we going?"

"Manayunk," she says naming the nearby neighborhood full of trendy shops.

"Oh, okay."

I pretend to drive the train. "No, Daddy, I'm driving."

"Ok, sounds good. Are we there yet?"

"Yes!"

"So, what are we going to do now?"

She looks at me as if that was the stupidest question she's ever heard. "Shopping, Daddy; we're going shopping."

"Oh, of course. What are we buying?"

"Mmmm....celery. And cereal. Grapes. Meat. Teddy grahams. And...celery again....now let's go."

We get back on the train. "Where are we going now?" I ask.

"Pull out your map."

"My map?"

"Yes. It's in your back pocket."

I pretend to pull out a map and unfold it, studying it a bit. "So where are we headed?"

"Hmm....where is there to go?"

I begin pointing at places on the invisible map, naming them. "Boston, Hartford, New York City, Princeton, Baltimore..."

"Princeton! We're going to Princeton."

"Ok," I say, "sounds good to me."

"What's in Princeton?" she asks.

"Well, there's a university, a seminary, some restaurants, an art museum, churches, and a cemetary full of dead Presbyterians." (Insert standard joke here: "Dead Presbyterians? How can you tell?")

Actually a few months ago we had a conversation about Presbyterians. I had mentioned Presbyterians while talking to Laurel. Toddlers have amazing hearing and pick up on the oddest things. A little voice piped up, "Presbyterians?? What's a Presbyterian."

"We're Presbyterian."

She looks at me skeptically. "Our church is a Presbyterian Christian church," I inform her. "There are different kinds of churches that are all Christian. Daddy was raised Presbyterian. Uncle Tom is Episcopalian. Uncle Jerry is Lutheran. But we're Presbyterian."

"I'm not Presbyterian."

"No? Well, then what are you? Are you Lutheran?"

"No. I'm not Lutheran."

"Are you Methodist?"

"Nope."

"Are you Anglican?"

"Mmm...Yes, I'm an Anglican."

Figures. This is a child who, when barely two years old, upon visiting a friend's Episcopal church, ran up to the pew pointing at the red books saying, "Prayerbook, Daddy, prayerbook."

Back on the steps we arrive in Princeton. "Ok, we're here. Where should we go first?"

"Let's go to a restaurant."

We pretend to sit at a table and look at menus. An invisible waitress arrives. "I'll have a hamburger," I say. The invisible waitress turns to Claire. "What are you going to get?" I ask her.

"I'll have mac and cheese! ....and a beer." We'll she's evidently not a Baptist.

"I'll have a beer too," I add.

"No, Daddy. You're having water."

"Oh," I say, a bit disappointed.

After eating I ask, "Where should we go now? Do you want to visit the University chapel?"

"Yes."

We pretend to visit the chapel. I ask her to describe what she sees. "Mmm....there's a pulpit. And Bibles. And a font."

She's into fonts. At church a month ago we were looking around up front after the service. "That's the pulpit," she said. "Pastor Ryken tells us God's word there....and that's the font."

"What happened at the font?" I ask her.

"I was baptized!"

"And what's that mean?" She'd asked what the font was a while ago and I'd given an explanation. I had wondered how much she would remember.

"It means that Jesus put water in my hair and said that I belong to him." Not bad.

Back at the imaginary Princeton University chapel she wants to go. "Where should we go next? The art museum?"

"No."

"The University library?"

"Yes. You go get some books for you and I'll get some books for me and have the computer read Stellaluna to me." Our local public library has computers that read children's books aloud with graphics. She's grown rather fond of Stellaluna.

"I got my books!" I announce.

"What books did you get?" she asks.

"They're philosophy books," I reply.

"Oh...I got Winnie the Pooh books."

"Are they about philosophy?" I inquire.

"Mmmm," she thinks about it. "Yes. I think so."

That's my girl.