An old favorite song of mine is “Fathom the 9-fruit Pie” by the Danielson Familie (one of the greatest bands in existence, no doubt, more for their content than the actual sound of their music). I have thought about these lyrics again and again in the past few years, ever since I became a parent (and a real adult) myself:
we’re marching in the nine-fruits pie
our yoke is mighty easy.
the children are the first in line
adults are always welcome.
when you got the log in eye you
talk and walk in nine-fruits pie
our Lord of the dance will call…
“time to eat, come and get it, time to eat.”
Love and Joy and Peace and Patience,
Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,
Gentleness, and Self-Control,
time to eat, come and get it, time to eat.
and here, in the upside-down kingdom, i am amazed at how it is the children (and the child-like) who are the best at receiving the all the good gifts, who know how to accept the love of a very good Father in the midst of a very hard world. and on that note, i thought it would be a good idea to write a bit about the truest person i know, the one i spend an awful lot of my time with.
to my little glory, with love.
your hair is fine and shaggy and blonde; you don’t want me to cut your bangs yet you detest clips, so it hangs long in your eyes, and every so often you swipe them to the side dramatically. you wear polka dot dresses with striped leggings. you hate wearing socks, even though we live in one of the coldest places in America. you wear dirty Hello Kitty boots every day. it takes hours to get you out the door, you always seem surprised at the amount of layers it takes to get us ready for the outside world, you protest and wriggle and whine and sometimes throw yourself on the floor. you shall not be hurried.
i got you all natural wooden blocks, a doll made by refugee artisans, tasteful melissa and doug playsets. you play with none of it, never, unless i start to give things away. you are an only child, wandering wherever i go. you want to help cook, you want to write something, you want me to close the computer and pay attention to you. you are the happiest when i am reading you books, books we have read a million times over, books where you know exactly what will happen, books that you could recite to yourself forwards and backwards, books that make you feel safe and secure in my lap, my arms around you, my eyes only for you.
you like to dance. you like music, are starting to branch out from the yo-gabba set and you can tell me who Lorde is, Sufjan, Macklemore, Gungor, FUN., Elizabeth Mitchel. you really hate it when i sing aloud, and you always have.
you love playing “english class” or “school”, you love it when i teach you any little old thing. i spend my mornings going over the ABCs with people who may or may not ever be able to remember them; i come home and you have somehow learned all the letters and their corresponding sounds without my even trying. you bang on the computer keys (just a minute, i’m working on something) you dump glue and glitter on cheap faded construction paper, you are serious about your little “journal” where you write down what you are thinking. and you are always, always thinking.
we go visiting in apartments and our friends always give you things, shower you with smiles and squeezes, plastic tiny mermaids who break the second we get them home, dirty plush Tweety birds that you instantaneously fall in love with. you soak up the affection, the foreign foods, the exotic music, the blaring PBS, the cans of fanta poured into glasses for you, the adults who crowd around and smile with every bite you take of their food, their culture, their life. you thrive in these places, just like i do.
you know people who don’t have money. you know little girls who don’t have any mama’s. you know gaggles of older women who adore you, you beg to come and visit my classes. you know our neighbors who are sick and hardly ever come out, you know which ones to run up to for hugs and those who seem to look right past you. you want everyone to be safe, to be in love with you, but you already know that’s not true. you stick tight to my legs, until you see a friend.
you don’t seem to notice the fights, the shouting, the lack of a yard, the small apartment. you do notice when mama is anxious (“did you forget that God is always with us?”) or when the cockroaches are getting bad again or how your name is not Mohammed. you are starting to comment on our skin color, on how some people’s apartments look different from ours, how some people have families and some people don’t. you are starting to ask about brothers and sisters. you are starting to cry more when we fly away from our beloved aunties and grandparents, you ache that we can’t all be together.
your emotional intelligence is sky high. the other day you told me you were concerned about me. why? i asked, amused. because you are so frustrated, you said, matter-of-factly. you are so frustrated, mama, because i can’t stop whining. girl, i thought to myself, you just get me. tonight, when i put you to bed, you asked me to never be firm or frustrated with you ever again. i said i was sorry for being frustrated, but that it probably will happen again in the future. can you forgive me? yes, you said, and i stroked your hair. i prayed over you, and then it was your turn to pray. you shouted into the air “happy christmas, Jesus!”, and then turned around to tell whisper to me “i just told Jesus happy Christmas”. i love you so much, my be-draggled, wicked-smart cherub, the only baby i have. i keep stroking your head until you finally tell me: mama, you have to go now.
and so i do.
you are the first in line
in the upside-down kingdom.
you are teaching me how to come and eat.