Sunday, September 07, 2008

A complicated ride home

"Do you think we ought to go to church?"

We were riding home together in my ancient Volvo. Maia was sitting in the front seat next to me.

We had been out to dinner with the family--Popo (Kristina's Mom), Uncle David and Auntie Kalei (Kristina's sister), and Alex, David and Kalei's daughter. Alex is a sophomore in college.

Maia and I had gone out for a walk towards the end of dinner at her instigation. That's our usual practice. She and I generally finish before everyone else, and she likes to poke around outside to see what's there. And she gets bored just sitting.

Tonight, we had encountered more people than usual because this restaurant is on one of the main arteries in town. There is a lot of nightlife around the restaurant, including at least one strip bar.

Maia called out, "Hi!" to a woman at a bus stop, who was surprised and pleased to be greeted in that way. She next did the same to a heavily tattooed woman a little further up the street wearing a pair of tired looking leopard skin leggings. The woman stopped and handed her something.

"I just gave her some change," she said to me as she passed by.

"Why did she do that?" Maia wanted to know, showing me the money.

"I don't know, Sweetie," I said. "You, well, you probably made her happy, Sweetie." She had given Maia eighty-six cents--three quarters, a dime and a penny. Change from something at the 7-11 just there on the corner.

It had been raining, and the sidewalk was very wet and slick. And so within a few minutes, I had insisted that we go back.

Maia resisted a little but went back with me. Inside, she was restless, and started trying to overtalk to get into the conversation that was revolving around Alex and the modeling tryout Alex had had earlier in the day.

I had suggested that I take Maia home early in my car. I had been at work, and Kristina and I had gone to the restaurant in separate cars.

"We can watch TV," I said to Maia. "She's bored," I said to Kristina. They both had agreed.

My question about church had been prompted by the sight of a congregation having a service. We had both noticed it as we drove by. There were a lot of windows, and we could see in through the side of the church.

Responding to my question, Maia said, "Church is boring."

I laughed.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because people only talk, and I can't talk to any friends. And I can't be free," she added.

I laughed again.

I've been thinking about church, about some way of pulling a spiritual thread through our lives, but I don't think we're a church going family.

"That was good what you did with Alex," I said, "hugging her, and saying bye to her, even though she had talked about you."

On our short walk, I had told Maia that she could talk however she wanted to. At dinner, Maia had pleaded with me about sleeping by her tonight and not going back to work, in the "baby" voice she often affects when she's trying to get something out of me.

Kristina had asked Maia what had happened to her voice, and Alex had seized on the opening, challenging Maia with a question about why she talked that way, and recounting an event that had happened when she was 10 or 11 that featured her not putting up with baby talk from one of her friends.

All well and good to insist upon standards, but people should be allowed to move at their own pace.

"You can talk however you want to talk, Maia, no matter what anyone says."

"Why did she talk about me?" Maia had responded. "I didn't talk about her."

"I don't know, Maia," I said, laughing at the simple way she had expressed the situation.

"And I didn't say anything wrong," Maia said in the car. "Just that her fingernails were growing too long and she was going to have to cut them."

"Was that what you said?" I asked, laughing again. The sight of Maia's involving herself in Kalei's conversation with Alex was what had prompted my suggestion that we go home early.

Maia wanted to know where Mommy and Popo were.

"They're coming home, too, Sweetie," I said. "They'll be here pretty soon."

"I'm not afraid, now," Maia next said, "because you're in the car next to me and strangers cannot get me because you will protect me."

I thought about that, but let it go.

"When we get home, let's surprise Mommy and brush teeth before we watch," I said.

"Okay," she said, "but you will go upstairs with me?"

"Yes, Sweetie. Are you afraid to go by yourself?"



"Because I hear people."

Again, something I thought about but let go.

"Okay, Sweetie. I will go upstairs with you."

"And you will sleep by me?"

"Yes, I will sleep by you."

John, Sunday, September 7, 2008


Post a Comment

<< Home