The day Grampa Thomson came for Sunday dinner was a day of joy for our little girl. He was a kindly usher at the church we attended and bragged that he was not as old as God, but he may have been as old as dirt -and everybody called him Grampa. He was still an engaging storyteller and always had time for young children. “Lally” sat beside him at the dinner table and helped him count his peas and told him where the chocolate milk was hidden in the fridge. She was thrilled when he asked if he could have a little bit to go with his apple pie and ran to get him some.
“Put it in the Smurf cup, Mommy!”
“Oh, yes, Mom! I love Smurf cups!” he laughed.
When we moved to the living room to drink our tea (and chocolate milk) in more comfortable chairs, she didn’t run off with the other children, but sat on the floor by his feet playing with her doll, as she listened to every word he said. We hadn’t seen her quite so taken with another adult before. She was a child who made friends easily and there were other children amongst our guests that day, but she preferred Grampa Thomson’s attention.
We were laughing at one of our friend’s extremely large fish stories when I saw her get up quietly and go to her room. When she returned she brought Binky in her arms. Binky held the honour of being her most prized possession, and since Binky was so prized it was morphing into a worn tattered greying memory of the soft fuzzy blanket that once cocooned the wee baby I walked the floors with when they were both still new. Because she was now a big girl at three-years old (and because experience taught us that misplacing Binky meant a night of high anxiety for all concerned) she knew it needed to stay in her room.
She walked up to Grampa Thomson and plunked Binky on his lap.
“This is for you,” she said.
I felt embarrassed, but he acted as if the Queen of Sheba had just placed the wealth of Cush before him.
“I am honoured,” he said, taking the bedraggled (and somewhat smelly) cloth and draping it over his shoulders. She leaned against his knee and smiled adoringly at his face. After a while he lifted her up on his lap and offered to share a corner of Binky with her. She rubbed the dangling part of silky blanket binding against her cheek. Grampa Thomson assured us he was fine with her there. She fell asleep in his lap with her head on his chest as we talked. When it was time to go he wrapped her in the precious blanket and carried her to bed himself. He whispered a prayer and gently stroked her curls.
“You have a very precious gift from God in this little girl,” he said. We smiled proudly.
We waved to our guests as they departed into the ice fog and squeaky snow of a northern night and, when we had closed the door, asked each other what her unusual behaviour was all about.
The next Sunday we were in our usual seats, the kids with faces washed and socks matching (a major accomplishment in those days). They squirmed on and under the seats until they could be released for Sunday School. That’s when Grampa Thomson came down the aisle with an offering plate.
“Look, Mommy!” our little one said, “It’s God again!”
“That’s not God, honey,” I whispered.
“But teacher said this is God’s house, and look! There he is!” She stood on her chair and waved. Grampa Thomson waved back.
We had some explaining to do when we got home, about God not living in a building, but living in our hearts, and it turned into another Sunday afternoon discussion between adults on teaching theology to children. She misunderstood; Grampa Thomson was not God, but in truth the love of Jesus was in this dear man’s heart and the children knew it.
What made me tear up, when I thought about it later, was the response of a child who, although mistaken, believed God, in the form of a kind old man, had come to her house for dinner. She listened to him, talked to him, but more importantly gave him a gift of the most precious thing she owned, the blanket she depended on to relieve anxiety when the lights went out and she was alone in the dark.
It makes me wonder if I am willing to give Him a gift of the things that comfort me, as well.
She is a fine woman with children of her own now, and this trait of being willing to give God her heart and all of the things she values most is still part of who she is. She is a good mom and a lover of Jesus Christ, and I am still proud of her.
Yesterday her three-year old called me on Facetime. I showed him the new floor I was putting in the room where he slept last time he was here with his cousins. Then I told him his cousins were away on a trip because their Mommy’s Grandma died, but she was not related to him and she was very, very old. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes and his lip quivered.
“But I never got to meet her,” he said, his mouth pulling down at the corners, “So I never got to say goodbye.”
His tender heart made me cry too. I know he will be a fine man -probably long before he is grown up.