Theological reflections of a four year old.

... reviewing the terrible sins committed while living at Nana's house.

by Joe Sullivan

"Come down from there, Joseph!" Nanna Hurley said, hand on hip, the other hand in a firm gesture, her finger pointing to the floor. Joe Rattigan, not yet four years old, had been caught red handed in the crime. She had approached down the stairs and into the kitchen in stealth to find her grandson, Joseph, standing on a chair in order to look at himself in the mirror that was located above it. He hopped down to the floor in a tingling guilt, this was at least the third time she had caught him. There had always been a strong lecture after his previous apprehensions.

The first couple of times he had made no effort to conceal it. The first time she had laughed. Not the times afterward, though. She had leaned down to scold him, telling him that what he was doing was vanity which was very, very bad. Admiring yourself was a sin, it was pride, a terrible thing that put you right into the hands of the devil. A good boy never lets himself do such a thing.

He had no idea what those bad things were, he was just having a look at himself, an exercise which he found fascinating. He would stand, face not a foot from the mirror, and carefully examine himself. The hair, eyes, mouth, chin, ears were all part of his deliberate inventory. It was more of satisfying a curiosity than the bad things Nanna warned about. What was happening, in reality, was that a four-year old was looking at his reflection and saying to himself, Hey, that's me.

Coming up with a bigger plan.

He had worked out some other fun, too. The mirror had an edge about as wide as his two fingers that went all the way around it and sloped away from the big part of the mirror. These edges were mirrors, too, little ones where Joseph could only see part of himself. You could, if you held your face just right, see part of yourself in the big mirror and part of yourself in the little-edge mirror at the same time. This produced a fascinating result--two
noses and two mouths. You could not get more than two eyes because one eye would go completely out of both mirrors if you wanted to see two noses and two mouths. He wondered if Nanna would say what he was doing was twice as bad.

He could not figure out the devil thing, except that he was really bad and that Nanna didn't like him at all. He had no idea of what the devil was supposed to look like. He definitely knew what God looked like because there were pictures of Him all over the house. There was a picture of Him in the front hall with His mother when He was really little. There was another one of Him in the parlor when he looked as old as the paper boy and He had really, really curly hair. Then there was the big one in the dining room when He was old and He was sitting with a bunch of other old people. They were sitting down having dinner.

There was a picture of Him in all the bedrooms, too. It was always easy to pick out God. He was the one Who had that big circle thing around His head, although in the picture in the hallway His mother had one, too.

Outfoxing the fox.

In an effort to stay out of the way of the devil and Nanna he had worked out a routine. After breakfast and after everybody had gone to work, Nanna would go upstairs to make the beds. She would take his sister Arlene who was not quite two. To keep Arlene out of harms way while she made up the beds Nanna would put her into her crib, a confinement the she always greeted with a screaming rage.

With Nanna gone, Joseph was up on the chair in no time. Arlene was a very good signal, when she stopped screeching it was a good sign that Nanna was pretty close to coming down stairs. Forewarned he would hop down and be in the dining room with his toys when Nanna would appear holding Arlene, now subdued and sucking her thumb. From the kitchen doorway Nanna would stare in at him with a suspicious, evaluating look. Joseph would be radiating innoncence.

The fox makes a comeback.

One morning, after Nanna took off upstairs and when Arlene began her screaming he scrambled up from his toys and hustled out into the kitchen. He hauled himself up onto the chair and stood to look into the mirror. He was thunderstruck. The mirror was completely covered with a piece of heavy brown paper. He knew his A,B, Cees so he knew that the letters that were in the red circle printed on the paper were an A and a P. He remembered that this is what the bags looked like when Auntie came home carrying a full one after she had said she was, "Going down the A and P."

He was mystified and defeated. Although Arlene was still robustly screeching he hopped down from the chair and went back to his Lincoln Logs in the dining room. After awile Nanna stood in the kitchen doorway holding his sniffling sister. In quiet triumph she said, "And Joseph, did ye do any lookin' into the mirror today?"

He looked up at her and then said with a shake of his head, "No, Nanna I didn't. I think the devil stuck a bag on it."  

March 7, 2014

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