Thursday, 15 December 2011

wondrous star

I knew this day would come – the day when Snooks starts to ask questions to which he really needs an answer and to which I don’t really have one.

I know these questions generally centre around two topics – sex and religion. And that the really important thing is not to laugh or say “Go ask your father.” (Or, as Woody Allen’s father does in Hannah and Her Sisters when he asks him about the coexistence of God and evil, shout, “How do I know why there were Nazis; I can’t even work the can opener!”)

We have not had many in the sex department yet. His gender referencing so far seems to extend only to ‘girls wear pink’ (which is largely true these days) and the possession or not of willies. Other than that he is gender blind. His love, his kisses and his passion for rubbing bare tummies apply to all regardless of age, race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

But God and especially Jesus have been making their presence felt this week provoking some of those unanswerable questions parents get from their younger children at this time of year.

The best for us came last Sunday as we were invited to accompany some friends to their church carol service - an offer we accepted readily as their open, modern church has a far more child-friendly event than the ones I am used to with the left footers. Also we are very fond of the friends whose two daughters do a great pair of angels in the nativity scene and kindly posed for a photo with Snooks; they gloriously decked out in silvery white dresses, wings and tinsel halos and Snooks in his Parka and a borrowed crown.

All was going well, even when Snooks became so inspired that he stormed the stage, still wearing the crown and parka to throw all his best shapes to Away in a Manger.

No one seemed to mind – silent thanks to these parents whose children had rehearsed the songs only to have their view blocked by our little Mod King – and Snooks was so exhilarated by it all that I thought he might want to sign up there and then.

However, standing back safely between the Engineer and I for a ‘non-dancing’ O Little Town of Bethlehem he turned to me and shouted loudly enough to be heard above the “How Silently How silently …” singing, “Is This True?” in his clearest most incredulous voice.

As I simply guffawed he looked to the Engineer who looked back at me in panic as he asked the same question “Is it true Daddy?”

You may remember my dilemma two years ago when I suffered a complete collapse of faith just before Christmas only to have it restored by Whitney Houston on January 5th as we were taking all the decorations down.

I got away with it that time as Snooks was too young to notice but this year I knew I had to make that leap if all this tinsel and baubles and presents and trees are to have any meaning beyond a winter party and shopkeeper’s heaven. Not to mention that we might be applying for a place at a Catholic primary school next year so we need all the gospel references we can get.

“Oh yes it’s all true,” I shrieked, trying not to sound like a pantomime dame, and beaming confidently at him.

Snooks still looked a bit sceptical but did not let this stop him returning to the stage for the finale where his hip-swinging samba moves came in handy for a Caribbean style carol, which rounded off the service.

Even as we left and I stopped to talk to a mum who had a newish baby in a carrycot beside her, when Snooks asked “Is that Jesus?” and I replied “No he’s called Rudy”, he seemed to take it all in his stride.

By the time his own school ‘show’ came along yesterday he seemed more comfortable with the facts of the nativity (though his version will now always include a knitting scene, as the clickety clack of the needles Mary used to make a blanket for the babe was clearly the bit that captured his interest most) but he did want to know why I did not call him ‘Lord’ just as Jesus was called ‘Lord’ for being so special.

I watched with astonished pride as all the little three-year-old tots sat for half an hour on the stage in front of the flashing cameras of their tearful parents, without a murmur.

Snooks remained mute, despite knowing the songs, taking in the sight of the hushed audience and mouthing the word ‘mummy’ when he caught sight of me, until the very end when he joined in with Away in a Manger, the only number the nursery children had not rehearsed, his teacher later pointed out.

Diminutive and blonde, wearing his red school jumper underneath the white tunic with red tinsel collar, he looked like a Kings chorister in the making – or like my brother, holding the Communion plate, sometime in the later 1960s.

At the end the headmaster walked over and spoke directly to Snooks, clearly asking him a question, to which he firstly employed his right to remain silent in case it incriminate him, and then finally uttered a few words.

From where I was sitting, craning my neck to see around the telephoto lens of the mother in front of me, I could not make out what he was saying.

All I can do is pray that it went along the lines of this: “My name is Snooks O Hara and I can sing like an angel, add up, speak in similes and kick a football pretty well. I will help keep up your SATS and promise not to run in the corridor if you let me in next September.”

Of course we all know it’s down to the catchment area but hey, miracles do happen.

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