Youngest sits on her chair, perched dangerously near the edge. She is swinging her feet under the chair, her ankles crossed, beaded flip-flops swaying back and forth, back and forth. She is dressed in what she came downstairs in before we left, a pair of green camouflage capris, a pink fleece pullover with boldly colored flowers blooming all over it, a gray faux fur vest zipped up under her chin. And the beaded flip-flops, swinging under her chair. I had weighed my options, decided to let the outfit ride. I noticed, as we ordered, that the fleece is inside out.
Our conversation goes as it usually does, ranging quickly from fairy tales to Indians to the merits of stereoscopic vision: hunters and gatherers have eyes up front, runners wear them to the sides. She sips a warm apple cider, tells a five minute joke with no punch line, smiles her brilliant smile that shows the new too-big teeth, the gaps between. There has never been anyone so vivid, I think, as I watch her talk, watch her take it all in. I am watching her loopy curls bounce, calculating the distance of her apple cider from the edge of the table, listening with one ear when I hear her say, “Jesus had two fathers, pretty much. We were talking about that in Sunday school.” I nod, wondering where this is going. “I thought you’d be interested in that, you know,” she continues. “Since you have two mothers and all. You know, kind of like Jesus.”
I don’t know where to go with that, what to say. How do you explain these things, to someone whose reality is so different? How do you explain the brokenness that is this world to someone who has seen so little of it? Her world is mostly teddy-bear tea parties and dragonflies caught like iridescent jewels in the clear glass globe of a Mason jar. I want her to hold on to that for as long as she can, to see the world through these simple eyes. I think of our earlier conversation, how she held one hand over her right eye, then her left. Noted the difference, what you see with one eye covered. I think of how it’s a balance of both that helps us see things right, stereoscopic. I can see it one way, or the other, or with both sides. I can show her to look at it that way, too.
“Jesus was lucky to have a dad like Joseph to take care of him, since he was God’s son and that wouldn’t have worked out so well here on Earth,” I say. She nods, curls bounce. “And I was lucky that Granny and Pops got married, so that she could be my mom and your Granny.” More bouncing nods. She is off again, the next subject on her mind is crowding out the last, impatient to be shared.
I close one eye, then the other. Notice the shift, subtle but real. See that it is both ways, really: the struggle and the blessing, the brokenness and the healing. I think of how perhaps this makes the difference, seeing forward, a blend of both…how this way you can be a hunter of blessings, a gather of grace. How seeing one-sided makes you timid, afraid, waiting for disaster, always ready to run.
I hold the door for her, she walks out under my arm and into the drizzle of an October evening. I think of how, so often, what you learn in the teaching is of greater value than what was taught. Our conversation will flow past her, leaving her with some bits of information about eyes and how they work, with the vague memory of spiced cider and light rain. I will take away from this a new appreciation for the gift of stereoscopic vision, for the way it can make you see things in a new light.