Budding Intellectual: a Vignette
He was two years old and the world was his oyster.
Sunday morning, nine o’clock mass. A young couple settles in front of us. Tall, dark haired father with corduroy jeans; blonde mother, hair held back with a hair-band — no time for anything fancy, two little boys to wrangle. I took the younger for about a year old and the older for a bit over two.
Both have blond hair trimmed just long enough to comb, calm, wide, mature faces. Junior showing a few lower teeth; big brother, a full mouth. Both dressed in plaid, long-sleeved shirts, long khaki pants, and high-top sneakers, the real, old-fashioned Converse kind. No running shoes with flashing lights.
Junior hangs in mother’s arms. Plays some with a little children’s book, mostly endures. Wonders, in his one-year-old way, what this is all about and why he can’t be in his playpen or crib.
Big Brother draws my extended attention.
His eyes, somewhere between blue and grey, explore and analyze, his face serious and thoughtful. When the choir sings from the balcony, he studies them, gazing over his father’s shoulder. Studies the people around him. Measures me with those blue-grey eyes.
I know his thoughts:
That music is interesting. These people are interesting. This building is interesting. I need to take it all in, analyze it, sort it out, understand it. Evaluate it.
I whisper to my wife, “A budding intellectual.” She smiles her agreement.
Now and then he turns from his analysis to work his way through his little cardboard book, lifting the little flap on each page to find the hidden characters. Perhaps he can’t read the words yet, though I wouldn’t be surprised; if not, he knows the story by heart and can tell it to himself as he turns the pages. Finished reading, he kneels on the floor, facing his pew. He sets the book up on its edge, neatly fanning the pages into a smooth distribution, drawing pleasure from the pattern he’s created.
As the service drags on, he begins to tire. He clings more to his father.
Throughout, his calmness and, for that matter, the calmness of his baby brother, and his philosophical gaze bring joy and love to those at mass.