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Easter sin and quality time

It was her idea from the get-go, but I was more than willing, it being Easter Sunday. Besides, it seemed I hadn’t been getting enough sweet time with my granddaughter. 

“You take my picture,” she said, “and we’ll put it on a card to send to Great-Grandma Schaap.” It was my granddaughter’s plan, not mine. I thought that her asking was rare and even blessed, but then I’ll admit to my prejudice.

But then, I told myself, Easter brings out the best in us. It’s hard to be dour when one glorious dawn brings us eternity. To be sure, I was willing to get some quality time because I knew back then that she was getting dangerously close to the age when Grandpa would be an old pair of argyle socks. I reached for the camera and went all in – a holiday photo shoot.

Outside we go. I take a few shots, show them to her in the back of the camera, but she doesn’t like ‘em. Too much wind, she said. Her hair was messy. And I’m thinking there’s a half-dozen cute as a bug’s ear, as my father used to say. They’re all plenty good to me.

So, downstairs we go, out of the wind. The child knows how to pose, but that’s my fault, taking pictures of her constantly. I snap a few more in the shadowy light from the window.

We bring them all up on the computer. To her, not one of them is perfect, of course, but I can excuse that; after all, no picture is, if you’re the one in it. 

And then it comes out. She’s seen that commercial in which some three-year-old slaps together a panorama of her whole bedroom, takes the shots, processes them and prints the whole thing. Three years old! – maybe four. And it bugs my granddaughter to know she’s twice the kid’s age and nowhere near as tech savvy. Part of this is sheer grudge. But do I care? After all, she’s on my lap when we’re monkeying with the files.

She likes the same shot I do, so we don’t have a problem there. I get the picture up, photoshop her a smudge of sun tan, which she likes; and then she says, “Can you take this thing off?” There’s a slight tan-ish mole on her cheek, hardly visible, her grandpa thinks; but the little artist is smart enough to know that the computer does skin grafts. 

Done. Now her grandpa was thinking this whole idea was almost Easter-like in its selflessness. After all, all of it for Great-Grandma Schaap, who otherwise hardly got the time of day back then, way out east in Wisconsin. What a granddaughter I’ve got, I’m thinking. What a blessing!

So I was getting the card stock out and outfitting the printer, when she said, “Can you whiten my teeth?”

I’m not making this up.  She was eight years old. Just. And she wanted her teeth whitened? 

“But then, I told myself, Easter brings out the best in us. It’s hard to be dour when one glorious dawn brings us eternity.”

I’ve lived all my life in proximity to the Word, so close that most of  what happens beckons scriptural reference. “Can you whiten my teeth?” she says, and those blessed lilies of the field bloom in my conscience, the ones that toil not, neither do they spin; and the preacher in me thinks there ought to be a lesson here, even a sermon.  

But she was sitting on my lap, right? And then – hey, it was Easter. There we were, the two of us on my desk chair, quality time, fiddling with her portrait. And there’s this too: the outcome is going to please my mother like no letter from her way-too-liberal son ever could. 

So what if that’s an old “means-and-ends” argument. My granddaughter’s budding vanity is just childishness, and therefore excusable, says her grandpa, who is convinced that, when it comes to our grandkids, we really can’t sin. I’m just “suffering the little children” and all of that.

And did I say that she was sitting there on my lap too? So just forget the sermon, Jeremiah, I told myself. There’ll be time enough for all of that later.

“Whitened teeth?” I said to her, “I can give that a try.” 

Vanity, vanity – all is vanity.

 Except for a grandpa – and his aged mother – on Easter. 

On Easter morning, all is forgiven.    

  • James is a retired Professor of English and the author of more than 40 books, most recently Looking for Dawn (2018).

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