On my Sunday-morning walk with the girls (come to think of it, the next time Julia asks, “Why don’t we go to church on Sundays?” (as she did on Sunday), I’m going to reply, “Because it would interfere with our walks”), Vivi and Julia reenacted this little routine at a certain corner two blocks from home: I crouch down, clasp hands with one of them, and then lift as that kid climbs up me – her feet on my shins, knees, waist (if I’m lucky), stomach, chest, shoulders (and if you’re Vivi, my face). (The other kid stands nearby, shouting, “Me next! Me next!”)
It’s fun, one of those things that strike me as quintessentially dad-ly, and they’re both still diminutive enough that I can actually do it. But as I helped Julia scale my torso for the third or fourth time, I looked down at her legs and realized with a start that they were kid legs, not baby legs – gangly, not chubby; lightly tanned, not pink; lean, not thick; long, not stubby. I missed this transformation, which is all the more shameful because she has worn only skirts and dresses – no shorts or pants – since May. Before long, she’ll be as tall as me and hopefully using those legs to run ten miles or swim 1,000 meters or bike a century – or patrol the stacks at the library or help her sister through the first day of seventh grade.
The only way today could have been a more perfect summer day is if it had involved ice cream, and I’m about to take care of that omission. I think I spent about eight hours of quality time with the girls today, including a long walk this morning and an hour at the playground this afternoon. Everyone – even me! – was in a good mood, and both girls were in excellent form: being silly, trying new things, helping each other out, refusing to fuss… Here they are, attired in their finest, during the morning walk. I don’t recall, but I’ll bet Julia is telling me that she’s Mary and that Vivi is Jesus. With these killer outfits, who could argue?
As promised the other day, I found a couple Playmobil nativity scene sets on eBay last week. They arrived earlier this week, and Julia’s been playing with them ever since. After setting everything up and playing with them for a while each evening – including a full recitation of the YouTube video, right down to the sound effects and the background music – she asks me move to the entire sacred diorama to a safe haven at the edge of the dining table, where (she thinks) Vivi can’t get at it. Tonight, all this play also entailed creating a backdrop for the stable: brown hills, green trees, a night-blue sky, and of course the Star of Bethlehem. (Click through for notes on Flickr.)
As I hurriedly made this backdrop and Julia excitedly played with the various figures this evening, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. I’ve spent almost exactly half my life – since taking Cal Roetzel’s “Intro to the New Testament” class at Macalester in 1992 – rejecting Christianity with more or less vehemence, and this is what it’s got me: a little girl who can recite big chunks of the Nativity story and a fun evening fabricating a diorama for her Bible toys.