Her name is Abbey. She is my youngest gift from the Grace that keeps this world. She's six years old and has recently experienced a row of freckle-seeds blossom under both her eyes. She is beautiful. When she kisses me nightly on the nose, as I'm tucking her in, I know with absolute certainty how the scaly, old frog felt when that gorgeous princess kissed him. I don't turn into much other than mush though.
On Saturday, around noon, she stated: Dada, I want you to play with me. I said, "o.k." and followed her back to the bedroom she shares with her sister. Freckle-girl then told me that we were going to play birthday party (her's) and I was to be in charge of all the gifts (for her). I had her write on her chalkboard what her desired gifts were; this would give the ugly frog an idea of what to look for in the room of the birthday princess. She quickly wrote, south-paw that she is, ten items on the board, all easy enough so that even a frog could find them.
As I was assembling the royal gifts, she handed me a little red box. Actually, it's a little red safe, complete with combination lock on the front, so that big brother and middle sister cannot get into her stuff. She stated: Dada, there's probably some stuff in here you can use. I said, "o.k." and she opened it for me and then she set about to other princessly administrivia.
I knew about the little red safe, but I hadn't seen it in a while, and it had been even longer since I'd seen it's contents. In the moment, I felt as if I were peering into the ark of the covenant and that possibly, suddenly, beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer angels would start flying around the room, but then they'd turn into scary Roseanne Barr angels who would melt my face off, like in that Indiana Jones movie. But even at the prospect of Roseanne angels, I kept looking in the little red safe. Here were what my six year old, freckle-smeckled little girl considers her holiest of holies.
This is what I found:
1. a piece of notebook paper folded like you would a letter, and written on it were several words in pencil,
2. seven polished rocks that she bought with her money last summer in Grand Lake, CO,
3. six Gameboy cartridges all lined up in a row,
4. ten pieces of chalk, all broken, not a one whole and pristine,
5. three hair clips,
6. and, a dollar bill.
And this is what I saw:
1. a left-handed princess who knows she'll have to practice just a little harder at writing than her big brother and middle sister [persistence],
2. stone reminders of a wonderful fairy-tale week with family and cousins in a cabin in the mountains by a gorgeous lake where every evening was accentuated by sugar cones at the ice cream store [memory],
3. quiet admiration for big brother and pride at being the sister upon whom his used video games fit like a glass slipper [belonging],
4. a strange comfortableness with things broken; in fact, an understanding that most things work better with the new rubbed off [grace],
5. an awareness that her beagle will eat hair clips if they're not kept safe [danger],
6. and, gradual lessons in the power of money; what it can buy, like a bag of polished rocks [reality].
The ark of the covenant housed the tablets upon which God's finger wrote the commands for his people to follow. The Hebrew children regarded this box as containing the very power and presence of the Almighty. I believe we all have our lesser-arks; places where we keep things sacred or holy to us, little red boxes full of the power and presence of the Grace that keeps this world. And we do what we can to keep the contents safe, even using a combination lock if necessary. From time to time, we open these boxes and share their contents with one we trust; a spouse or parent or friend, maybe even an ugly toad.
In that moment with my left-handed princess, her willingness to share the holiest of her holies with me caused me to pause and give thanks. Enough of those moments, coupled with those nightly nose kisses, and this old frog might just have a chance at turning into something one of these days.