Mama, what’s that?
Oh my. “That” is a small red beaded cross from Rwanda (I think). It was a gift from my father, a former seminarian turned self-proclaimed non-believer in organized religion and of non-disclosed spirituality. The fact that my four-year-old has no idea what this symbol stands for left me a little speechless.
I stumbled, “um, it’s a cross.” What does it do? “Um, it’s a symbol for Good. For goodness, um, and sacrifice.”
Like Angels? (his words, not mine)
I have a small figure of an angel that used to sit by a photo of my sister. I moved it up high to a bookshelf in our bedroom several months ago, but it still holds a certain fascination with our son. I vaguely remember telling him that it was an angel, and he grasped the concept well enough.
Before I had an opportunity to clarify this matter of the sacred (and controversial, or misunderstood, or feared, but that’s really another story altogether) object, the conversation quickly turned to Spiderman and superheroes while my thoughts lingered on the little cross. You see, we don’t go to church. My husband and I were both raised in an organized religion, but my parents never pressed the issue, having been raised firmly in faith with little discussion or debate. I attend Mass occasionally with my mom, and I’ve visited this city’s peaceful Grotto a handful of times, but that’s about it. We did not baptize our little ones, though a priest and a close friend (and believer) did give them an informal blessing when they were quite small.
(Note: the priest didn’t know who we were, but I was holding our youngest in my arms during the memorial service honoring the daughter of dear family friends, and the priest blessed him quietly as I went up to receive communion, and it was a special moment.)
I pray, reluctantly, and certainly not daily, and my prayers go like this: “Help me!” “Keep them safe!” or “Thank you!”
It’s kinda funny to pray to a God that one is not entirely convinced exists. But I keep doing it, when I need help, crave security, or feel blessed, which is mostly all of the time (one, or all three). Feeling grateful is a good thing and it never hurts to get a little immortal and omnibenevolent support from time to time.
Looking around my house that I fail to keep uncluttered though not through lack of trying, I now see symbols everywhere. There are books and spinning tops and newspapers, apples and peaches on the counter, cubbies filled with jumbled jackets and sippy cups and Legos – oh, the Legos everywhere! Icons of boys and building and warmth and health, images of family and home.
And a two-inch cross perches on a bookshelf by the fireplace, not so much gathering dust but sitting, silent, immobile until my son asked the question, Mama, what’s that? A symbol represents; a symbol doesn’t move or create or run or play, but in this case the daily objects surrounding and entertaining us represent all of those things – symbols for movement, exploration, learning, and life.
We are so blessed.
What are the symbols in your living room?