Day 219

Pasadena, CA

Dan's Family

I awake and set forth to find my place in this household. So far all I know is that I’ve commandeered one of the girls’ bedrooms. The house has two wings. I’m on Jon and Clair’s side in Brooke’s room. Dan, Joan, and their daughter Jenny sleep on the other side. In the middle is a large living room and dining room. I relax here and wait to see what happens.

Tom Cycling

One by one I meet the kids. Forest, Jon and Clair’s youngest, is just learning to talk and is shy to meet me. Brooke, his older sister, is not shy but short on words at first. Jenny, the oldest, is eager to get started playing with me, but breakfast comes first. We eat in the kitchen, disorderly, but praying first. I have cereal and toast, a standby here. Everyone seems distracted and on their own schedule, so I just eat and see what happens. I offer to help, but no one steps forward to orchestrate, so I just passively eat and leave my dishes.

In between playing with the kids I make plans for my stay. I agree to go to church with Dan tonight, as he seems eager to show me something special. Trading phone messages with Jeanette, I plan to spend Sunday with her, conspicuously foregoing Sunday church. Dan mentions their plans for a camping trip next weekend, inviting me along. I don’t commit, but I don’t commit to a departure date yet either.

I’m most comfortable with the kids. Forest is small, and either plays gently with me by himself or gets trampled on by the girls. Jenny is enthusiastic but clumsy, in a growth phase. I have to be careful throwing her around – she’s made of knees and elbows that will bruise anything in reach. Sometimes her enthusiasm borders on aggression. Brooke is more graceful in speech and movement, but has a mean streak that starts many an argument with Jenny. They keep me and their parents busy.

Jon and Clair are attempting to deal with the endless details involved in their move to Thailand from Kazakstan, via LA and Nepal. This is on top of sick kids, plus work and social engagements. They are harried and distracted.

Joan takes up some of the slack, but is a little reticent when it comes to exerting authority over all the chaos in the house. I approach her a few times asking about things I might do to help out, but don’t get much direction. Finally I notice Dan and Jon working in the yard, and Dan gives me a rake and a job to do.

In the evening Dan takes me to church and I find out why he wanted me to attend this particular sermon. It’s a “youth sermon”. There’s a full rock band performing pop-styled hymns. Some kids are swaying, dancing, and getting into it. Dan and Joan wiggle around a bit, casting glances over to see if it’s working on me. All I can do is watch in a sort of stupefied disbelief. I’m grateful when the music stops and the sermon begins.

I appreciate the tutorial nature of the sermon. It explains some translation and conceptual issues regarding God as YAHWEH that are of interest to me. When they attempt to keep our interest with clips from Disney’s “Prince of Egypt,” though, they lose me. It’s the same problem I have with TV news peddling attitudes instead of ideas. They promise experience, but deliver only a sort of surrogate emotional fulfillment. I try not to act too disgusted, but I think it’s clear to Dan and Joan that this won’t be the magic key to my rebellious youthful skepticism. I don’t blame them for trying, it’s what they do, and they don’t know me at all. The Top 40 approach to getting kids into church and selling attitudes to them probably is the best thing to try first, statistically. I don’t respond to the high-pressure sales pitch when the basket comes around either, but many kids around me do.

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