Sunday, October 15, 2006


Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowing Madonna), 1470-1475 - Dieric Bouts

Posted on the 2nd Day of the 28th Week of Ordinary Time - 2006 AD - (Year B)

My eldest daughter is a smiler. Well both of my daughters are really, but particularly my eldest. I remember when she was little (she's teenage now), she would always smile and laugh, even when getting told off, engaging with others is a happy thing for her, her joy. She gets a hard time at school, she is extremely bright and attractive and popular, other kids get jealous and try to hurt her. Her naivite is wearing off a little but not her beautiful, loveable gullability, she says "I'm a cynic now!" and I reply "Really." Smiling inwardly because she is the least cynical person I know. In the infinite Grace of God I share my life with her without really deserving it, a bright light, loving life, shining on me. I treasure every moment, knowing it won't be forever.

A friend of hers (a boy) had spent the day at our house and as we took him home in the evening she engaged with him in the car, smiling, joyful, making a big effort for a little return, making him feel at ease and included. They said goodnight and then she sat silently in the back as I pulled away. As well as being a Smiler, my daughter is a Talker. A non stop, incessant chatterer. But tonight she was quiet. "He was nasty to me", she said; "I'm sick of people being nasty to me for no reason". I consoled her a little bit but didn't ask too many questions, she gets mad at me if I probe too much, I can sense the very rare occasions she needs to be left to herself.

We slowed down for traffic lights after a few minutes, I turned to look at her, my larger than life daughter was hunched and small in the back seat, her lips pressed tightly together, her eyes not focussed, not aware of me watching her, her face, long and aged with sorrow, a slight frown on her forehead. "You Ok?" I ask. "Mm." she replies good naturedly. She is far away, cradling an emotion she is not sure of as if it was an unfamiliar animal. Not hurt, or anger, or even disappointment. Just sorrow. I turned back to the road and something caught my eye, high up, a light on in an attic room in a house that we were passing, a girl standing there, putting something in a sink, maybe an empty cup. I remembered when I was young, as a student I was shown into an impossibly small attic room I was thinking of renting. I felt that strange emotion back then, possibly for the first time, alone, not knowing where I was going to live, with no conception or even the slightest understanding of the Graces which are freely offered to us all. Just myself and an aching, empty feeling which didn't last too long.

After a while she asked me to switch the radio on, we laughed and joked over something inane and nonsensical, planned to buy a chinese takeaway and watch a film on TV. Moments so on fire and alive with Grace and consolation that I wonder how Our Lord deems that I deserve any of it. And Sunday night slips by us in the ordinary sounds of road noise, radio chatter, darkness outside, familiar streets, the ordinary emptiness of the end of the weekend.

We watch 'Munich' and eat our chinese takeaway. The film is like a badly acted reality show with a sinister undertone. Retribution, revenge, pettiness..My daughter watches men running around, frantic with hatred, killing one another, not really grasping it, not really wanting to. She promptly falls asleep. I switch off 'Munich', crossing Spielberg off my Christmas card list, for letting my Smiler of a daughter down, because she wanted to share something and be challenged as an adult, not just horrified and disgusted.

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