for your consideration on Ash Wednesday

My daughter is a puzzle to me. I’ve known her her whole life (of course) but I still can’t always conjure the magic you’d think I should be able to. I want more than anything to do right by her but she’s harder for me to parent correctly. I’m not even talking about conflict between us (which everyone assumes when you say you’re having parenting difficulties); I wonder sometimes if I can feed her soul what it needs.

Today worked out, though. She visited me in the sewing room this morning as I labored over the silk gown I’m creating for her upcoming Daddy Daughter Dance (this Saturday). She saw my embroidery kit and instantly asked me to set her up with a project. In many ways she’s a typical six year old: easy to distract, putting something down only a few minutes after picking it up. In fact I sometimes wonder if Sophie is more flibbertigibbet than typical; for instance I swear not one time does she come in the house and hang her coat up (rather, she throws it on the floor), despite the fact that one hundred percent of the time I stop her and ask her to correct herself.

After she was equipped with scissors, hoop, fabric and floss she remained completely focused on the motif (a rather large seahorse she had me freehand), changing colors five times and executing it in a precise backstitch. It surprised me that she took up with perfection my special, magic knot – in fact, learned it quicker than my five college students! She embroidered in the car, in the cafe, at home. Something about the sewing soothed her and kept her agreeable; cleaning her bedroom before we left, going above and beyond carrying our swimming gear out to the car and in general being a peaceful, equable presence. “I’m glad God invented such things as embroidery,” she says to me serenely at the table as I sip coffee and overlook Aberdeen’s busy streets.

God is on her mind a bit I think. While washing hands a few minutes later, she asked me who I thought would be the prettiest girl at the upcoming dance.

“Well it depends who you ask,” I said. “I mean, who gets to decide who’s beautiful?”

“God,” she responds, surprising me.

I’m stumped for a minute. “Well God, I mean… God thinks everyone is beautiful. He made everything, you know, people, animals, so it’s all good.” I’m wandering off into iffy territory here. I’m suspicious my daughter’s theology is a heck of a lot more solid than mine.

She’s looking skeptical so I continue. “So, I mean, think of the ugliest thing you can.” I’m envisioning critters from our recent viewing of a rather excellent David Attenborough special – specifically, it must be admitted, the hooded seal and it’s inflatable nostril membrane.

My query ignites a spark, and she responds: “Oh, that’s a tough one! Hmmm… I’m going to say… Um…


Again: I’m stumped.

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