A week ago today, my wife an I found ourselves sitting on white folding chairs in a green clearing surrounded by wooded hills and ringed with leaved trees. Four women in black pant suits were playing string quartet versions of modern pop hits (Viva la Viola, Call me Mozart . . . etc) and in time a woman in a white dress glided in, bringing everyone in the clearing to their feet. Yes, a wedding. We were sitting in a wedding. My wife was on my right and on my left was a man in his fifties or sixties holding his Kool-Aid stained grandson. From all I could observe he was a good grandpa. He played horse with his leg, smiled more than he frowned and kept his grandson from kicking the nice man next to him.
Adult interaction with children in general has (as far as I know) always been very ritualized and repetitive. Nearly every children’s book is built on repetition, and Dickens’ work has a child-like whimsicality for that same reason. As for ritual, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “This Little Pig Went to Market,” “The Little Engine that Could,” and “Patty-Cake” are solemn and ancient sacraments of childhood, performed at short intervals and unquestioned by the countless generations that pass them on. Every time I went out our front door growing up, my mother would speak a benediction over me: “God bless you and make you a blessing.” Her mother had done the same to her. No doubt atheistic mothers repeat phrases like, “Be good. Don’t ask why!”
No matter how iconoclastic, anti-liturgical and anti-sacramental our society becomes, those images, ballads, poems and ceremonies of childhood will endure unchallenged; for children are and will always be more old fashioned than adults. The irony is, adults perpetuate childhood ritualism, and venerate it and protect it like it is something precious while they (meaning some of them) simultaneously scoff at religion—the oldest institution of our society—and its ceremonial trappings for being antiquated, repetitious, inartistic and unhelpful to an enlightened, post-modern, multi-cultural, changing world.
Well, as I said, this grandfather was doing his part to pass on these rituals and rules when, unexpectedly, he catechized his grandson in a novel way. He looked into his childish blue eyes and said:
Q. “What color are your eyes?”
Q. How old are you?
Q. (more solemnly) How old are you?
A. I two.
Q. Are you happy?
A. (sigh and smile) Yes.
And that was that. I don’t know if this is a family catechism of great importance and ancient forethought or the creation of a moment, but I like it. The first question assesses self-awareness, the second social standing (age being the arch-status symbol of childhood). The repetition of the second question is important, for it gives the questioned a second chance at honesty—It is tempting at any time of life to lie about your age. The third forces the questioned to step outside his or her own situation and asses it in the macro. The child did, and found himself happy. And finding himself happy seemed to make him happier still. He grinned and grinned. His grandfather grinned back and resumed the leg-a-horse routine. Then the wedding began its own rituals.
R. Eric Tippin
In The Living Room on 8th Street
July 4, 2013
 It’s more poetic if you pronounce “leaved” “Leave-ed.” Go ahead, read that sentence again. See, see!
 Incidentally, they seem like three of the best questions you could ask an extra-terrestrial, if you happened to encounter one.
Der Böse Enkel - "Ο Κακός Εγγονός"
Georgios Iakovidis (1853-1932)