So my catechism class started out just fine last night, as it usually does. But it rapidly unraveled, as it usually does. (Seriously, when I had 22 kids, it was so much easier to keep them in line. This year I only have four, and I sit right there with them, and I cannot stop them from touching each other and kicking each other and making snide remarks at each other and giggling like little asylum escapees every time one of them says something inappropriate. Yes, that’s right—we’re learning an awful lot about God this year.)
There are two boys and two girls (but the girls don't figure in this story). There's the boy who can’t sit still and follow along and pay attention, and the boy who can’t be good. (That may sound like they’re the same person, but believe me, they are two very different, very squiggly little individuals.)
So Attention Boy loves to talk. And he thinks Troublemaker Boy is hilarious. And he has a lot of energy. But one day he came to class, and he was subdued. I wanted to ask him if he felt all right, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it without sounding snotty (“Wow, Attention Boy, you are so well-behaved tonight—is everything okay? Because that’s just not normal.”).
The next week, he was so subdued, it was like having a totally normal kid in my class. (Okay, in my dream world, this would be a normal kid.) Quiet. Attentive. He followed along in his book as we read aloud.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Attention Boy, is everything okay?”
“I’m just grumpy,” he said matter-of-factly. “So I just need to be quiet and get over it.”
“Did you have a rough day?”
“I had a very rough day. Very rough.”
He’s like a 40-year-old man in the body of a third-grader.
When he left, he said, “You know what, Miss D., I bet when I come next week I’m going to tell you what a great day I had.”
But the next week he didn’t have to say a word. He was so spastic, so easily entertained by Troublemaker Boy, so unable to sit in his chair and stay still, that I knew instantly he had had a good day.
And how, I ask you, can I scold him for being insane when insanity just means he’s happy?
We had an art project last night. Each kid had to trace his foot on a piece of paper, and then draw a picture inside the outline of how they are going to follow in Jesus’s footsteps. Get it? Footprint, footsteps.
Attention Boy was wholly immersed in the project, which concerned me a little, given that when we colored stained glass windows he put an erupting volcano and a missile in his. But I couldn’t fuss with him—he was being quiet, after all!—because Troublemaker Boy insisted on speaking in a throaty satanic growl while drawing very, very scary faces on his footprint, which somehow led to a lengthy discussion about Star Wars, which was so dismaying to me since I had just that afternoon turned in a very, very painful assignment about all six Star Wars movies and had hoped that I would soon be able to put that long ago, far away galaxy very very very far behind me.
And then Attention Boy wanted to explain his footprint to me.
(Here’s where the title becomes pertinent.)
It was a picture of him standing on a bridge, he said. And under the bridge was water. And the water flowed down a windy path to a wheel, which it turned, creating electricity. He explained the hydropower process to me at some length and with great enthusiasm.
I’m pretty sure the Commandments skate around energy issues, and I don’t recall any parables about alternative energy sources. But how could I not love a foot-shaped piece of paper on which a 9-year-old had so carefully represented the hydroelectric process?
Come for the catechism, stay for the comedy, that’s what I say.