The Irvine Tartan ē My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican
Mummy," a young voice broke the library silence of the bookstore, "Look what I found!"
Glee filled the air: "Itís Blue! Look what I found! I found Blue!" And the four-year old had taken the book from the shelf, and placed it on the floor where she now sat intently, pouring over it.
I wasnít familiar with Blue, but I recognized the excitement in her voice and I hadnít heard that for years. Browsing through the Biography selections, I stepped back, just half a step, to catch a glimpse of the young voice.
The book was laying flat on the floor, with the little girl sitting, cross-legged, and with her pale green and white spring dress comfortably covering her knees. A coffee shop bag with a donut was at her side. She reached towards the book, carefully and lovingly to raise the flaps hiding clues and pictures and words on the over-sized pages. She intently went from one flap to another, each in order, and absorbed the story.
The first page accomplished, she looked up and down the aisle to her parents.
"This is wonderful," she told them, matter-of-factly. "I never thought Iíd find this!" and she returned to Blue and began on the second page, absorbed in delight.
The page was turned and with two hands placing it ever so carefully on the hard cover, and smoothing the pages out before her, she continued. "May I get it, Daddy," she asked, as her father approached. Neither was aware of me, and continued the natural transaction between parent and child without any self-consciousness.
"Itís pretty expensive," said her father.
"But Daddy, Blue is my favourite. I didnít expect to find it!"
"And youíre too old for it, anyway," he added.
"No Iím not," she said, looking up into his face. "I really like it!"
And her father moved on. The argument had been made, and there would be nothing more said. His daughter returned to her book, Blue.
Her mother approached, working her way up the aisle and the little girl repeated her request. "Can I have it?" she asked.
Thumbing through the over-sized book and glancing at the back cover for the price, the mother observed, "Why are childrenís books so expensive?" And then, addressing the little girl, she reached out her arm and said, "Weíve got to go."
Resigned, the little girl closed the book and looked at the cover again on the floor, before her. She reached up with one hand and took her motherís hand, picking up the book and returning it to its place on the shelf, with the other.
Disappointment showed on her face, eyes looking lovingly, longingly at Blue, but there were no more words: no plea, no argument, there was no substitution.
As they went towards the cashier, I watched them and then I looked at the bookís cover on the shelf. A pearl of great price, I reckoned. Unexpected discovery beside which there are no substitutions. I imagined that I heard the note of Maryís voice in the garden as she uttered, "Rabbi!"
Excitement of that kind is infrequently voiced. I had heard joy for the first time in years and that little girl had reminded me of my Jesus in a fresh and unexpected way!
I didnít need another biography. I found the book I wanted. Approaching the little girlís mother at the counter, I interrupted and asked if it would be okay if I purchased Blue. She looked at her husband, and then back at me. "Weíll get the book," she said. "No," I added, "Iím not saying this to have you buy the book. I would like to buy the book and give it to your daughter. It has been a long time since I heard such joy over a discovery, and it would make me happy if youíd allow me to get Blue for your daughter." Eyes connected again, and it was agreed.
The purchase completed, I stood in the entryway watching the family as they left the store and headed down the mall. The little girl, walking between her parents, clutching in one hand her donut bag, in the other, a pearl of great price.
Copyright © 2000 James T. Irvine