A couple of months back, Archer decided that he was more interested in keeping track of the liturgy than in the activities provided for children during Sunday morning services. At the same time, Cady Gray proclaimed that she didn't like children's church and wanted to stay with us.
So for several weeks they've been sitting through the regular church service -- what I used to call "big church" when I was a kid. Archer enjoys tracking the activities on the program, moving from hymnal to prayer book to printed inserts, numbering and recording the time each one begins and providing whispered commentary to us on the duration of prayers and the estimated time the service might take.
Cady Gray reads comic books. In a development that has warmed both her of parents' hearts, she's embraced Peanuts and Archie and just about every other bit of sequential art we've tucked into her bookshelf for her to find: Cul de Sac, Richie Rich, Calvin & Hobbes, Mutts, Little Lulu, even an old Doonesbury collection that got mixed in there by mistake.
As she sits crosslegged in the pew, intent on the Fawcett collection of Snoopy strips passed down from her dad, I feel an intense tug of memory. How many of those double-sided Peanuts collections -- the ones where there was one book starting at one end, and another upside down starting from the other -- did I check out of the church library and devour during services?
I think Mom and Dad were more forgiving of comics reading during Sunday and Wednesday evenings than Sunday mornings; at the most important worship of the week, I usually had to content myself with studying the underutilized Old Testament books or contemplating the mesmerizing curves of those hip line drawings in my Good News Bible. But I memorized the output of Charles Schulz from those readings and rereadings -- during church, in the back of the station wagon during long trips, anytime one of those paperbacks was within reach.
And perhaps it won't be taken amiss if I suggest that it's possible I learned almost as much about what matters in the world from Charlie Brown and Linus as from the sermons I was supposed to be listening to.