We had a substitute pastor this weekend at church. During children’s time, as the kids in fifth grade and younger surrounded her, she asked whether anyone had ever picked wild blackberries. Several kids raised their hands, Martin among them. I wasn’t sure whether Martin was following this pastor, with her monotone voice and faded manner, or whether he was just raising his hand because other kids were.
Turns out, the former. As the substitute pastor started to move on, Martin interrupted by calling out, “I picked wild blackberries in a country that is not on this continent!” In fact, that was true. In February, when we visited South America, Martin joined his older cousins picking blackberries along a highway. (Was I terrified of this? I was. When in Rome, let your children roam free and close to speeding trucks, I reckoned.) Then the cousins set up a stand and yelled, “¡Moras! Se venden moras,” at every passing vehicle until they ran out of blackberries and had a few pesos in their little pockets. Martin found this all very exciting.
Most kids would have said, “I picked blackberries in [whatever country],” or, “I picked blackberries on vacation” —if they had interrupted at all, which is another story. Martin, however, said “picking blackberries in a country that is not on this continent.” He’s fixated on geography. Apparently he assumed that “in a country not on this continent” was specific and informative enough to make his point.
I was impressed that Martin was following the substitute pastor, and that he correctly related his experience, and that he had the courage to talk in front of a stranger. On the other hand, what he said was quirky. Eyebrow-raising. We remain in flux. Martin can say things now. He doesn’t yet say them the way most people would. Again we return to this question: As Martin continues to recover, will he become ever more “normal”? Will he lose his specialness?
I regretted that our usual pastor was not present. In the two years since we started attending our new suburban church, the pastor has got to know Martin pretty well. He would have taken a moment to follow up and ask Martin what country he meant, and Martin would have felt proud of participating at children’s time. The substitute pastor ignored Martin’s comment, however, probably because Martin was speaking out of turn. It’s not the first time that has happened when the regular pastor isn’t around.
Martin is becoming more “normal,” of course. I’m glad that means that he will face fewer instances of being ignored, fewer occasions on which an adult takes him for simply an undisciplined child. And I feel certain of this: This kid of mine will become more normal, but he will never lose his specialness.