When I hear our parishioners say that our church is mostly kids, I have to chuckle a little to myself. I suppose by small, mostly-immigrant Orthodox parish standards this is true, but our former experience at something of an Evangelical mega-church where you had to be there by a certain time or the nursery got too full and then you were basically kicked out makes this seem much smaller by comparison.
Often our family and the priest’s family are the only ones with kids at a service. Our priest has 10 kids, the youngest is my daughter’s age. One afternoon when I went to their house for confession, J played strawberry shortcake dolls with her and that broke the ice on an otherwise un-blossoming friendship.
At a Great Vespers service, the youngest daughter was wanting so badly to be up in the altar with her brothers. Father said, “Sweetie, here, these are the friends God has sent you. Sit with them. Your new friend here is going to have the baptismal name of Photini. Do you know another Photini?” (One of the older daughters happens to be a Photini as well.)
After that they were the becoming more sure friends with Hope, as she was first introduced to us non-Greeks, calling out, “Photini! Photini! Let me show you this place upstairs,” and J following behind eagerly.
A few weeks ago we started trying to do Sunday School with J for the first time here at this parish. J immediately picked a seat by Hope and stood in line with her too.
Last night at the meal after Great Compline, I found them under a table in the church hall with red punch mustaches giggling about who knows what.
I know that in some respects the move back to Bakersfield and this church transition has been a little hard on her. She still talks about some of her very best friends from Thousand Oaks and a special friend here in town that we don’t get to see quite as often as we’d like. So, the beginnings of this friendship are a happy sight for this Mama.
And don’t think for a second that we or the boys are left out. Sweet girlfriends for me that go on crazy road trips with 9 (almost 10) kids in tow:
And lots of little playmates for my boys (and J too, when she’s not bossing them all around):
After only one meeting E had already decided that Oliver, pictured with E just above, was his best friend of the bunch. When I questioned him about it, he just said, “Yep, Oliver’s my best friend and Avory is my best cousin.”
One afternoon when a play date had ended, E climbed on top of the table, pants-less as usual and kept looking out saying, “Oliver! Oliver! I want my Oliver back! I want my friends back!”
It’s just so incredibly sweet to be welcomed into this church like family.