fingerpaint flower

The little girl watched my pink-paint-tipped index finger like it was a dentist’s drill. I held her chin with my free hand and gently turned her face. I needed to see her cheek, not her widening eyes. I reminded her to hold still.

“I’m not moving. Your hands are shaky.”

I knew that, like I knew it was best to not answer the five-year-old girl in the chair across from me. I was certain that being a meanie to the little kids who wanted their faces painted at the church picnic was an express route to hell. I didn’t know what Jesus would do, but I think the Lord would not have volunteered to face paint in the first place, or at least not have indulged in two large coffees beforehand. I sighed and smiled the way I do when my husband tells me how to back our truck into a parking space. The girl wrinkled her nose.

“Eww, your breath is stinky.”

My fingers were still under her chin. I leaned in close.

“Jesus heard that. He hears everything. Now hold still.”

I thought her eyes would pop out of her little head. I realized I’d forgotten the truly magic word.


The words worked like a spell. She held still, and I tried to guide my shaky finger away from her eye, ear, and nose, and toward her cheek. I didn’t tell her I was sure Jesus could also read minds, and knew everything that had gone through mine from the moment she sat across from me. She had requested, no, demanded, I paint the Swan Princess on her face, and rolled her eyes when I told her I didn’t know what a swan princess looked like.

“She looks like she did in the movie.”

The good Lord knew my movie viewing usually involved subtitles. I hoped maybe I’d get brownie points for not having said that aloud to the little girl. I also just smiled when she said my suggestion of a pink flower was stupid and for babies. I hummed as I painted pink petals on her cheek.

“Hum the song from The Swan Princess.”

“I don’t know that song.”

“You don’t know anything good.”

“Uh-oh. Jesus heard that.”

She stayed quiet and still long enough for me to paint pink flowers on both cheeks. She left without making eye contact or thanking me, but that was okay.

I don’t know when five-year-olds became so imperious and demanding. Then again, I’m not fluent in the ways of children. I also don’t know when I became such a cranky older lady. I’ve always been cranky, but just a little more so after marinating in stinky meanness for more than forty years.

I do know that points get deducted for mean thoughts as well as for mean actions. I know nice from mean, though I don’t always do the right thing. At least I know for future reference that church, children and caffeine are not a good combination for me.


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