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The Miracle Smile-Maker

, , , , , , , | Learning | March 4, 2022

When I was still a teen, I helped at the nursery of our church and then “graduated” to an assistant for the new daycare program they started for kids three to six years old.

One little girl that I remember fondly was an extrovert who truly loved being in our class and getting to spend time with the other little kids. Unfortunately, she also suffered from a severe case of separation anxiety. Back when I had her in the nursery, she could cry through the entire sermon until her mother came back to get her. This led to an odd dichotomy: a child that loved to be in our classroom and yet cried as if she was being tortured whenever she was first dropped off.

I had one game I liked playing with a few of the kids during snack time where I would go up to the child and dare them not to smile, then just stay in their face reminding them not to smile and commenting if they were starting to smile, etc. The absurdity of trying not to smile always makes one smile, and most kids would end up smiling within a few minutes. Since the aforementioned girl happened to have the most beautiful smile, capable of lighting up a room, she was almost always one of the kids I’d do this game with just to see that smile.

Eventually, like some sort of Pavlovian response, she got to the point that just telling her not to smile would lead to a giant smile. Not wanting to lose, she would cover her face with her hands, so now the game was to see if I could “find” the smile she was hiding.

This was so reliable that I started to use the trick on her whenever she was dropped off. She would always be handed to me bawling her eyes out. I’d find some way to distract her for a split second so she would listen to me — I’d even pretend to bump her or trip just to get her attention if I had to — then, once she was listening, I would tell her not to smile. Her hands would immediately go to cover up a big smile, and after a brief game of “hunting” for the smile, she would give up, beam at me with her smile for a second, and then get put down to happily run off to find some kids to play with, having forgotten all about her crying and separation anxiety.

Then, one day, my family was out for a vacation and I wasn’t there to help with the class on Sunday. The girl’s mother came down to drop her off as usual, but when she learned I wasn’t there to take the girl from her mother, she asked if she should just keep her daughter with her in church so her daughter wouldn’t distract the rest of the class. Apparently, she had decided I was a miracle worker and the only one capable of stopping her daughter from crying and was worried the girl would cry through the entire class, like she used to do in the nursery without me.

Of course, as much as I’d like to claim I was a miracle worker, mostly the girl had simply been growing up over the year between when I first saw her in the nursery and then, and she had better control of her separation anxiety. So, while I’m told she did have a harder time adjusting to the classroom without me to comfort her, she managed to calm herself on her own enough to enjoy the class within ten minutes or so. Still, I did feel touched that her mother had such faith in me.

I still have fond memories of that sweet little girl, her beautiful smiles, and her convincing her mother I was a miracle worker.

Thanks For The Moral Support, I Guess

, , , , , | Friendly | February 13, 2022

My parents are in their eighties and both are very active in their church, so much so that Dad often laments that he feels they are taken advantage of. Mum doesn’t see it that way, constantly telling us how much support she gets from the church. She always does more than her fair share; Dad is always there to support her.

It’s just before Christmas and they are running a fundraising stall at a local craft market. The weather is horrible; it’s very hot and humid, and the wind is threatening to blow their shade cover away. Dad is holding down one of the edges while Mum is making sure the stock isn’t flying away.

I notice one of the church ladies sitting in a chair in the middle of the stall as I approach. I choose to buy a couple of things. Mum serves me, and as she is counting out change, another customer approaches.

[Church Lady] doesn’t move from her chair.

Church Lady: “[Mum], there’s a customer.”

Mum is concentrating on getting my change, so the lady raises her voice more.

Church Lady: “[MUM]! There’s a customer!”

Mum quickly hands me my change and turns to serve the customer. I notice that this happens a few more times; she pretty much orders Mum to serve customers while never leaving her seat. I was going to head home but I decide to stay for a little while helping to tie the shade cover down and collect items that have blown off the table.

Dad: “Maybe we should pack up early. The wind is really picking up, and there’s a storm coming.”

Church Lady: “Yes, I think that’s a good idea. I think it’s definitely time to leave. This is so tiring.”

She stands up and grabs her bag.

Church Lady: “Okay, see you on Sunday.”

And then she left my parents to pack up the stall. Dad just shook his head as he started packing. Mum, as usual, couldn’t see a problem; she raved about how much help it was having the woman there. But for the hour and a half that I was there, the woman didn’t leave her seat.

The Rumor Mill Comes To A Grinding Halt

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 5, 2022

This occurred when in the 1990s when I was a teen. We were at a church picnic, and a lady was making friendly conversation with me. She asked about my dad and when he would be back to the church. The truth was that my dad had left after endless fighting with my mom and had filed for divorce. To avoid divulging too much information, I said:

Me: “My dad is no longer around. Whether or not he comes back to the church, I’m not sure. Maybe you can ask him if you see him around town?”

Lady: “Hmmm… Okay.”

I didn’t think anything else about it. After the picnic, my mom and I rode with a good friend of our family to their house to hang out for a while. About fifteen minutes into our visit, her phone rang. Our friend casually picked it up, and as she listened to the person on the other end, her eyes began to slowly grow wider and wider to the size of freaking saucers.

Friend: “Um… excuse me? She’s actually sitting right here. Maybe you want to ask her yourself?” *Hands over the phone*

My mom took the phone, spoke briefly, and then immediately excused herself outside to continue the conversation. When she came back in, she looked seriously pissed and asked me to go into another room and amuse myself with some video games there.

As it turned out, the person on the phone was the lady at the church picnic, calling over to the friend’s house to start a rumor chain that my mom had kicked my dad out and speculating that it was because of a possible extramarital affair with the church choir leader because she’d seen them eating lunch together at a restaurant. They’d simply run into each other by coincidence, and my dad even told us about it.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t see that lady at church services for almost the entire summer, and when she did return, she would sit in the back.

Schooling The Church On The Subject Of Charity

, , , , , | Learning | December 24, 2021

This happened twenty-five years ago and I’m still mortified. My child attended a school in a swanky neighborhood because he was in special education. The neighborhood had a street with the same name as my street, except my street was NE and the other was SE.

One day before Christmas, I received a telephone call on my UNLISTED phone.

Caller: “I’m from [Church]. We were out delivering Christmas gifts yesterday and we could not find your house.”

Me: *Eloquently* “What?”

Caller: “[School] gave us your child’s name as someone who needs Christmas presents.”

Me: “I don’t need any Christmas presents. Give them to someone who needs them!”

Caller: “Are you sure you’re not just being proud?”


Honestly, I’d have reported this violation of federal law, but I liked the teacher. You can’t give out student information like that!

Never Talk To Strangers, Or Stranger Aunties

, , , , | Related | December 19, 2021

My aunt is a conspiracy nutjob. She is in deep, and every time I see her it gets worse. I can’t even have a conversation with her anymore; I say anything that goes even slightly against what she “knows” to be fact and she loses it. Any evidence she has is a dubious video or has been hidden by the shadow people, or whatever she believes in this week.

I’ve tried to be tolerant, tried to be understanding, tried to agree to disagree, but it’s the only thing she talks about. Anyone with a different worldview is a sheep and an idiot. I don’t need to be called an idiot in my own home.

I’ve distanced myself completely, making sure I’m not around when she visits. It’s actually worked out well. I’m more social and have more hobbies.

This weekend, I’ve volunteered to help a friend run a cake stand for her church. It’s a double bonus: free cake, and my aunt hates all religion, so there’s no chance she will bother me… or so I think.

About an hour in, I see her sneering her way through the crowd and toward me.

Aunt: “Your mother said to come home immediately.”

Me: “And did she say why?”

Aunt: “You’re distracting yourself being here, dealing with these…” *waves her hand around* “…people.”

Me: “Okay. She didn’t say anything of the sort, did she?! I think I’ll stay.”

Aunt: *Scoffs* “And what are you lacing these with, then?”

And there she goes — more paranoid conspiracy nonsense. I cringe with every fibre of my body.

Me: “Those are lemon, I think, Auntie.”

Aunt: “Yeah, lemon drugs! You know the church is renowned for drugging people. It’s how they get their money!”

Me: “You are embarrassing yourself. Go home.”

Aunt: “How dare you?! You little s***. You go home.”

I crossed my arms and refused to engage her. This only mader her angrier. She screamed, shouted, and tried to tip the table, which didn’t work, before storming off.

After the sale wound down, I went home reluctantly. I planned to grab some things and go, but to my surprise, Auntie wasn’t there. It turned out she went back and admitted what she had done, and my mum kicked her out and told her not to come back.

We haven’t seen her for five years now and all have been happier for it.