Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teresa: Extra Large Pizza, With Ham

Teresa, my 8 year old daughter, is the only member of the family that has not yet been a subject for reflection. She has so much personality that it is hard to know where to start.

She was such a little baby in the beginning. I used to sing to her:Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Terees / So full of love and joy and peace. / Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Terees / You're my wonderful girl But the song (I don't know how) quickly changed into "Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, / YOU'RE ONLY THE SIZE OF AN EXTRA LARGE PIZZA!..."

She was my special buddy in her first two years. These were some difficult times for me, trying to deal with Lyme disease. Teresa brightened everything up. On Sundays I would go to the early morning Mass, and then Mommy and the three children would go to the later Mass, and Teresa would stay home with me and have "Daddy time." We would sit together in my chair and watch Mini-Bach and Mini-Mozart. I would read to her.

As soon as Teresa was old enough to express herself, she started to...express herself, all over the place. She was determined to make the whole house laugh, whatever it took. It was clear from the beginning that she would win the family prize for biggest Ham. But as she grew older, she began to display other qualities of delicacy and affection, thoughtfulness and interiority.

Teresa is funny and downright crazy, especially when we are all together. She is also bright and inquisitive, always asking questions. She is very affectionate and considerate. Daddy can always count on a hug from Teresa. She also has a sense of when I am not feeling well, and a desire to comfort me.

Teresa is the "worrier" among the kids. She is the one who wants to be sure the door is locked, and that no burglars will come. She is also meticulous, and still loves to draw pictures and give them as presents to Mommy and Daddy. She is outgoing and open hearted. She had never been shy, and is always ready to strike up a conversation with perfect strangers. Especially if they have a dog.

My daughter Teresa loves dogs. She really, really wants a dog. She is so good with other people's dogs, so friendly and natural and sympathetic. And she is responsible and attentive enough that she will soon be ready to take care of a dog on her own.

There is only one problem: Daddy is horribly allergic to dogs. I can't be around dogs for very long without getting sick. I can't even be around people who have been around dogs for very long. And so, alas, we can't get a dog. Teresa has everything but a real dog. She has mountains of stuffed dogs. She has ceramic dogs. She has battery operated toy dogs that bark and walk across the floor. She has dog calendars. She even plays "puppy" with Josefina. But no real dog.

Teresa accepts the circumstance. She doesn't pine for her own dog. Instead she shows a special interest and friendliness toward any dog that comes along on its owner's leash.

As I said, Teresa has her sensitive side. She is perhaps the most openly devout of the children. The year she was born, I had taught a course on "Modern Spirituality" that included a large section on St. Therese of Lisieux. I really "discovered" St. Therese that year, and Teresa was named primarily for her (and also for Mother Teresa, who is one of the special heavenly protectors of our family). Teresa talks about praying, and often asks things about God and our relationship with Him. I know it is something she thinks about in her little mind and ponders in her heart. I wonder what God has planned for her.

Then there's the silly side of Teresa. This is what we see so often. Teresa hamming it up. When she gets on one of her "rolls," she drags all the kids--including John Paul--into silly land. Teresa is often behind the schemes that end up with children romping around the house and whooping like drunken sailors. Daddy or Mommy eventually have to blow the whistle. Then she has her own little performances: silly words, silly songs, funny faces. She gets very goofy while playing games, starts fooling around and making jokes about everything, and ends up driving John Paul--who is a purist about games--into a frenzy. John Paul and Teresa are often bickering, but they are also often playing together. They are mad at each other at least once a day, and a case between them usually needs to be adjudicated by Judge Mommy or Judge Daddy. It's not always easy because they are both good lawyers and Teresa is a proficient whiner.

But I know that when they grow up they are going to be the best of friends.

Teresa seems still to have a special sympathy for Daddy. She is like a little grown-up in some ways, and I feel like she is already my friend; she is a good listener, and she tries to understand and share my pains and my aspirations. Sometimes I feel like I have a glimpse of what she is going to be like as an adult. I hope she will be around with me as I grow old.

Still, God has His plan, and above all I want her to have the loving environment and the space and the freedom to hear His call, whatever it may be.