The thing about Daniel is that he just keeps asking questions. Mostly I refer him to Josh, whose mind works in a similar way. Mine doesn’t seem to work at all any more, so that’s why I keep Josh around. Josh was out the other night and I got ‘Mummy, do you think that Heaven is a real place? Or is it, like, a feeling?’ ‘What about Hell?’ Well, theologians have been arguing those ones ever since there have been theologians, so I think I can be excused for looking a bit blank and pretending to have a mouthful.
Daniel does seem to save his real question marathons for his Daddy, probably partly because over the years he’s realised it’s a bit futile expecting anything concrete from me, but more because he and Josh have common interests. At the moment the shared passion is the Lord of the Rings. And still a bit of Star Wars in the background. So Daniel’s side of the conversation yesterday as we all drove into Hamilton went something like this: ‘If Star Wars was real, would the Force work on Earth? Who do you think is the scariest character in the Lord of the Rings? And the second scariest? Which would you least like to be snuck up on out of the Witch King, Shelob or the Mouth of Sauron? What would be the scariest part of the Silmarillion if it was a movie made by Peter Jackson?’ As you can see, these are all rather special interest type enquiries and the rest of us get kind of left behind. It works for me; Josh and I have a sort of unspoken arrangement in which we play to our strengths. He fields the technical questions and I’m in charge of dealing with the ‘Can I have another biscuit?’ and ‘Why is Cassie jumping on the trampoline with no clothes on again?’ variety. It seems to me that I get the better end of this bargain. Josh’s answers frequently have to incorporate literature, astronomy, theology, physics and an advanced knowledge of fantasy, science fiction and popular culture – often in the same discussion – whereas I have three answers to choose from which cover any possible situation: ‘no’, ‘I don’t know’, and ‘because I said so’.
I’m not sure that school is helping much because he seems to get in the car to come home every day with a whole new crop of questions bursting out of him (as opposed to answers of which, like me, he has only three: ‘boring’, ‘nothing’, and ‘no one’). A while ago he buckled up and said, ‘Mummy, would you want to be alive at the end of the world?’ I’m beginning to wonder whether whatever curriculum they’re teaching these days isn’t quite meeting his requirements.
When Daniel was two and a half he was taken to an Easter Sunday church service which he spent colouring in and playing with little cars and apparently paying no attention at all to anything else. Later my mother picked him up and as they drove along Daniel asked her in his matter-of-fact way, ‘Granny, you’re very old. Have you risen again yet?’
It’s good to know that I’m not the only one to be rendered speechless on occasion by the big questions.