By John De Gano
I am in my second childhood.
That’s what my fellow staff members initially thought this summer when I began tearing up newspapers and dipping them in watered down glue before affixing them to the outside of a plastic bag-covered coffee can.
“What are you doing?” They would ask suspiciously as they passed the kitchen where I sat next to the sink, industriously plying my artistic skills.
“I’m doing papier mache,” I responded matter-of-factly.
“Papier mache?” They would each repeat absently, their minds clearly harkening back to early childhood where they recalled a faint memory of sticky fingers and questionable elementary school art projects.
A few dared ask the obvious follow up question, “Why?” But most just smiled and went on to their offices pausing briefly at the phone trying to decide if they should call Cheryl, the paramedics or the police.
This same scenario went on for days.
“Aren’t you through yet?”
“No. My first attempt was a failure. I tore it when trying to release it from its coffee can armature. I’m trying it again but this time with double the insulation.”
“What are you going to do with it when you finish?”
I’m practicing my skills. Or rather, I’m re-teaching myself how to papier mache. When I finish with this, I’m going to ask the teens to help me make something four times this size. I just don’t want to scare them off right away by revealing too much of my plan too soon.”
Again, there was dubious pause and I felt this time for sure I’d soon be hearing the wail of sirens as the requested paramedics sped into the parking lot.
Jesus must have experienced the same thing when he left his cushy, and presumably lucrative, carpentry gig and began his itinerant street preaching at the age of 30.
“Second childhood, for sure.” His neighbors must have communally diagnosed while standing by the public well or main gate of Nazareth. “What must Mary be thinking? Poor mother!”
It first came to a head when Jesus was debating the local Pharisees and scribes while at a dinner party. Some of the guests began to get worried that the religious leaders might have Jesus thrown in jail and so they sent word to Mary to come get her son before something bad happened.
Mary dropped everything and, escorted by family and friends, stood without while a messenger went in to tell Jesus to come home.
Jesus, obviously perturbed at the tattle tale-action of the ‘helpful’ guests, announced to those in the room, “Who are my mother? My brothers? My sisters?” Then he clarified this sudden outburst, adding that they are ‘all those who do the will of God.”
This event, recorded in Matthew 12:48-50, ends before we learn if Jesus stayed put or dutifully followed his mother home (in keeping with, say, the Fifth Commandment).
We can presume that he left, because when an anxious Joseph and Mary found him in the Jerusalem Temple, after ‘losing him’ on a trip to the big city, he obeyed their wishes… after questioning their heartfelt concern…
“Where else should I be,” he inquired, “but in my Father’s house?”
Grounded. At least until he turned 30.
Maybe, I ruminated, second childhoods aren’t as bad as we make them out to be.
I could take comfort in the fact that whatever happened next, I would be in good company.
With just a month to go, I had ‘mastered’ papier mache, tried a new sculpturing technique (at least for me) called “paper clay,” which would give me needed sculpting capability and then I would build a “lucigraph” (an opaque projector for enlarging images) using a mirror, a light source and a recycled cardboard box.
And then I would begin my final stage…
But first, I would need to shut the open window.
The approaching siren sounds make it hard to concentrate!
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.