The girls’ preschool was downtown. I always told myself that it was great because if anything happened it would be so easy to get to them, what with it being so close. The irony being, for as close as it was, getting there on time for pick up was rarely easy.
The drive to the school was always a non-stop thread of chatter—things they saw through the window, questions they had about what I was going to do while they were at school, what a song lyric on the radio meant. A few blocks from the school they would get quiet. There was a church on a corner that bore a larger-than-life Jesus Christ on the cross. We have never been to church with the girls other than for funerals, weddings, and baptisms. One morning they asked me what the man on the building was there for. I stammered my way through an explanation, such as I could remember and edit appropriately for their age.
“Mom, don’t you think he’s cold? Don’t you think that Big Jesus is freezing in this frosty morning air?” Finley asked.
I winced. “Probably, honey, but soon the sun will move this way and be shining on him.” She watched, tracing his form with her finger on the window.
“Hey, Big Jesus. Don’t worry, I know you are in your underwear and probably embarrassed about your nipples, but the sun is coming soon. Have a great day Big Jesus. I’ll see you on my way home.”
I felt a little nervous. I didn’t have the literacy of the bible to really explain things to her, nor did I have the integrity of faith to feel like it would be appropriate to go beyond explaining that there are several schools of thought and many religions.
“But I can still talk to Big Jesus, right?” she asked very seriously.
“Of course you can,” I said.
And she did, we all did. Even I did alone in the car; it seemed wrong to be stopped at the intersection without saying something. I remember getting a piece of artwork Finley had made at school. The teacher giggled, “She was going on and on about how she loves the big Cheez-Its.” I smiled and nodded, not knowing what she meant. As I walked to the car I saw that a teacher had written next to Fin’s, “I luv big cheezus” an explanation: “I love big Cheez-Its.”
Night before last we were driving to Karate and the girls saw we were getting close. “Oooh, Finley, we can say hi to Big Jesus!”
She sat up, craning her neck forward, and then she gasped. The building had a Genie Lift and all sorts of plastic over where he had been.
“Mom, what does that mean? Are they taking Big Jesus away? Will that disappear all the Jesuses?” Finley wondered.
“No, it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t here. Big Jesus may not be there, but there is a Jesus spirit for people.” Briar explained.
“So will he be gone from here?” Fin pressed.
“Well, I don’t know. I just know you can’t take a symbol away and get rid of the thinking. I mean you can take stuff I love away, but I still love it. Statues are the reminders, not the thing.”
I sat still in the driver’s seat. Chest filled up with pride and my heart bursting.
“Yeah, Fin, that Big Jesus, and anything we believe in or love doesn’t have to do with a building, it has to do with us.” Avery chimed in confidently.
We waved to Big Jesus and told him it would be ok, we’ll still say hi and wish him a good day, even if we can’t see him when that plastic is gone.