Easter Sunday meant many things to many people. For most, it was the obvious religious significance. To the children of the NIMR senior staff, it meant church at the Mission Santa Barbara, and afterwards, an elegant brunch; followed later in the afternoon by the now Annual Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds of the Institute. However, for all the youngsters, the best and worst part of the day was church. The having to sit still and listen to the service. And worse still was having to be dressed up to boot was a trial for all of them.
Alexandria Morton loved to get dressed up in her Easter finery, and she was firmly convinced that her little sister loved it too, although Kit was really too young to have an opinion. Andrew Morton, on the other hand, hated it. He hated getting dressed in ‘fancy clothes’ and the four year old didn’t hesitate to let everyone know it. Even at four, he was verbal enough to let Chip and Matty Morton know that the jacket was stupid, and when his mother clipped the long tie onto the white shirt, he made a most unpleasant face, muttering, in a manner much like Matty had heard from Chip, “Don't like this stupid tie!”
His mother had to chew the insides of her mouth, as she knew the inflection and face from his father when he was forced to wear FDWs (formal dress whites).. "Andrew Morton, don’t you dare say things like that. You have to be dressed nicely. It’s Easter Sunday at church with everyone. And besides, Sean and RC will be dressed up as well.”
Drew, in his best stubborn voice, “Still stupid, Momma. I can’t get no good Easter eggs dressed like this!”
Patiently explaining things for the hundredth time to her son, “Drew, the Egg Hunt isn’t for you all, as much as it is for the other children there. You have had plenty here…” She nodded to three large Easter baskets on the Great Room table. “The Easter Bunny didn’t forget you. In fact, he remembered you quite well. Now stand still and stop fidgeting. The Egg Hunt is for all the children that the Admiral invites. You all are expected to give the others the best chance for the biggest prizes.”
He hung his head, "Yes, Momma. I’m sorry.”
Matty nodded, knowing in her heart that he meant what he said, but also knowing that at the earliest opportunity, his good intentions would slip away. To say that her son was ‘all boy’ was an understatement. She had made the decision to remain land-bound after Drew’s birth, taking a leadership position at the Institute Electronics Lab under Tony Rennalt, and not going on the boat except in extreme emergency. It had proven to be a very good decision, for as soon as the youngster was able, he was involved in more ‘activities’, at home and pre-school, than working parents could imagine, much less deal with while hundreds of miles away, and both Chip and Matty were glad that she had chosen to be home as their children grew.
Matty stood, and took her son’s hand. “Now remember, the three of you, we are going to be in church, so you have to behave yourselves.” The three children murmured, “Yes, Momma.” And they went out the door of the house, to meet their father in the van, Drew stuck his head behind his mother’s back as he walked down the steps, and stuck his tongue out at his sister. Chip caught the byplay between the two and simply smiled as they climbed into the van, the thin veneer of calm slowly cracking…
In the Mission Santa Barbara, the Senior Staff of the Nelson Institute took the first two pews, with the rest of the families and staff filling the church for the Easter Morning Mass. Unfortunately for all present, the elderly cleric saying the Mass was slow, droning and painfully boring in his homily. The officers in Dress Blues struggled to pay attention as did their spouses, and other family members.
In the front row, in between Harriman and Karen Nelson, sat their son, Sean. Next to Karen sat Lee Crane, his son Robert and his mother, Helen. Caitlin Davis, Karen’s daughter and unofficial babysitter for the Senior staff, sat behind them with the Mortons, having volunteered to help with the three children. In the Morton's row, Chip sat on the aisle, with Alex next to him, and Matty on the child’s other side. Next to Matty sat Drew, then Caitlin, with Kit in her lap. All of the children were struggling to be on their best behavior. Caitlin knew who would cave in first, and she watched, quietly, as Drew began his ‘attack’ on the unsuspecting victim. He twisted around in the pew, rested his head on his crossed arms, and stared at the people sitting behind them. Bored that he got no response, he turned around, and put his thumbs in his ears, wiggling the fingers of his hands in the air, and giggling at his joke. He looked over at RC, and saw he couldn’t get his attention.
Sean Nelson was another story. Sean turned around and saw Drew wiggling his fingers. He smiled slightly, then turned back to face the altar and the priest giving the rambling homily. Sean tried to sit and at least look like he was paying attention, but it was hard… The old priest just droned on and on, and repeating the same point at least three different times in three different ways. His mind was wandering until he heard a ‘thud’, and he turned.
Drew was grinning at him as he stamped on the kneeler. A look from Matty made him stop, but he still made a face at Sean, then sat back in the pew. Seconds later, he had turned around again, and stuck his tongue out at a boy two pews back, who giggled and grinned back at him. He turned back to the pew, grabbed the top of the one in front of him, and stood on the kneeler, and swung forward and backward, until Caitlin’s hand on his shoulder stopped him, and he sat down again.
He bowed his head, took the missalette, and ruffled the pages all the way from beginning to end. He did that twice, and became bored after the second time, put the book back in the holder on the pew. He sat back, folded his hands in front of him, and was quiet for several minutes. Then he turned around, and waved to the boy two pews back. The boy waved back at him, Drew smiled, and sat down. He stomped on the kneeler again, and Sean turned around again, staring at him. Drew stuck out his tongue, and then stuck his finger up his nose. Sean glared at him further, and surreptiously stuck the tip of his tongue quickly between his teeth, so that Drew saw it, and grinned. He sat back in the pew, and swung his feet back and forth faster and faster until he kicked the pew in front of him. Lee Crane slowly turned around, and gave the youngster a look. Drew smiled, and Lee turned his attention back to the altar, and shook his head. Drew shrugged, and started to pick at his teeth. Matty leaned over and said something into his ear, and he sat back in the pew, his arms behind him, his hands flat on the seat of the pew. He rocked his head from side to side, to some unheard rhythm. He was getting tired, so he looked to his right, and seeing Kit on Caitlin’s lap, leaned his head against Caitlin’s side, wrapping his arms around her arm. His hand snaked out from in between Caitlin’s arm and body, and reached Kit’s arm and tugged at it. Kit turned and gave him a look, as did Caitlin and he stopped, sliding his arm back to his own side, and stuffing it in his pocket. It came out with a large piece of candy, much to his delight. He carefully unwrapped it, examined it, held it so that Sean and Kit could see it, and popped it in his mouth. He chewed it slowly, swallowed it with great panache, and sat back and smiled, quite pleased with himself.
By then, it was time for Communion, and he sat back into the pew, pulled his legs up and sat Indian style, as the adults left the pew to take it and then returned. He was picking at his fingers, and sticking them up his nose, when his father came back into the pew, and in one swift movement, scooped the little boy up, into his arms, and then proceeded out the aisle and into the vestibule of the church.
“What do you have to say for yourself, little man? You
seemed to be having a grand old time there in church.” Chip was having a
difficult time keeping a straight face, for if the truth be told, he completely
understood Drew’s boredom with the service. It wasn’t geared for children to
begin with, and the priest who said the mass only exacerbated the situation by
being boring as well. He himself had had a hard time staying focused.
When Drew didn’t answer, he asked, “Well, Andrew, what
do you have to say?”
At this point, they were out of the church walking towards the portico, that extended off the church. Drew had his hands deep in his pockets, Chip had his cover under his arm, the white of the cover in stark contrast to the blue/black of the dress blue uniform.
“I dunno, Daddy. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sure you are… for now.” He looked at his son, who seemed to be a mirror copy of himself at that age, remembering Clarry and Joe’s gentle admonitions when he got into trouble, which, as he remembered, was quite frequent. Drew looked more sorry that he was caught, then sorry for the misdeeds. Chip stopped, and crouched down to his son’s level. “Listen, sport. I'll tell you a little secret if you promise not to tell Mommy, okay? I do understand how bored you were, but you know that church is a special place, and Easter in church is… well…”
“More specialier, Momma says….”
Chip chewed his cheek so hard, he thought it would bleed, fighting to surpress the smile that was fighting to be seen.
“I… uh… I’m sure Momma doesn’t put it just like that, but yes, more special. And you’re supposed to be a good boy in church.
“I am sorry, Daddy, but I don’t like that old priest… didja
know he smells ‘old’?”
Chip snorted, “Smells ‘old’, huh? And what does that mean? How can you tell?”
“Well...I went with Momma once to church here, just her an’ me an’
after we met that old priest, and he smells just like the inside of that old
building over there.”
He pointed to the entrance to the self guided tour of the Mission, “In that room
that shows the kitchen in the olden days… he smells ‘old’.”
“Okay, okay, so he smells old. That’s why you couldn’t stay still and behave?”
“No, Daddy, I just don’t like going to church.” He shrugged both small shoulders.
Chip stood, and looking down at him, said, “Well, someday when you're older, we’ll have to talk about that. But for now, just try harder to be good in church. Mommy and I will appreciate it.” He reached for the little boy’s hand, “Mass should be over, so let’s go get Mommy and the girls. I’ll bet you’re hungry for breakfast?”
“Yes, Daddy, real hungry!” he reached up and put his hand in his father’s. “Let’s go get Momma and the girls!”
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