Fruit of the Loom Jesus

My kids were singing Christmas songs the other night-that's the great thing about kids-if they like a holiday, they'll celebrate it, in their own small way, all year round.

Rudolph came in to the medley-always a great favorite, I think, because kids identify so easily with his sense of feeling left out by his paler-nosed pals-and there was "Deck the Halls" and "You Better Watch Out," as they call it.

When they turned to "Silent Night," whose words are a little more difficult, I was reminded of the hilariously fractured versions of it and other such carols that little children have come up with over the years.

Like "Round John Virgin," for example, that shadowy figure who appears in the song right next to Mother and Child. Who do the kids imagine him to be, anyway? A stand-in for Joseph, perhaps, who was still out canvassing the area for Vacancy signs?

Pondering this issue, I began listening more closely to the children I know as they recited their prayers, and recalling too all the stories I'd heard over the years about how kids distort them.

There's Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, of course, the three sisters who, we pray, will follow us all the days of our lives.

And then there are those jolly friars from the Hail Mary, always in need of a special mention to God: "Blessed are the monks in swimming," certain children have said, instead of "Blessed art thou amongst women." They see them as close pals of Mary with whom they share an interest in water sports, maybe.

This one section of the prayer is especially conducive to distortions it seems, because right after the monks have been swimming, some kids have gone on to say "and blessed is the Fruit of the Loom Jesus," an evocation of some little-known aspect of his early life, they must figure, when he did some promotional work in the underwear industry.

But the daily devotion I seem to hear most often twisted up is the Lord's Prayer. Kids get off on the wrong foot with this one all the time:

"Our Father who aren't in Heaven," one says. "Harold be thy name..."

Or as a four-year-old of my acquaintance explained, "It's 'hollered be thy name.' That means you say it REAL LOUD," she informed me confidently, before taking another cheek-smearing bite of her peanut butter sandwich.

My own child came up with a real doozy from the Lord's Prayer.

She was reciting it in a grave and pious tones for us at dinner one night, and had made her way without mishap past the first couple of verses. But then came the downfall:

"Thy kingdom come, I will be dumb," she said with a sweet and serious face, "on Earth as it is in Heaven."

Children, it appears, seem to accept the logic of their distortions with entirely untroubled minds. To them the prayers make all kinds of sense and there's nothing incongruent or laughable about a single phrase of them.

If this is so, one can only guess what kind of general impression they have of both God and His Holy Saints.

Here is a pantheon populated by chubby male celibates and recreation-minded monks that flit around the throne; an infant Savior wearing Fruit-of-the-Looms in the manger; and dominating it all, a God named Harold, a hard-of-hearing old fellow to whom you have to shout things, who either is or isn't in Heaven, depending, maybe, on who wants to know. He prefers you to stay dumb if you possibly can, and ask you to promise him as much while addressing him in prayer.

It makes sense to the wee folk, though. With a sweet and uncomplicated readiness, they accept both Him and His puzzling nature.

And I guess they're right to do so.

Since He accepts both us and ours.


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