I couldn’t help smiling at him when we were standing outside the church waiting to go in for my nephew’s christening. He was pacing up and down the pathway almost at a run in an attempt to keep warm. It was February and although it was cold outside the sun was shining and it seemed warmer outside than it did inside the church. People mingled and chatted, families were catching up with each others news and there were lots of polite greetings to people I had never seen before and am unlikely to see again.
It was the hat that caught everyone’s attention, a Trilby with a black and white tartan style pattern on it. His blonde hair curled around the edges and a slight fringe peeped out from the side. He wore a black three-piece suit with a white shirt and a burgundy tie. He insisted the tie should not to be tucked inside his waistcoat but its full length should be displayed outside of the jacket. Even his shoes had been selected carefully and, tied neatly on his feet, were a pair of black trainers with a white base.
“He looks like he should be in Madness.” My sister had made the comment to me as we walked through the church gate together and she caught sight of him. She was right, he did look like a lost band member. Many other guests had arrived in jeans, or trousers with smart jumpers on but he didn’t seem phased at all by their choices, or that he was overdressed.
“You look very smart.” My Auntie said to him.
“I know.” Was his brief reply as he whizzed past her trying to fit in another circuit of the churchyard before we all entered the church and sat down.
I was sitting next to him, I was slightly concerned because he had a reputation for misbehaving at events that involved sitting and listening for long periods of time. He had removed his hat as he entered the church and placed it carefully next to him on the pew. The service began once everyone was settled and quiet and I glanced round at him wondering whether he was still there because he was so quiet. He looked at me and with his lips firmly closed he gave a cheeky smile . His blue eyes glowed with determination and his fingers twitched in his lap, he was desperately fighting his need to move. I smiled at him before looking up and concentrating on the service.
It wasn’t long before the first hymn and I could sense the relief next to me when we were asked to stand and sing. He held the book proudly in front of him in both hands and glanced down at the page. I noticed he had the wrong page open and offered to help find the right hymn but he refused. The song started and whilst I mumbled the words out shyly a voice boomed out next to me. He sang with enthusiasm but not necessarily in time with the music and I’ve never known a hymn to contain so many “laaa’s” and “aaaaahhhh’s” and occasionally some “ooooo’s” as well. People glanced round and smiled in his direction but he was totally unaware of them, he was enjoying his singing.
Once the song had finished and we all sat down again I noticed that his feet had started to shuffle a little bit. There were prayers to be said and readings as well so I just hoped he would last to the end of the service. The prayers were read and the congregation joined together to say ‘Amen’ yet he seemed to wait for the silence to fall before saying his ‘Amen’ loudly. I relaxed, I couldn’t help but smile and he didn’t seem to be bothering anyone. He had been known to scream and try to run up and down the aisles or bounce the cushions on the floor, so today’s behaviour was very tame.
As the service progressed and we watched my nephew get christened I could sense his impatience and I started to hope the service would finish soon. He now sat on a cushion on the floor. He sang louder and louder and every ‘Amen’ was said with a huge grin on his face but still long after everyone else.
At the end of the service, he climbed back up onto the pew and sat with me whilst we waited to leave. The vicar approached me.
“He is a credit to his generation” he said. I looked round at my 5 year old son, I may have known him all his life but he was growing up and suddenly I saw him through new eyes.