Short rules to perfection

Andy, five years old, is standing on his chair at the dinner table and using his fork to make the sign of the cross. Having coated his spaghetti with grated cheese until it is a lovely paste, he is now draping a strand over his ear. From where I sit, I can see piles of junk mail on the radiator and peeling linoleum in the kitchen. Every unoccupied chair has a pile of books on it—here are books on prayer, here are books on polar exploration, here is Star Wars, Pokémon and Asterix. The mantelpiece has an icon of Elijah with a yo-yo in front of it. At the foot of the stairs there is a Buddhist scroll with a smudged handprint next to it. Wherever my gaze travels, I see something untidy. There are moments when it seems that everything is crumbling and the daily work of shoring it all up is more than I can hope to do. The mystery is that other people seem to manage these things so well.


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