Last Friday, Carly showed up for Grammy Day wearing penguin-printed fleece jammy pants and a matching long-sleeved soft knit aqua shirt.
“Well, Carly, you look comfortable already,” I told her. She and her brother Jameson always change into jammies as soon as they can drop their overnight bags. They each have a couple of pairs waiting for them in the chest between the two twin beds in the guest room.
“Today was Pajama Day at pre-school,” Vicky, my daughter-in-law, explained.
“Well, I do love those little penguins,” I said, wondering silently if I bought those pajamas and didn’t remember.
“I’m going to change,” Carly said, heading for the bedroom.
She came back wearing a pink princess set—the tee said “Princess” in glittery cursive. Jameson followed in his favorite pair, a very tight basketball-print knit. They’re two sizes too small but he makes me promise not to send them to the thrift store just yet.
Grammy Day—mostly night—was as much or more fun than usual and we were all worn out by their bedtime. When I stepped back into the room for prayers just fifteen minutes after we raised the covers, they were both snoring. Jameson slept until 7 a.m. and Carly emerged from the bedroom about fifteen minutes later. We cuddled on the couch until they both decided they were hungry.
Four blueberry waffles and four slices of bacon later, Jameson said to Carly, “Come on, Sissy, let’s go get our clothes on and then we’ll go downstairs and play Nerf basketball.”
“Okay,” Carly said, making a run down the hall, “But I have to go to the bathroom first.”
Jameson turned around as he was leaving the den.
“Grammy, I brought my How to Train Your Dragon pajamas. I think I’ll wear those today. I really don’t feel like wearing jeans.” I knew I bought those pajamas. That was the pair I had hoped would replace the too-small ones.
“Fine with me,” I said. “We’re not going anywhere. Mom and Dad are picking you up at ten.”
“Want to play basketball with us?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “You get dressed and I’ll finish up these dishes.”
“Dwammy,” I heard from the bedroom, “Jameson is…”
I couldn’t hear the rest. I walked down the hall drying my hands.
“What’s the matter, Carly?” I asked.
She pointed at Jameson pulling on his fleece pants. “Well, Dwammy, Jameson is trying to wear his pajamas today.”
“It’s okay, Carly. I already told him he can wear them.”
“But, Dwammy, he’s just trying to have Pajama Day.”
“Well, he didn’t get to have Pajama Day like you did yesterday. If you want to wear your pajamas again today, you can,” I said.
“I don’t want to wear my pajamas,” she said.
“Okay, then just put your jeans on. Jameson can just have his own Pajama Day.”
I was almost back to the kitchen when she called me again.
“Dwammy, could you come in here?”
At the door of the bedroom, I asked, “What is it?”
She leaned her back against the bed, twisted her hands behind her back, and stared straight up into my face.
“Dwammy, yesterday was Pajama Day and today is not. Jameson is just trying to have Pajama Day today.”
“Yeah, well, I think we covered that, Sweetie. But it really won’t bother you for him to wear his pajamas, will it?”
“Dwammy,” she whispered, “I don’t want anybody to have Pajama Day today.”
“Well, Carly Rose, I just don’t think you get to decide that,” I said. “How about Grammy helps you get those jeans on?”
She laughed while we dressed her in a pink tee and jeans with ruffles on the legs.
Yesterday, the Supremes (those of the Court) decided, by a count of 8 to 1, that it’s okay for Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church to have their Pajama Day, ugly as their pajamas may be. They get to exercise their freedom of speech, even when that speech is so unpopular that most of us believe it to be vile and ungodly and wrong.
These Very Ugly Pajamas belonging to Westboro do matter to us. They cause pain. We parents have no trouble imagining a trip to a cemetery behind a hearse, our peripheral vision catching signs held high proclaiming that God is glad our child died.
This big freedom that we cherish calls us to care for those hurt by such a vile expression. In Tucson lately, a troubled young man took innocent lives and seriously wounded others. When the funerals began, Phelps and Westboro Baptist assembled their signs.
A twenty-year-old college student launched a counter-balance to Westboro’s protest. Chelsea Cohen started an action called The Angel Action. Mourners and friends of the deceased wore 8 by 10-foot angel wings to shield the families from the painful demonstrations. Donations from local businesses and residents paid for the materials to construct the wings. Cohen made it clear that this was no counter protest, that it was a show of love and support for the families of victims.
I’m okay with it because some day someone might say to Carly and Jameson, about something much more important than pajamas or penguins or dinosaurs, “Well, it’s not just that I don’t want it for myself—I don’t want anyone else to have it, either.”
On another day, when someone hurts Jameson or Carly by using this protected freedom of expression, I will trust the world to show up, much as Chelsea Cohen and her friends did, to shield them from the pain.
I always learn something from those grandkids.