My four-year-old is at his first-ever week of Vacation Bible School (VBS). It’s unlike anything he’s ever seen before — a huge crowd of enthusiastic kids with loud, catchy music and a church that’s decked out in medieval castle-themed decor. There are ‘stone’ walls, turrets, a drawbridge, and leaders wearing crowns and robes. He is part of the littlest group, the “Pips,” who have never been to VBS before. On Monday, he sat stiffly in the pew, looking around with an expression of wonder mixed with skepticism. By Tuesday, the Pips were dancing and leaping for joy in the sanctuary’s main aisle when the theme song came on.
It brings back memories of the VBS I attended as a kid. It was the highlight of my summer, except that I loved it for all the wrong reasons: the incredible prizes we got on a daily basis, the unlimited supply of decadent sugar cookies, and the boys. I was between the ages of 9 and 12 during those summers, just at the age to start noticing. One real cutie showed up the year that my cousin Emily went with me. He was a dashing fourteen-year-old (!!!) named Jason who seemed so mature to us. “Tall, dark, and handsome” was how we described him as we lay whispering in bed at night, our bodies electric with anticipation for VBS in the morning. Our plan was for Emily to marry Jason someday because we were convince they were meant for each other. Funny, isn’t it, how those things never turn out as anticipated at age eleven?!
Aunt Glad was in charge and she was the oldest, sweetest lady I’d ever met. We children could do no wrong in her eyes. Every morning she taught us a Bible verse and, if we memorized it correctly, we received a fantastic prize — books, board games, stationery, once a porcelain doll that I named Tabitha. I remember her teaching us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.” I went home and proudly recited it to my parents, who pointed out that I was missing an entire line. “It’s actually ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’,” my father pointed out. I informed Aunt Glad of her error the next morning and received a passionate embrace: “Oh, I just didn’t want to make it too challenging for all you dearies!” she exclaimed.
The cherry on the cake was the smutty Danielle Steele novels that Uncle Gord, our VBS chauffeur, always had stashed under the driver’s seat. Believe me, I’d never read anything like that before, so I made sure to claim the seat directly behind his and hunch over to read the book secretly between my feet. I read fast, knowing I only had five days to absorb as much of it as possible. I’m sure Aunt Glad would have been horrified to know what sort of images filled my mind while traveling to and from VBS, but then, I figured, what better place to go to offset the ‘bad’ influence of fictitious horny adults?
My little boy loves his VBS for entirely different (and significantly more wholesome) reasons. He’s enamoured with the knightly theme and the queen they met: “Her name is Queen Jessica and she’s real!” he told me. In the afternoons, when we get home, I hear snippets of songs under his breath. “Do you sing and dance at VBS?” I asked him. “No, I only do that at home.” Later I caught him practicing his “kick dance” in the kitchen, feet kicking straight in front at rapid speed — “so that I can do it at VBS,” he informed me. He’s caught the VBS bug, I just know it.