As I mentioned, we went to church for the first time in over a year last Sunday.
The children pointed at the stained glass windows in recognition and elatedly remarked,
"Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus!"
[They know all about Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus because we routinely pass a ceramic, household Garden Mary forever praying over the sad state of the zoysia and, at Christmas time, there is a giant, plastic, light-up creche two doors down.]
The Mayor, my most earnest child, concentrated fervently throughout the mass, trying with all his soul to understand the meaning of the service.
As usual, he asked a lot of questions.
[Which would be less of an issue if he didn't speak in ALL CAPS.]
"WHO'S THE GUY IN THE ROBE?" he yelled.
[That would be the Priest.]
"WHAT ARE THOSE KIDS DOING UP THERE ON STAGE?"
"WHAT IS THE PRIEST HOLDING UP AND BREAKING?"
[Bread. The body of Christ.]
"WHAT? HIS BODY? WELL... I'M HUNGRY."
During a particularly quiet moment, when the parish was deep in silent prayer, a look of realization and then alarm, spread across The Mayor's face.
He turned to us, his eye as wide as saucers.
"DID JESUS DIE?!!!?!" he asked, incredulous.
The Rooster looked concerned.
"JESUS DIED?!! she cried.
All the parishioners turned in their seats to face us.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As I mentioned, we went to church for the first time in over a year last Sunday.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Mayor and The Rooster, under the influence of peer pressure from their short and loud, southern, church going, tiny friends, came home this week and complained that their father and I actively deny them the experience of going to church.
"You NEVER take us to church," they whined. "We want to go to church."
[Church of the Zoo no longer counts, apparently.]
So, okay fine. We'll go to church.
The Mayor went on to insist that he had to have dress clothes just like those his father wears to work in order attend.
He hounded me about this every day this week until I took him to Macy's and set him free with my credit card.
Let us pray.
At the church mass, there was a whole lot of talk about Jeremiah.
[Not the one who was a bullfrog.]
The Priest read something from the Bible...
"Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD."
[I pity the fool who misleads my flock!]
"Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away."
[The well known Ovine Diaspora.]
"You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds."
[Serious time out.]
"I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply."
[Oooh! Baby lambs!]
"I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD."
The Mayor furrowed his brow in all earnestness, concentrating on the words, determined to follow their meaning.
Finally, he leaned over to his Father and said,
"Why is he talking so much about people who own sheep?"
The Priest gave K a look of concern because my poor husband was suddenly hunched over with his shoulders shuddering violently and he appeared to be inconsolably sobbing into his hands.
Friday, July 17, 2009
"Who is the pregnant woman?" I asked, thinking she looked vaguely familiar.
"See the boy in the Spiderman shorts?" she said.
He was a young, African American child of about three.
I admit, I had noticed him but only because in forty one years of summer visits, I had never seen a person of color at this particular swimming pool.
"Yes, I see him," I said.
"That's Bob," she told me. "He's her son and now she's pregnant with her second child."
"Is Bob's father here?" I asked looking around.
"No one knows who Bob's father is, " she confided. "No one knows who the father of the baby she's about to have is either... or even if the two children will have the same father."
My cousins or their friends always catch me up on the local gossip during my two visits a year to my Granny's rural, Virginian community.
Throughout my life, all the stories they consider most scandalous have reached me in these hushed whispers.
Everyone's secrets are known and shared, passed along at covered dish suppers at the church and beside the pool on the Fourth of July.
Eventually, they get tired of talking about any given scandal and shift into a state of acceptance, but there is a long, crowded trail of whispered words lining the path to that destination.
"Bob is a wonderful child," she said, "but the truth is that he is going to change things around here."
My faced asked her to say more.
"More and more, people are coming from farther and farther across the county to join this pool. It's gotten so I don't know everyone that swims here any more."
She looked wistful for a moment, then went on.
"There's never been a black person that belonged to this pool. It's a private, community pool for our friends. While we can't legally keep anyone from joining, there's been a long standing respect for the fact that we pulled together and built this pool for ourselves. We welcome any other community to pull together and build their own pool too."
I understood that she expected me to interpret what she said in a particular way.
I felt awkward and shifted from foot to foot.
"Now black people are going to see Bob up here and they're going to ask to join and we're going to have to let them."
She paused again and then shrugged.
"Bob is a sign of the times, I suppose. Things are changing and these are the times we live in."
Sunday, July 12, 2009
"Wasn't she somehow involved with that man whose wife died in the trailer when that tree fell on it?" I asked gesturing discreetly at a pregnant woman in a pool chair.
She pulled me aside in confidence.
"Well actually," she said, "that was her sister."
I was at the community pool in my Granny's small, rural community and though I've been swimming there on summer vacations since I can remember, keeping everyone's life story straight is difficult since I am just an occasional interloper from the city.
"See that shirtless boy over there in the camouflage shorts and bare feet?" she asked me. "He's the one. He was that baby."
She gave me a knowing look.
In my grandmother's tiny Virgina hamlet, there was an accident about nine years ago.
During a severe thunderstorm, a tree fell on a trailer home and killed the mother of a newborn baby boy.
The child was protected and saved by his mother's body, though it took hours to extract him.
This is one story that I have never forgotten as I find it haunts me still.
I have often thought about the boy's father and wondered what it must have cost him to live through the combined death and survival.
I have also thought about the boy and wondered about growing up in the shadow of this strange sacrifice.
My confidant brought my wandering attention back to her story.
She pointed at the pregnant woman that I had asked initially asked about.
"Now her sister," she said, "you might have seen her. She was here earlier in the pink halter top?"
"Well she's married to the father now and that little girl in the pink bikini is their daughter."
The little girl in the pink bikini struck me as impossibly beautiful and I worried again about the father, only this time not for his passed, but for his future heartache.
What will it be like to be the father of a girl that pretty when she comes of age?
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I'm always elated when I pull off the final, little, state highway and follow the unmarked country lanes that weave their way through the Virginia farmland to my Granny's house.
I fill my lungs in anticipation thinking that I'm almost there.
It was no different as I drove in for the Fourth of July holiday last weekend.
I passed flowering rows of tobacco, faded red barns and endless, crooked fence posts.
Shafts of sunlight filtered down through the hardwood trees making the pavement sparkle.
Out of nowhere, a brilliantly colored hummingbird appeared.
The hummingbird was the most extraordinary shades of royal blue and aqua marine, really quite breathtaking.
I admired his beauty and watched the beautiful arc of his flight and then, understanding his fate, suddenly sucked in my breath.
I looked in my rear view mirror and there, in the middle of the road, was a royal blue and aqua pancake.
Welcome to the countryside!
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
"I want to go home!!!" she wails.It doesn't matter.
We can be at THE MOST FUN PLACE IN THE WORLDVIEW OF ALL THREE YEAR OLDS and if things don't go her way, we hear it...
"I want to go home!"[Accompanied by a great and tragic wailing.]
Lately she's started saying it when we're at home.
[Um. Hello? Roo? Look around, Sweetness. We ARE home.]
But our actual location doesn't seem to matter.
Tonight, K felt a little sorry for her sad, little, worn-out self and he picked her up.
She smiled and snuggled her face into his neck.
"Home," she said.