There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “Distance lends enchantment to the view.” I think that’s probably true, but, still, there are days I’d love to go back – back to childhood summers, dinner around our family table, and Sunday mornings at our house. I honestly think they were as great as I recall.
Our summers at home were fun: Kay, indoors, practicing her homemaking skills and I, outdoors, locating the perfect tree to climb. We had a real playhouse, a swingset and a bicycle, not to mention a forest of Carolina black pines behind our backyard.
One of our favorite indoor pasttimes was constructing a tent in the kitchen (a quilt pulled tight over chair backs and held by heavy books.) We’d take pimento cheese sandwiches inside and watch “I Love Lucy” on the 19″ black and white tv my dad won at the local car dealership. Pimento cheese never tasted as good, or Lucy’s antics seem as comical.
Because we had a very strict upbringing and were not exposed to the worldly vices of that day, one summer afternoon Kay and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We agreed to say all of the bad words we knew. We walked outdoors to our dad’s workshed, went inside, closed and locked the door, and proceeded to say the bad words. There were two. It was so strange hearing them in our voices. A few minutes later, we repented fervently and left the shed. Our conscience plagued us for a long time over that one.
My mom cooked dinner every night (and breakfast every morning.) We all sat at the table, together, at the same time and everyone shared what had happened at work or school. Kay always told her stories so well (aiding and abetting where necessary) that I usually deferred to her. Even as a child I remember looking forward to supper because that’s when everyone just talked together. That is still one of my favorite things.
Sunday mornings were extremely predictable. My dad sang hymns along with the television singers, Kay dressed early and practiced her piano, and my mom took a few extra moments to dress. Each week she looked more beautiful. We’d load into the car, Kay and I in patent leather shoes (she with matching purse,) and head for my grandpa’s church. My grandmother taught our Sunday School class for several years and we loved that. At one point, they purchased an easel board complete with individual Bible characters made of felt that stuck onto the board, allowing the teacher to illustrate stories and people more colorfully. We thought we’d moved into the ranks of the high church.
At the bell we’d run – ah, walk – to the sanctuary for the worship service. In my mind’s eye I can see every detail: Mrs. Payne sitting at the piano with her pocketbook at her feet, my grandmother sitting on the inside row, second pew, and my grandfather making sure he shook every hand in the congregation before he mounted the pulpit. Following announcements and prayer requests we’d grab a hymnal from the pew in front of us and turn the worn pages to the familiar pieces we sang over and over. After identifying the song, some of us would smugly close the book again just to emphasize the fact that we knew the words. Oh, the crazy things we did….
As a child, I did not realize that the hymns we sang found lodging deep inside the core of who I am. I did not realize that the theology contained in the great songs of the church would strengthen and uphold me years later when, as Job, the thing I most feared came upon me. I did not know that the poetry and rhyme of the ancient writers would help shape the person I am or who I will yet become.
Now, when I hear an old familiar lyric, it is almost like riding up the road, over the railroad tracks, past the small white mission, and left at the country store. The driveway goes uphill – to the big oak tree where Larry Perkins used to tease me and say that he was my boyfriend – to the little church that was air-conditioned before any of our homes or cars – to the graveyard where my grandfather waits for his bright tomorrow.
While the hymns can’t transport me back to those days, their rhythmic words on a page help define my faith. They ignite my memory. They lend perspective to grim days. They woo me back to my first love.
So, on a given day, I’d go back if I could; not to change anything much, but just to live it all again. It was so simple and so pure. Well, except for that shed thing.
Have a blessed November…Janet