Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Remember a Rock Church

Last week I traveled with Trey to his grandfather's funeral. Britton and I sat in the back just in case we needed to make a quick exit, after all this was his first funeral. As the service began I was unexpectedly blindsided by memory and emotion - not of the one whose life we were honoring, I barely knew him - but by my own childhood recollections. As the first hymn started I was transported to a place I haven't thought much about in years. It was the song the congregation was singing in perfect harmonious acapella that did it. The words in the hymnal were foreign but once the voices mixed together, each one finding it's proper place on the scale of notes (like Church of Christ members can do so beautifully and admirably), familiarity rushed over me. "I know this song. I know it well. I know this song in the very core of my being. I remember the words, the melody. I remember it. I remember it all..."

I remember a one-room rock church in Nolan, TX. I remember, in the winter, how chilly it was and the strong odor of gas from the tiny furnace used for warmth. I remember how, in the summer, it was so stuffy and hot, just sweltering. I remember its tiny congregation of about 10 beloved souls (mostly family members) and how, when my sisters and I would visit with my dad, our presence broke their yearly high attendance record. I remember the single cup representing the blood of Christ being passed from one member to the next. I remember my pride and eagerness as I placed my folded dollar into the offering plate.

I remember my Uncle Howard leading the music. I remember his voice scratching out a scale to find the right starting note. I remember how, half-way through the first verse, he'd realize we were in the wrong octave and we'd have to start over again. And, I remember how easily he would loose his place in the verse resulting in our starting the song over again. I remember my sisters and I giggling quietly and rolling our eyes. I remember the way he'd mix sugar into his tea and implore us to look at the "snowflakes". I remember so well the guessing game he'd play with his birthday: "I bet you can't guess what year I was born? I'll give you some was the same year the Titanic sank, Henry Ford put brass on the radiator, and Arizona and New Mexico became states." (The answer dear reader is 1912.)

I remember Uncle Oscar sitting on the pew behind me. I remember the crackle of a peppermint wrapper and the way he would pull it and smooth it until it was so thin and crisp it no longer resembled a candy wrapper. I remember how he would jokingly pinch us but it really did hurt - a lot.

I remember Aunt Ruby, his wife, sitting beside him. I remember her tender hugs and her soft whisper, "It sure is good to see you girls again." I remember the smell of sweet powder and how her plump wrinkled cheek felt so soft against mine.

I remember Pa, my grandfather, also seated on the pew behind me. I remember how, through the entire sermon, he always had a solemn expression and downcast eyes. I remember how very different this sullenness was compared to the humorous, jovial Pa I was used to. I remember thinking that something in him automatically switched off when we entered the doors of that tiny church. Yes, I remember Pa. He's been gone for over 10 years but he still visits me in my dreams...and it's so real.

I remember Gran sitting on the other side of Pa, dressed in her Sunday best ( perhaps something silky, in a soft floral pastel with a bow at the neck) as opposed to her standard denim skirt and button up blouse she wore on a daily basis to do all her cleaning and cooking and canning and gardening. I remember every grey hair immaculately in place, and of course, I remember her "ear screws" as she liked to call earrings. I remember her smelling like a delicate mixture of Caress soap and Ponds cold cream.

I remember my stepmother, Lynda, sitting down the pew from me. I remember her stylish and eclectic thrift sale combinations. I remember her voice, strong but slightly off key. I remember the bond we always felt with her and how she held all our relationships together with her open heart and hearty humor.

And all of these memories combined is what I hold of my dad, sitting beside me in his neatly starched western shirt with a monogram (MFE) on the pocket. I remember his steady voice carrying the melody Uncle Howard managed to slaughter despite all his innocent and well meaning attempts. I remember the clean smell of cologne flooding my nostrils and the safety I found in that scent.

Yes, I remember it all, even after all these years. I remember as if it is this very moment.

"When all of God's singers get home. When every heartache is gone. There'll be no place like home when all of God's singers get home."


Blogger Deb R said...

This is so beautifully written, Michelle. Very evocative.

9:24 PM  
Blogger sheela said...

michelle, this is beautiful. thank you for sharing these memories with us. you have such a gift with words.

2:10 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

morning, you just blessed me with so many memories of my own. it is funny how one thing so small, gives you such a beautiful gift. simply amazing.
thank you thank you thank you for the gift you have given me today!

happy thursday....

5:31 AM  
Blogger Frankie said...

What a beautiful collection of simple and complex memories. I love all of the unique details about your family members, each so elegant and real. It's amazing how a song can flood our senses with these images of our past. Wonderful Michelle. Thank you.

5:49 AM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

that was beautiful...

5:54 AM  
Blogger Bethany said...

Isn't it amazing how music do that for us? One verse even...can transport us back to our childhood; remind us of all the little things that mark that time. Your memories are beautiful! Thanks for sharing them with all of us!

7:25 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

Oh how I loved this post. It seems very timely with the holidays approaching. A nice celebratory memory on a day that usually is cloaked in sadness.

Thank you for sharing.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

On the wings of your delicate, lovely memories, I was transported back to East Sherman Baptist Church, where my Mano used to play with my fingers while singing "In the Sweet By and By." You are indeed gifted.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Glamorous Jo said...

Very well said - and made me think of my own childhood. Loved reading this!

8:38 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

sweet memories. Made me think of some of my own.

9:53 AM  
Blogger melba said...

Your writing is crisp and unpretentious. Sometimes when others write of pleasant childhood memories I get a little jealous and even annoyed when the author assumes everyone has had the same happy experiences - (my own baggage, I know). Thank you for sharing with such a fresh and lovely voice.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Kitty Kitty Peacock said...

Excellent, Michelle.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Karina said...

I LOVE THIS! I can picture it. It makes me wish I had been there.
It's a beautiful memory. Life really is simple and the important things are the small things. I like to pause, make life stand still for a moment just to fully appreciate it.

12:45 PM  
Blogger telfair said...

A beautiful picture and equally beautiful words & images to accompany...a joy to read.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Michelle Fry said...

I like all of the sensory detail in this, the sights sounds and smells. Amazing how they transport us isn't it?

6:32 PM  

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