Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Memories

There are special times that I always remember. Holidays are some of the most memorable. Particularly, when I was a child or in my younger and wilder days.

There are some that make me smile fondly and others that inspire a laugh even today.

I remember when I was nine. That year, the women in our family had taken up sowing. Okay, most of them could sow anyway, but this year it was extra special. All of them women and selected a pattern for a dress and had decided that they would make them for themselves and their daughters. We were going to be matching that year. The only difference would be the color. Even the material and the pattern would be the same.

I remember being very excited about getting a "grown up" dress. Even back in those days, little tomboy that I was, I still wanted to be like the adults and dress pretty.

My cousin Chris and her mom were going to wear blue checked gingham. My cousin Candy and her mom were wearing red checked gingham and I got to choose our color, my mom's and mine. It was green checked gingham. I always loved green.

The pattern called for long dresses, kind of old fashioned, with high waistes and white lace to outline the square neckline, puffy cap sleeves, the flounce of the dress and the ribbon that tied around our waistes.

I remember being so proud of the dress. My mom being the coordinating woman that she was, bought us both white patten leather shoes. Mine, of course, were flat heeled, rounded toe with a strap across the top of my foot like the tap shoes that dancers wear.

I had a white boat hat with a green ribbon around the crown, a little white patten leather purse and some white gloves. My mom was raised up when women wore white gloves with their Sunday going to Church clothes so she bought us both some matching gloves. I felt very grown up.

In a photo album there are pictures of me and my mom, my cousins and their moms, standing for mother/daughter pictures.

That Easter we were all going down to the country to go to church with my grandfather's youngest sister's family. They had eight children and some of them were close to our age and a few were quite a bit older and had children our age. We always enjoyed going down to their farm and riding horses or just running wild through the fields.

I remember the church that we went to. It was the kind you only see in movies. A little white clapboard building with arched windows down the sides and one main stained glass window behind the pulpit that would shine down brilliant colors upon the congregation during the morning services. The stained glass window depicted a scene of Jesus as a shephard, carrying a sheep under one arm, a staff in the other and several sheep at his feet; all in a pastoral scene with green fields, blue skies and a golden sun. Jesus was wearing a pristine white robe and a golden halo.

That's what I remember about church services that morning. I don't remember what the pastor said. I just remember being awed by the brilliant picture before me.

I remember when church let out, all the adults stood around and chatted on the front steps. Our entire family, every distant cousin, aunt, uncle and prodigal son had shown up for the services. The pastor stood on the front steps of the church and greeted us as we departed. He was extremely impressed with the large number of our family members. We had filled his pews that Sunday as they had not been filled in years. Probably filled his offering plates as well.

I remember my dad giving us each a quarter to drop in the offering plate. This was 197? (excuse me if I don't give my age away) and a quarter could buy a gallon of gas or a pack of cigarettes or a burger at McDonald's. I knew the worth of a quarter and I remember hoping that God thought it was enough from a kid of nine.

After a few minutes of "jawing", our family got together for group pictures. My grandfather was wearing a brown suit with cream colored slacks, a brown and cream vest, a cream colored shirt and a brown suit jacket with deep brown velvet on the lapels. His tie was a wide brown tie that matched his suit jacket and had a big square knot tied at his throat. He was wearing brown wing tipped shoes and a golden stick pin was in his tie.

My grandmother wore a beautiful cream colored dress with a high neck and long sleeves. There was lace at the cuffs and the neck. The dress ended at her knees and she wore cream colored heels. She also had on her necklace that she never took off. A tiny delicate gold cross.

They had a picture taken and I remember being able to see the cross in the picture. My grandparents were buried in those clothes, their "special" clothes that matched.

Later, we adjourned to my grandfather's sister's house for a smorgasboard of food. Ham, boiled eggs, potato salad, cole slaw, you name it, it was on the table. All of the women having brought a "dish" and trying to out do the others as they had done every year. My mom made "deviled eggs". It was her specialty and everyone always begged her to bring them. I always felt like a "big person" when I got to help her fix the eggs. Usually, I was relegated to sprinkling on the paprika or being the taste tester, but I didn't mind.

Even today, deviled eggs are my mom's specialty. Everyone looks for them at the family get togethers. I can't remember the last time we had left overs.

Everybody "oohed" and "aahed" over our matching dresses. Of course, our side of the family was the family that was always together the most. I think the others always envied us.

Pausing for a moment from past history, I am at my brother's right now and we stayed up all night coloring eggs and prepping the Easter baskets. Now we're all getting punch drunk and my bro keeps singing goofy songs with lyrics that he made up. A moment ago he was in the bathroom singing, My Girl Wants To Party All the Time, but he is replacing the word "party" with "potty". It's just wrong.

Earlier he was singing the song from "Meet Me In St. Louie": Ding, ding, ding when the trolley; ring, ring, ring went the bell; zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings...

You get the picture. My redneck brother is singing Judy Garland.

Back to the past...

After we had our pot luck dinner, the adults who were still relatively young, all decided that they were going to play touch football. The men and some of the younger women who had thought to bring a change of clothes. I was a tomboy and I wanted to play, too, but I was in a dress so the most I could do was watch. A bunch of the kids were going to watch too and I followed them to the field. It was across the creek and we had to jump it to get to the other side.

Being in a long dress, it was difficult. Not just difficult; impossible.

I didn't make it across the creek. I landed about 3/4 the way across with my left foot sinking into the muddy bank up to ankle. I tried to pull my foot from the muck, but it just sucked my white patten leather shoe off my foot and muck covered my ivory colored tights. I knew in that moment I was in deep trouble.

I reached down and pulled my shoe from the muck and then walked back to my great aunt's house with the mucky, muddy shoe in my hand and dread in my heart. I knew I was going to get a lecture, again, about being a tomboy.

And, I did. But, my great aunt came to my rescue, letting me take a shower, offering me clothes and washing mine.

Then I got to go out and play football.

Then there was the year that it snowed the weekend before, melting just in time for Easter egg hunting. It was muddy and we went to the city park where we found eggs and then played on the equipment. We all jumped on the merry go round and my grandpa was pushing us faster and faster. My youngest cousin who was three, suddenly let go and went flying.

Right

into

the

mud puddle

surrounding the merry go round

face first.

I remember that she got up and had a shocked look on her face. My aunt and uncle started running over to see if she was okay and right then, her mouth opened about the size of a football field.

Somewhere there is an eight millimeter reel with that picture on it.

She's never lived it down.

Then there was Easter about ten years ago. I had a friend who was from Tennessee. He was in the Navy and stationed in Philadelphia. He was our "adopted" brother. His parents' loved us because we always made sure he was taken care of and they had come up to visit him several times, staying at our place and coming to dinner when they didn't.

One year, Craig was going down to visit his family on leave. All of my friends had big family things to go to and my family was in Missouri so Craig invited me to come down to Tennessee with him and visit his family over the Easter holiday.

Craigtold me that his parents went to church every Sunday, but they belonged to different churches. Every holiday they would go to one or the others church service, alternating on the different holidays.

This year it was his mom's turn to take the family to church.

I packed with this in mind and took my best spring dress with matching shoes.

We got up early and got ready for church. His parents left early because his mom wanted to speak to the minister before the service.

As we drove to the church in Craig's truck, he told me that his mom's church was "different".

"Really?" I replied, "How "different" is different?"

He said, "They get a little emotional."

We got to the church and started to pull into the parking lot. A man was standing in the drive and directing traffic. As we drove up, he walked up to the window and started tell us that the parking lot was full. Except, he talked as if he was driving two miles an hour and it was dangerous.

"Sorry....it's....all...full."

Craig had rolled the window, "It's full?"

"Yep." That's it. Yep.

I was looking at the man. He was wearing a western shirt under a pair of overalls with a rodeo jacket on top. His face was kind of round with a pointy chin, but looked like it had met with the side of a bus. He had very big ears. I mean big. They stuck out. Waaaaaay out.

"Is there some place else we can park?" Craig asked.

"Well...what ya' can do is...go down to the stop sign...then ya' take a right...drive down a block...until you see a white house."

"Okay..." Craig said.

"But...don't park there. What yer gonna do it...drive down another block...you'll see a red brick house. You can park there."

Finally. It took him 10 minutes to tell us to drive to the stop sign, take a right, go down two blocks and park in front of the brick house.

We finally got in the church and the service had already started. His mom and dad were sitting in the pew midway down the aisle and the rest of them were packed. There was no sneaking in.

I squeezed into the pew next to his dad, his mom on the otherside and then Craig sat beside me.

Blocking the exit.

The pastor began the service.

He was banging the pulpit with his fist, thumping it as he made his point. The congregation was encouraging him.

"I say JEEEE-SSUUSS walked on water!" THUMP

"Amen, brother!" THe congregation raised their hands and shook them above their heads.

"I say JEEEE-SSUUSS raised the dead!" Thump

"Amen, brother!" Again, the congregation raised their hands and stomped their feet.

"I say JEEEE-SSUSSS is our savior!" THUMP "And, whosever shall believe in him," THUMP "Shall NOT die," THUMP "But have EVERRR-lastin' life!" THUMP

"Amen, brother!" The congregation shouted even louder.

The pastor's face was flushed and the congregation continued to be moved by his impassioned speech. I was paying attention to the pastor somewhat, but also looking around the small church, watching the congregation.

Suddenly, a man with a full head of white hair jumped up five pews down and to the right. He threw his hands into the air and screamed, "Hallelujah!" He climbed out of the pew and began running around the church; round and round the pews. The entire congregation began shaking their hands above their heads and yelling, "hallelujah!" along with the man.

Finally, the man ran down the middle aisle and dropped to his knees before the pastor, placing his head on the floor, his arms outstretched. He r,aised up several times and bowed down again, head touching the floor. All the while, the congregation continued to shout and the pastor banged the pulpit.

"He has RAAIIISSED you UP in the spirit! Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Hallelujah!"

Finally, the preacher said they were going to play a little music. The old man got up and went back to the pew, the congregation slapped him on his back as he went back to his seat. A band began to play. They had a guitar, a drum and a fiddle. They played, "May the circle, be unbroken" and "Amazing Grace".

The pastor then came back to the pulpit.

"If you believe, you will be SAY-Aved." THUMP

"Amen!"

"If you are not SAY-Aved, you will BURN in the EVERR-Lastin' lake of FI-YER." THUMP

"Amen!"

"You need to GIVE yore-self to JEEE-SSUS!" THUMP

"Amen"

"If you have NOT taken the lord JEEE-SSUS as yore SAY-VYOR, you need to do so TO-DAY!" THUMP

"Amen"

I was still busily watching the congregation and enjoying the spectacle of the pastor on the pulpit. His speech was almost rhythmic and hypnotizing. The congregation was just as entertaining. Some would stand up and clap their hands. Others would stomp their feet. All the while yelling "amen" and "hallelujah".

"Walatumparenilamatomaespetralelousosunax...."

My attention was suddenly refocused on the pulpit. I looked around again at the congregation. Did anyone else notice that? Mrs. M was delicately wiping her eyes with a little handkerchief. She had been moved in the spirit. Mr. M was staring straight ahead. I turned to Craig on my left, just barely moving my head until I could whisper in Craig's direction.

"Pssssttt...dude, ahhh....what's up with that?" I was asking him out of the side of my mouth, keeping my eye on the pastor ahead.

Craig leaned over his head my way and spoke out of the side of is mouth back to me, "I told ya' it was different."

"Dude, you didn't say THAT different!" The pastor was speaking in tongues and he went on for at least 10 minutes, speaking unintelligably. The rest of the congregation seemed to hold their breath as if listening to something that I couldn't hear. It was. They were listening to the spirit.

"Move over," I said.

"Huh?" Craig glanced at me.

"Dude, move over towards the edge." I nudged him with my elbow.

He scooted over a little, "Why?" We were still talking out of the sides of our mouths.

"'Cause. If anybody whips out any snakes, I'm outta here."

I was perfectly serious, but Craig was trying not to laugh, "They don't do that here."

I glanced to my right and noticed that Craig's parents were looking at us so I sat up straight and acted like I was paying attention.

Finally, the pastor seemed to take a deep breath and the congregation finally breathed. I was in awe. I'd never seen or heard anything like that before.

The pastor banged both fists on the pulpit and then raised them above his head, fingers spread open and shaking his hands a little. "If you are NOT SAY-Aved, now is the TIE-IME to come to JEEE-SSUSS!"

"Amen, brother, Amen!"

"Come on down to JEEE-SSUSSes house. He wants to SAY-Ave you from yore SINS!" More hand shaking and more "Amens".

A young man got up and went down front. Craig's mom was looking over at me and seeming to urge me to go down front. I pointed at my chest and mouthed the words, "I'm saved." I'm not sure she believed me.

The pastor looked at the young man, grabbed his microphone and walked down from the raised pulpit. "KNEE-YIL and prepare to take JEEE-SSUSS as yore SAY-AVYOR!"

I thought for a moment I was going to see something that resembled a laying on of the hands. Instead, the pastor told him to bow his head and pray with him. The entire congregation seemed to pray with him, knowing the words by heart. I was still fascinated and diligently trying not to look over at Craig's mom who seemed intent on getting me to go up front. I was torn about what to do. I wasn't "moved in the spirit", but I was a guest in their house.

I leaned over towards Craig again and mouthed out of the side of my mouth, "Craig, would you tell your mom that I'm already saved?"

The young man in front, the pastor and the congregation seemed to be about to break into tears. It was an amazing site and feeling. Finally, the pastor told the young man to rise and presented him like a prize fighter, his hands raised in the air, triumphant. The young man went back to his pew amidst much back slapping, hand shaking and "Welcome, brother."

The pastor went back to the pulpit and began his next phase, wrapping up the service. "Is there ANYone new in our house today? Come on down to the LORDS house and be reCEIVed into his LOVing arms."

Again, Mrs. M seemed to be urging me to go down front. I kept shaking my head.

Finally, the service was over and we sang the last song, clapping with the band.

Mrs. M kept sniffling quietly and wiping her eyes. We left the church and shook hands with the pastor. Mrs. M asked me why I didn't go down front. Mr. M told her to leave me alone, it was my own business what was between me and the lord. Mrs. M seemed a little flustered.

Finally, I said, "Mrs M, I'm already saved."

"Oh. Well, I suppose that's okay. But I thought you'd go down front and be introduced to the congregation?"

Well, I knew she meant well. Mr. M told her to leave me alone.

Finally, I just took the easy way out, nudged Craig in the ribs and said, "Craig wouldn't let me out."

"Wha...?"

Everyone laughed.

We went to breakfast at Bob Evans.

3 comments:

Ed - Dallas said...

Kat,

Thanks for the stories from memory lane.

Happy Easter!

The Sandmonkey said...

Oh god. Now this brings up memories.

My ex-girlfriend, when we were still dating, took me down to Missouri to a church where her Uncle preached. She was born again and had come from a whole family line of southern preachers. I guess you could say i was their pet project, u know, a heathen that they needed to save. The service was almost exactly like that, with at least 5 people getting "slain by the spirit" midway through the sermon. I hd never even heard of anyone getting slain by the spirit before, so i was freaking out wanting to help those who seemed to be suffering from seizures and i was all like " why won;t anyone help them? what if they are just plain sick?" and Kris kept holding me down and preventing me from running over there and attempting cpr. It was a very interesting experience, with her grandfather acting towards me the same way Craig's mom was acting towards you. Thankfully her Uncle didn't call out on me or northing, cause he knew i was the only new person there and he wasn't gonna embaress me like that. Gotta hand it to him and southern preachers in general though, they know how to stirr up their crowds.

Kat said...

ED..hope your Easter was great.

Sam Adams...dude. That was almost as good as my story. "slain by the spirit." I have to remember that one.

Hope your Easter was good, too.