The Celebrant: This Was Us Pt. 4

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Left side of the sanctuary six pews from the front just beside the stained glass window of Jesus in the temple. That was where our family sat every Sunday after Adam insisted we start going to church. He was none too keen on Polly becoming a Jesuscizer until she started bringing home the church ladies for tea. When he realized that most of these ladies were Winchendon’s society dames and that all their husbands perched in the spreading limbs of the First Baptist Church he was quick to join the flock.

I can still remember the first Sunday we all went to church together.  Adam sat by the sunny painted Jesus in the window. Paul was beside him. Mother sat between my brother and me. I was next to the church lady with the big feathers in her purple hat who smelled of Ben Gay and face powder.

Paul and I got coloring books again.

“Momma I’ve already colored this one?” I said as I thumbed through the same book I had been given the day mother visited Doris.

Adam leaned across the pew and shushed my face. I felt the little sprinkles of his spittle tickle my eyelashes. Mother flashed him a cross look that quickly melted under his glare.

“Well why don’t you just use the inside covers and color Momma some pictures of the pretty windows Natty?” She patted my hand.

I put  my head down and nodded. I blinked fast to get the spittle out of my eyes before Adam could call it tears. He had a thing about boys crying especially in public.

I glanced over at Paul who was viciously scribbling his second page with one brown crayon. Then I looked around for other children and noticed that many of them were engaged in the same race to cover their coloring books with as much crayon as they could. Some wielded blue crayons. Some red. One little girl had even brought her own markers and was blacking in the eyes of every picture in the book. I turned to the front inside cover of my book and carefully drew a rectangle in brown crayon.

The service began. My family stood. I sat engrossed in the triangles and squares that made up the temple around the boy Jesus. Three hymns passed and I was working on the faces of the doctors who questioned Jesus (though I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time). The offering plate slipped by and all I noticed was that the green of the money was the same color as the table-cloth depicted in the window. Doris preached. I colored. Doris gave an invitation for people to come down to the altar. I was coloring the walls around the window.

“Come on!” Adam said grabbing my hand.

He took me and my brother forward. Mother trailed behind tears in her eyes. Doris beamed.

An older man approached and drew my father away from the family. Doris began to lead the congregation in Amazing Grace.

I smelled Ben Gay. My mother and the church lady took my brother and I aside. Mom held my hand as the church lady talked with Paul. He was almost seven. He watched my father praying in the corner and nodded his head as the lady asked him questions. He bowed his head and prayed with her. My mother wept as two of her men joined her in Jesus. I held my picture close to my chest as the church applauded.

The service ended and we began to make our way out of the church. People kept stopping us.

They would shake my father’s hand and say things like “Welcome to the family Adam.”

Paul was swept away by a group of children who wanted to bask in his altar-made- celebrity.

I held my coloring book up to my mother, “See Momma. I finished the window just like you said.”

“So you did baby boy! It’s beautiful!” She gushed hugging me.

That was the day I fell in love with art.

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