Monday, January 30, 2012

Successful Sermon Survival

Yesterday was Sunday. We had church twice. Once in the morning and once in the evening, and each service we heard a sermon.
There is no end to the things we need to learn and be reminded of, so sermons are good, I'm sure. I enjoy a good sermon, and I am so glad, because there was a time when I did not.
A time when my feet could not touch the floor when I was sitting on the bench.
A time when the clock hands crawled with sloth-like movements.
A time when preachers used odd language they never used otherwise. The words I remember most vividly are these: "Is it not?" No one ever says this in real life, but the preacher would say it often.
"It is a privilege to be here this another Lord's Day morning, is it not?" "
"This is a good reminder for us today, brothers and sister, is it not?" etc.

I might have a lousy memory, but this I clearly recall: I hated sitting in church during a sermon.

Sometimes church was interesting, I enjoyed the singing and hearing my mother's rich alto voice. I did wish she would sing soprano. It seemed like soprano was the part the best women sang, but she sang alto. Despite this, I still liked to hear her.

Occasionally there was childrens' meeting. This was as close to entertainment as church services ever got...except for when we'd sing "If Ye Then With Christ Be Risen" and Bro. Derstine's tenor voice would reach for that high note on "Ri-sen" in the chorus. I loved that. But childrens' meeting was really good, too.

Surviving a sermon, though, took special skills. They admittedly had to be very subtle skills, because any obtrusive survival techniques were swiftly dealt with by Mother. She was not an unkind person, but she believed in behaving in church. And she did not believe her children needed to take anything to church save the Word of God.

Other children's mom's did not see it this way, apparently. I remember Lisa especially. She had her own purse, and it was stocked with survival gear. Lisa seemed to me like a princess with divine privileges.  I watched her with awe and envy, as she pulled things like embroidered hankies and writing tablets and pencils from her purse. Lisa, no doubt, loved sermons.

But I was not altogether without recourse. I remember, for instance, counting the tiles on the ceiling. Counting them from side to side was easy enough. Counting them from front to back was trickier, because turning around was not okay, and if you were caught, there were consequences, so you had to count the ones behind you very surreptitiously. It could be done. I successfully counted the ceiling tiles many times.

Finding the mailboxes in my copy of the Word of God was another great favorite. In some Bibles, the beginning of each paragraph is marked with a mailbox... at least that's what it looked like to me. Finding mailboxes was a lifesaver and never frowned on. I even remember finding mailboxes with my friend Roger once, when he was sitting beside me. Roger's dad was the preacher so it must have been okay. (Roger's mom sang soprano).

Also, my little Bible had pictures in it. The one I remember most vividly was the picture of Judas betraying Jesus with an army of soldiers behind him with torches lighting the night sky. There were probably six pictures all told, and I could look at them as long as I pleased...and did....but no matter how long I looked at them the sermon lasted longer still.

Perhaps the most useful thing about the pictures though, was that the back side of each page with a picture was blank. I drew pictures on the blank sides. I still can't believe Mother let me do this, but she did. The pictures are still there to prove it.

As I mentioned before, turning around was not okay, and I apparently risked it too often, because Mother came up with a plan to stop it. If she caught me turning around, she very calmly poked one finger into my ribs. If I turned around twice, two fingers. Three times, three fingers. However many finger pokes I accumulated till the end of the service was how many licks I got with her "magic wand" when we got home, unless, by some stroke of unbelievable luck she forgot about it between the sermon and the spanking. I tried to be very, very good in the interim so as not to attract any attention whatsoever to my existence. It worked, sometimes.

Childhood really is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of strategy and long-suffering and bravery.

Today, our church has no ceiling tiles; my Bible has no pictures; It doesn't even have mailboxes.
But that's okay, because somewhere along the line, I learned to love church, including the sermons.
And that's a beautiful thing, is it not?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Joys of Tragedy

I talked to my mother yesterday. We were talking about writing, because that's what she does and what she tries to get me to do.
"Did you ever write down that cat story?" She asked.
"What cat story?" I said.
"Oh, Rhon!! The cat story!!! That was the funniest thing you've ever told me in your whole life! Don't you remember??? you tried taking that cat to the vet and he got out of his box in the car and all the trouble you had trying to drive with this half-crazed cat loose in the car and the children and everything??"

You'd have thought I had just burned our complete family history.

"Well...maybe I remember ....just faintly." Snatches of it were coming back to me...but I knew even as I gathered the fragments from dusty archives,  there was no way in the world I could ever reconstruct it enough to put it on paper.

 I have a horrible long-term memory. I don't remember things that happened, and  remember things that didn't. It's a curse.
And  I have learned the hard way to be very humble about what my mind tells me about the past. Especially the years when all the natives were at the high maintenance stage. I was too distracted to be committing the incidentals of life to memory. So I never pass my recollection of things on with overmuch confidence. I try to preface memories with "If I recall correctly..."  to cover my bases.
I have noticed though, that Mother finds our lives a lot funnier than I do. Especially the disasters. And she always orders me to write them down.

Like the time I had to stay in bed during a troubled pregnancy, and The Chief took all the rest of the natives camping with his family on Cumberland Island,  forgot the tent poles and tried to suspend the tent by tying it to a live oak tree. 
Or the time the Chief was out of state at a mission's committee meeting, one of the natives got very sick and the only vehicle I had to take her to the doctor was a car with a transmission that was seriously on the had other problems too, because, if I recall correctly, there was some sort of pliers there for opening the hood...which, if I recall correctly, had to be done at semi-regular intervals. About a mile and a half  down the road I had to pull over to the shoulder. I had come to realize that just because The Chief could drive this thing didn't mean I could. There was no way I was going to get to Augusta. I put my head on the steering wheel and started crying. A cop stopped to see if I needed help. "I'm fine." I said, explained the problem briefly and assured her I could get back home.
I went up the road a little bit to turn around in the driveway of a big new house. It was then I remembered the car would not go into reverse. Period. And there I was. I pondered my options:
 1. Sit there forever.
2. Make a big fat loop through these people's yard and go home.

I chose the second option.

This is the sort of thing that sends mother into gales of laughter.
She has always been able to see the comedy in every tragedy, even her own.
Not that my life is a tragedy, really. it just has a lot of, say, unexpected parts.

Having a poor memory contributes to this situation. So do children and pets, a persistent propensity toward procrastination, and perhaps more determination than sense.

Ah well, what is life without a touch of woe? Where would we get the stories worth passing on? And what would supply the perspective we need to properly appreciate the uneventful days? Tragedy, after all, is rather useful.

But Mother is right, if you don't write it down, you'll never remember. Or at least, I won't.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No Place Like Home

Today was the first time our family's been together for three weeks, and the last time in another three weeks, because Scott's been, and will be, at Bible School.  We've looked at the videos of skits and volleyball tournaments and basketball games. And still shots of dorm rooms and campus, and many strange people...all of them described dutifully as either "cool"  or "pretty cool", or "really cool". He had a good time, I guess. 

It was a lovely rainy day. We haven't had one in awhile.

Then it was time for house-cleaning, menu-making, memorandum constructing, and homework tackling.

 The rain kept coming, the thunder rolled.

We decided it'd be a good time to make an afternoon trip to town. We needed a few things. We had some nice gift certificates to use. Might as well make the most of the day! I needed buttons for the dress I am making. We needed school supplies. I had a grocery list to there and back.

The rain came in torrents.

We started the bathing, hair combing, clothes-changing process. No small thing when eight people are involved. 
But...the 2 AM bedtime we had the night before started  taking it's toll about then--on me anyway. Between that and the rhythm of the rain, I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to crawl back into bed! 
Not at all a timely urge.
I denied it for a time. But images of us all slogging through the rain from the Expedition into Joann's, (while the guys grumbled) Lowe's, (while the girls sighed), Walmart, (while The Chief muttered), and Bilo (while we all just wished we were home already) started seeming less and less glamorous.

"Would y'all be okay with just staying home?" I said.
Several pairs of of eyes looked at me, startled. 
"It's just so....wet." I said, remembering now that it had been MY idea to go shopping in the first place. My poor family. 
The Chief didn't care one way or the other, he said, because he'd have to go out in it to buy groceries anyway.
There was a sprinkling of half-hearted protests, and some expressions of ambivalence.
It takes passion and determination to have fun going shopping with a family of eight in a downpour. We clearly didn't have it.
We're staying home. Where it's dry; where it's warm, where the lamps are lit, and coffee makings sit ready in the corner. And games call sweetly from a well-stocked cabinet. Where we have everything in the world we could want for a perfect evening.

Except groceries. And The Chief.