I was a kid with a big imagination, growing up in the 5o’s, a much more formal time, when kids were expected to behave with a certain degree of seriousness and solemnity, way beyond the limited capability of their years. In particular places this mandatory decorum was rigidly enforced— the doctor’s waiting room (so adults could hear the conversation between the doctor and the person in the office with him better,) in old ladys’ parlours (so they wouldn’t miss any of the whispered gossip,) but most especially when they were in church. The reason for this I could never understand because I already knew that God could hear everyone at the same time, and besides, if he was talking to anybody there, I didn’t think it was supposed to be out loud. He could do it under his breath, but in a way that they would hear it in their hearts. I don’t think he had ever talked to me like that yet, but then I didn’t think that he would, until a person was there often enough to deserve it. When Grandma Mum came for a visit and went with us to church, or if we ever went with her to church in Pittsburgh where she lived, he might have noticed that she had a couple of kids sitting next to her. Likely then he came pretty close to introducing himself, just on account of the fact that he knew her so well. I think she talked to him every day and said special grown up prayers every night. Some of them Marsha and I had already started learning for our First Holy Communion. Still, it would have been nice if I had just heard him talking under his breath to me then. I think I would have tried a whole lot harder to listen.
The Bird In Church
The man behind her sneezed and all the feathers of her hat
Trembled like a living bird—Now just imagine that!
The man behind her sneezed again, and sneezed ’til he was blue;
The feathered thing, alarmed by this, just spread its wings and flew!
Yet no one seemed to notice as it roosted on a rafter!
They just turned round indignantly when I broke out in laughter,
For church was not the proper place for anyone to giggle,
And people thought it impolite to scratch or even wiggle.
But I just couldn’t hold it back; the sight was so absurd,
To see a hat transformed that way, into a living bird!
Quite suddenly I found myself no longer in my seat,
But being dragged by mummy, who was redder than a beet,
Down the aisle and out the door, where I received a whack!
To find that bird— a hat once more the moment I got back!
I really will try to behave myself; I have so much to lose!
But under the pew ahead of me— are those alligator shoes?
My husband Rolly read the poem above and asked “Did you really see a bird in church?” Maybe yes, maybe no. Was I spanked? I’ll leave that up to your imagination.