Just a little advanced warning. Because this story originally ran to 2000 words before it’s conclusion I have chosen to split it into two parts. You can read it that way on two successive days. If you can’t stand a “To be continued…” then “Save” this one, or else hold off until tomorrow’s post —Part 2 When you open it just go to the “Previous Post” icon on the very bottom of the page to get Part 1, to begin reading at the beginning. Sorry for any inconvenience.
“There were little footprints all over the carpet at the front of the church, leading in and out behind the organ.” my husband Rolly said in a rather perturbed voice, as he came across the room to where I was typing away.
“Maybe it was mice.” I said, rather distractedly. “Set some traps.”
“No! Kid’s footprints! How would I see mouse footprints anyway?” he said in an exasperated tone.
“I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t thinking.” I answered as I scanned the line I had just typed and deleted the word “mice” from the list of ingredients for “Carol’s Delicious Pot Luck Casserole” I was transcribing at the time.
“It’s not church kids.” he added. “They’ve been put there since last Sunday, because the carpets have all been vacuumed since then, when Sarah cleaned.”
Our cleaner, Sarah, is very fastidious about vacuuming carpets, even all those areas that aren’t usually ever walked on. As head trustee of our old country church, Rolly is constantly moving things in and out of hidden storage places. Because he is particular he always notices when things are out of place or not as they should be. Little footprints leading behind the big old pipe organ (another hidden storage space) is not something he wants to see.
“It has to be those cub scouts. They meet on Thursday nights after Sarah cleans. They must be running up there and playing hide and seek. They shouldn’t be doing that. They could wreck something!” he exclaims… “or have something fall on them, or get hurt in the dark.”— he tempers his initial pronouncement with a side of care and concern.
Immediately I feel a little blush of redness creep up from my neck to my face. It is guilt. It is embarrassment. It is over 50 years late— so it isn’t terribly obvious (the colour change anyway). But the far away look in my eyes and the silence (a rare thing for me) as I immediately stop typing and say nothing, catches Rolly’s attention.
“What?” he says. I am still silent. “What?”
“Oh… I was just remembering.”
The little yellow brick church was across the road from the one room school that my sister Marsha, my brother Keith and I attended for the earliest part of our educations. At the end of our school day all of us the kids in all eight grades put our heads down on our desks in unison. Then we sang very softly together ,as a kind of prayer and a request for blessing over us, the first verse of Abide With Me.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O Abide with me.
At first I thought we were singing about a cup of Tide laundry detergent somebody had measured out. It somehow falls off the side of the washer too fast for anyone to catch. After awhile I picked up on hymn book lingo. Probably at just about the same time some Maritime kid was wondering where it was in Canada that the tide ever went out not only “fast”, but “even” enough to make mention of it in a song. Some quirky little place in the Bay of Fundy maybe? Something could be said for updating archaic language for the sake of juvenile comprehension here, but I digress.
When I finally realized that we were singing about night, and it getting dark fast, I still occasionally rebelled mentally at words that only seemed to fit all of us in the wintertime . That was when it started getting dark even before we began walking home— not on those nice long June afternoons!. For the most part though, the words were a comforting assurance that God was going to look after us if we ever felt helpless, because He would be there with us always.
No locks were the normal way of doing things in the 50’s in the country.
But the last place that we wanted Him to be, on some of those long June afternoons on our way home from school, was in church. At least not in the little yellow brick church that Marsha and I, and our friend Christine broke into on more than one occasion. It was an easy thing to do. Sometimes the back door was unlocked and if we dawdled long enough to be left behind, the mob of younger and older kids who were going down the Fourth side road that ran beside the church’s side yard would pass out of sight. Any day that our brother Keith was not at school, when we would not have to hurry him on home, we felt free to do as we pleased. Inside the little old church we ran amok— down to the basement, or up the stairs to the sanctuary, even around, and under, and over the pews if we felt like it— or maybe it was only me who did that. Marsha and Christine were older and more sophisticated. We didn’t do any damage of course, as vandalism was as far from our hearts as murder would have been at the time.We didn’t want to break any of the Ten Commandments. As far as we were concerned, we had only just opened the door and then walked in. We hadn’t knocked of course, and maybe we should have because Jesus said “Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.” in his words in the Bible, but still he had left the church door unlocked anyway, so I don’t think he would have minded that we just walked in. The only fear I really had was that if we were discovered somebody would probably break a commandment then… and lie.
“What are you girls doing in church?” the Church Trustee would ask.
“We came in here because we thought we saw a Raby dog!’ Marsha would say ( We had just been taught about rabies at school , so that might work.)
“We came in here because I think I forgot to put money in the collection plate on Sunday.” Christine would say. Generosity always is such a good thing. Who would question that!
“We came in here because Mother Lucia asked us to pray that she might one day become a Saint.” is what I would honestly tell the Church Trustee ( in my imagination anyway. I was excruciatingly shy and likely wouldn’t be able to answer at all.) I would not need to break any commandment about “baring a false witness” —letting God see what a naked liar I really was— if I said that. Because I really had been faithful to Mother Lucia! Ever since her request for personal Saint-seeking prayers at Preparation for Holy Communion classes a few weeks before, I had been praying for her, but up until then usually just at bed time. A church seemed like a pretty good place for an extra prayer as long as we were in there anyway, and then I’d be all prepared with an alibi if we got caught. (to be continued in tomorrow’s post)