Sitting in the blue Lumina under the huge oak tree whose branches swing right above the brick Zoar United Methodist Church sign, I am about eleven and I’m waiting on my mother. She is talking in a small hen circle to some church ladies wearing pastels and she’s been there for about twenty minutes. Never a person whose character is known for patience, I am debating on laying down the horn but I do not want to embarrass her and I do not want her to tell me how embarrassed she is once she gets in the car. But clearly this must be intentional. She knows I am in here.
I think about the few Sundays she forgot to come pick me up after kid’s Sunday School. I think about how I sat on the second to last step, feet scribbling in the dirt telling Mrs. Donna Kay, whose daughter was about my age and whose mother never forgot to pick her up, “No, I’m fine you don’t have to take me home. She will come get me.”
I could have walked home, it was probably about a mile. It was a trail we often rode the four wheeler down so I was familiar with it. A dirt road connected home and the church and it ran right behind my Uncle Robert’s house. If I was lucky enough, maybe his horses would be on the back field and I could see them on the way home.
I was harboring some resentment toward my grandparents who’d never gotten more horses after theirs died. The only one they had left was Rusty, a thirty year old, brown gelding with a back as swayed as a canyon. I loved Rusty but he wasn’t wild and he always had flies near his eyes. Not like Uncle Robert’s horses, who were healthy and brushed.
I never walk home but sometimes I do beep the horn. Because I am a little brat. Because I do not understand what this church and these people mean to my mother as a woman and as someone who always does the right thing. As someone who wants to better herself and her daughter because she wants me to cherish the things of childhood that she herself still cherishes.
To me, it is another thing I am made to do. To sit through and think about when and how I am going to get out of being little enough to go down to kid’s sermon or have to stay for Sunday School, which I do not like to because my mother often forgets about me and a part of me has trust issues with Mrs. Valerie, the Sunday School teacher.
Mrs. Valerie had insulted my mother. Being that I am a Southerner and a true to life “mama’s girl”, to this day I find it hard to bestow the grace Preacher told us Jesus gave everyone to anyone who insults my mama.
Her closet was never full, like she made sure mine always was, and most of her good clothes had been purchased on layaway. But on Sundays at Zoar United Methodist, my mother was the most beautiful woman in church. On any days, anywhere, she is still the most beautiful woman.
My mother has always worn slips under her dresses and I have too because, well I guess you tend to do the same things your parents did. One day in the parking lot, under that massive oak tree behind the church sign, Mrs. Valerie pointed at my mother’s dress in a crowd of Christian women, laughed at her like a snotty school girl and said , “I can see your slip!”
I guess Mrs. Valerie did not come from the kind of women we do; ones who wear slips under their dresses and do not embarrass mothers doing the best they can only to make ourselves feel more secure.
When we first started going back full time to church, my mother slowly made relationships with the people there. I cannot speak for how she felt during those years because I have never asked her what made her go back.
Now that I am an adult whose spirit instinctively seeks deep communion with others and who realizes that when we are older we get to pick and choose our friends, I bet she was looking for herself. And the people who knew her when she was a young girl helped bring her back to life and confirm the woman she became.
Maybe she went back to church so she could have a little peace from her daughter for about thirty minutes after the service. Sometimes longer, if she needed it.