I was a fidgety skinny kid–couldn’t sit still. When I tried, my legs would swing. Since they didn’t yet reach the floor. I may have had ADD–who knows? When the good reverend’s Sunday sermons ran long there were always kid games; done discreetly of course.
Even with windows opened it was miserable in summer. That’s when the paper fans came out–compliments of local funeral homes. It seemed to me–the effort taken to waggle fans back-and-forth, cancelled out the benefits. The two front doors were left open. Bugs and birds often joined the proceedings.
Father was a strict disciplinarian; his firm fingers turned my buzz cut head around in an instant with a firm warning. “Turn around. Sit still and pay attention.” Fear of the coal shed hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. I was convinced it was used as a whipping shed for unruly children.
Our little, white clapboard country church, was heated by two pot-bellied “Round Oak” stoves–manufactured in Dowagiac, Michigan. There were oak leaf embossed silver trim rails below the stove doors. Were the rails, foot rests? I didn’t really know.
Brother Harold kept the stoves stoked for Sunday services. Church faithful were addressed as brothers or sisters in Christ. Brother Harold also worked as custodian at a local high school.
An oak “regulator” schoolhouse clock went tick-tock on one wall; a table, up front, near the piano, had an antique Tammany Hall bank. When coins were deposited, the cast iron, brightly painted man in a suit, bowed his head in thanks.
My parents seemed old. The rest of the church members were older still. We four children were the youngest in attendance–unless there were visitors.
Sister Eunice was a sweet old soul, and mentally challenged. She had episodes of jealousy and suspicion–which made others avoid her. Her ill-fitting dentures, clicked like castanets, added to communication difficulties.
Once, when mother was going to be away for teacher’s institute, Sister Eunice volunteered to babysit the four of us. Mom had misgivings, but Sister Eunice insisted. Mom relented and hoped for the best.
I hope when I reach the Pearly Gates of Heaven, the mayhem of that day has been long forgotten. Things got completely out of hand. Away from church, we weren’t the little darlings, she expected us to be. i deserved to be sent to the coal shed.
Sister Eunice was upset the entire day, until mom returned. We apologized, but the damage had been done. Sister Eunice never volunteered for babysitting duty ever again.