Sitting Still In Church

The pictured church from Cades Cove, without the cemetery and deer, closely resembled the church in my story from two years ago.   

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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 the 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 efforts 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 firm warnings.  “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 Dowegiac, Michigan.  There were oak leaf embossed silver-trimmed rails below the stove doors.  Were these 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 tick-tocked on one wall; a table up front, near the piano, had an antique Tammany Hall bank.  When coins for missions 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 to be away for teacher’s institute, Sister Eunice offered 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 arrived.  We apologized, but the damage had been done.  Sister Eunice never volunteered for babysitting duty ever again.

Old People’s Houses

Remember going to old people’s houses when you were a kid?  They were dark and dreary, smelled musty.  There was no reading material for kids.  Worst of all, there were no toys to play with.

Lace curtains covered the windows–which were never opened.  Something to do with bad air.  Hand crocheted lace doilies covered stuffed chair arms and headrests.  They always fell down when kids got restless.  What good were doilies–anyway?  Playing with them always got you in trouble.

Old people liked to sit around and talk.  Talked about boring stuff and the good old days.  When a dollar bought something, and people knew the value of hard work.

Fidgeting didn’t work.  Neither did the sad-eyed, “can we go now, mom?”  Too much fidgeting brought the rapier-sharp “death stare” and the excuse, “you didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

Their pets were old–too.  Old dogs or cats, half-blind or deaf.  They sat on their owner’s laps and didn’t do much.  Old people seemed to know if they needed something.

The truth–old people were tired.  Tired of being sick.  Tired of being taken for granted.  Tired of disrespect.  Tired of being thought of as just being old.

 

Late Bloomed

Cockeyed optimists

Little Miss Sunshines

Played in yards–with

White picket fences

Puberty knocked

Nobody answered

Social awkwardness

Became closest friend

Bony ankles popped

With every step

Mom was usually right

Which meant someone

Else was usually wrong

Southern fried pies

Blue skies forever

Revivalists, cynics

What else was new?

 

CHASING WATERFALLS

cumberland falls, ky

Water roared, sprayed

Over rock escarpments

Evoked stares of wonder

Sullen silence, mood changes

Without rhyme or reason

Part of growing up

Sibling rivalries

Breaking free

Mountains made from

The most insignificant details

Then, like summer rain showers

Passed quickly–the sun returned

And, all was forgotten

Inner feelings weren’t shared

Because parents didn’t understand

Although deep inside–they really did

SITTING STILL IN CHURCH

DSCN0377

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.

IT’S ONLY MONEY (And Omelets)

holding-a-stack-of-money

My breakfast omelet this morning had a definite underbite; after at least ten perfect ones–that’s not a bad average.  Of late–I’ve been on a quest to make perfect omelets.  Did anyone have perfect parents?  I don’t know at what point, the thought occurred to me.

There’s some guilt associated with publishing this post.  It’s like betraying my parents and all they’ve given me.  Many of      their arguments were about money.  Not that there wasn’t any–but rather about who was going to pay for what.

I don’t think they ever had a family budget.  Mom was a teacher. Dad farmed and had several second jobs.  “A man’s work was from sun to sun, but a woman’s work was never done.”  In fairness–they both worked hard, and weren’t typical nine-to-fivers.

Father helped kill and pluck chickens to butcher.  He assisted with vegetable preparation for canning.  So, he wasn’t completely removed from what some would call domestic tasks.  He milked our cows and worked in the garden.

They were from different family situations–dad, an only child; mom was the youngest of five in a single parent household.  Both grew up during Prohibition, the Great Depression, and WWII.  Nobody had things easy during that period of history.

Whatever they did was because they were human.  Nobody’s programmed to know exactly how to raise a family.  My parents had some enthusiastic discussions over money matters.

“Little pitchers had big ears.”  I’d listen from my bedroom.  Were they talking about me?  Was there anything juicy I could pass on to my siblings?  No, it was about  who was going to pay utility bills that month.

Was theirs the best way to do things?  They had separate incomes.  I can only speculate–and refuse to judge.  They did the best they knew how to do under the circumstances.

They cared enough about me and my siblings to sacrifice their money and time.  In retrospect–they worked too hard to enjoy life.  Mom once said, “If it wasn’t for me working, you kids wouldn’t have had anything.”

I don’t think dad liked that sentiment hanging over his head.  Farming was labor intensive, speculative from season to season.  Because of them, I grew up knowing I was loved.  Darn it–my omelet broke apart!

–Image, http://www.picturesofmoney.org

STATE OF THE BLOG (Inner Critics/Faking It/Confidence)

rickles

The last thing I expected on a rainy day was a visit from my “Inner Critic.”  If you don’t have one–you should bow down in thanks.  The  regular group was at the door, plus some uninvited guests.  I brought in lawn chairs from the garage.

To make matters worse, my two dogs were bored–there would be no morning walk.  They checked in with me every half-hour to see if conditions had changed. Why were The Stooges here? …With Curly Joe, the funnier Stooge, and not Shemp.

By way of explanation, my “Inner Critic”– is a concoction, liberally seasoned with advice from my parents, grandparents, my drill sergeant, a crusty old farm hand, named Floyd, a pinch of Don Rickles and John Wayne added for extra zing.

“State of the blog, state of the blog–Hey Moe, that rhymes with frog.  State of the frog, state of the frog,” Curly Joe chanted.  “Shut up you imbecile,”  Moe slapped Curly on the back of the head.

“Is this the place?” Larry asked.  “This is the place,” Moe answered.

“Well, if there’s no other place around the place, this must be the place,  I reckon–Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk,” “Get outta here you moron,”  More mayhem, some eye pokes, more head slaps.

Moe led Curly out the door by the ear.  Larry followed.  I wasn’t sorry to see them go.  Slapstick comedy wasn’t what I was looking for this morning.

“What’s up with taking more risks and getting fewer rewards?” I asked.

“What do you mean, Dear?”  Grandma asked.

“I don’t want this blog to get stale–so, I tried some new stuff.”

“That’s nice, Dear–it’s going to take time.”  “Just don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”  “I brought you some sock monkeys.”

“Thanks, Gram,” I answered.

“I almost called this post, “Thoughts on a Rainy Day,” but changed my mind.”

“I’m glad you did,” Said my drill sergeant.  “That’s too wimpy.”

“Just write what you want to–what you feel is right,”  Said Floyd.  “If the xxx-xxxx idiots, don’t like the xxxxx-xxxx-xxxx–it’s their xxxxx problem, not yours.”

“Aren’t we all faking it?  I mean everybody does it–everyday.  Acting like we know what we’re doing–whether we do or not. We do it at work, in public, when raising a family.”

“That doesn’t make it right,” Mom said.  “It’s the same thing as lying.”

“But, Mom–It’s not really lying.  It’s showing confidence in facing the unknown.  Because, for most people, showing weakness is a liability they can’t risk?  Could it be, that some people are more afraid of failure, than success?”

“I’m glad you brought that up, Pilgrim,” John Wayne answered.  “Acting is nothing but faking it.  Movie sets are fake.  You have to convince others, that what you say, is genuine and real.”

“Mr. Wayne, Did you ever feel insecure?  That some day the bottom might drop out?”

“You’re damn right I did–many times!  I tried not to show it.  I guess that’s what you mean by ‘faking it.’  The day I first met with the head of a movie studio to sign a contract, my knees were shaking.  There was a lot at stake.”

“That’s what your mother and I tried to teach you,” My father said.  “There’s no reward without taking some risks.  You shouldn’t attempt anything expecting to fail.  Be confident, shoulders back, eyes straight ahead–let the chips fall where they may.”

“I’m hungry,” Grandpa said.  “Where are we going for breakfast?  We’re not going to get anything around here.”

“Come on Rickles, you’ve been unusually quiet, Said John Wayne.  “Duke, the sloppy sentiment around here’s killed my appetite.  Maybe some coffee.  Let’s go to the IHOP.”

My guests, gathered their things and left.  Don Rickles got in the last word–like he always did.

“I’m outta’ here.  Don’t make me come back.  This place is a dump.  You oughta’ clean it up, sometime.  And I don’t want to see you doing sock monkey puppet shows–either.  Because that would be sick.  You’re a sick man.  Nobody really likes you anyway–you know.”

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Tangled in the falling vines
Waiting for a punch line
I’ve just been fakin’ it
I’m not really makin’ it
This feeling of fakin’ it
I still haven’t shaken it

–Paul Simon–