“This is God’s house,” said the Sunday-school lady. The full skirt of her bluish-green dress puddled as she scooched down. The brown-speckled flesh floor looked like Nannie’s hands. The tips of the lady’s white gloves rested on the edge of our maple table. She rocked on her heels.
Last time she tried to sit in one of our squared-off chairs and tipped over. We laughed. We were loud. The lady rose with a tight-lipped smile. Her midnight-black pouf shone but didn’t move. A careful curl wisped along either cheekbone. She fluffed her bangs.
The lady’s buttons were bright blue. They punched down one side of her dress and then down the other. Sometimes the lady wore pink, other times brown. I liked best when she wore blue. Her buttons changed color, but they were always large and round and flat. I wanted to steal one to put in Mom’s button box.
God grew and shrank, depending on who talked about him. Poor God. How did he fit in his house? God was so big he had to leave when we visited his house.
I pictured him trying to sleep at night. His head stuck out of the blue-and-red-and-yellow window with pictures around the tall man whose hands and feet turned open. I especially liked the lion, the giant bird, the lamb, and the cow with the wings. God’s feet stuck out the other end of the church, where we sometimes ate supper. Afterward, all the children raced along different green, black, red, and blue lines that ran up and down the yellow floor. The lines made shapes. Mom said they were circles, half-circles, and squares. The big boys shot baskets.
The floor smelled funny. It was waxy and sweaty.
Mom said God lived in our hearts and pressed a hand to her chest.
A song said God had the whole world in his hands. That stuck with me on the way to Mama Hattie’s house. Dad drove our rattle-trap white station wagon. We always reached Spooky Hollow as night crept across gray dusk.
Dad rolled down his window and called into the rush of air. “Here it comes, Spoo-ooo-ky Holler!” A twang stole into his syllables. For the next seven days, “hollows” became “hollers” and “over there” became “over yonder.”
Crammed in the middle seat, we squished from one side to the other as the wagon lurched and pitched. When riding home from church with Dad, we called it “playing corners.” His sedan was cavernous and round. Sometimes we took turns crouching over a peephole in the worn floorboard, staring at the pavement and counting how many times Dad wandered over the yellow line.
The station wagon had wings. I wished for sharper, longer ones so we would blur past the inky trees walking in the smoky fog. Here and there crooked arms and skeleton fingers thrust up, down, and out through the leaves. My sisters and brother shrieked.
“Look, there’s an old lady in a long dress, right behind that fat tree.”
“That one doesn’t have a head.”
“Revenuer—he busted up their still.”
“Ghost deer! Do you see them?”
My eyes squeezed shut. Fly. Just fly away.
There was something holy about Appalachia, the swells of the Blue Ridge.
In kindergarten, the teacher counted off the weekdays God took to make the world. I could spell all the days. On Wednesday, he separated land from water. The National Geographic showed pictures of the Grand Canyon. God probably spent most of the afternoon crashing his fist into the ground and splitting rock. But as shadows fell late in the day, he gave his hands a rest. God lightly printed his thumb into hollows and coves to push up the North Georgia peaks.
In summer, the mountains rolled green, purple, and blue, hazing in the distance. Old Sharp Top pointed to the sky like a pyramid. A faraway dream. The warm weather gave way to cool days but left a trail of heat—tree canopies flaming crimson, copper, gold, and yellow.
Plenty of space for God.
The Daily Post Prompt: Un/Faithful
I never thought about God that way. Must have been growing up with nuns.
Thanks for the insight.
Nuns with pointers in Catholic school–definitely missed that one.Maybe that’s why some people started the Reformation.
Beautifully rich in local color…..but not having grown-up with the nuns of L’Ecole St. Jean Baptiste, you cannot be blamed for not knowing that God spoke only French.
Oh, Cynthia, God did not speak French until I turned 10 years old. Immersion. But not through nuns–eventually through the likes of medieval thinkers, DesCartes, Voltaire, Pascal, Claudel, to name of view, plus everybody who was into the absence of le Bon Dieu. God gave pretty tough exams in French; he never wrote/spoke/recognized English or low-church Methodists. ; )
Catherine, you do have a way with words that makes your stories come alive! Could read your stories all day!
Thanks, Liz! The previous generation of storytellers share a lot. I guess they are in heaven or on Sharp Top.
“God grew and shrank, depending on who talked about him. Poor God.
Loved this and went on to love the rest of it, as well. You entered completely into the mind and speech patterns of a child. Vivid and original imagery and funny, too…i’m a fan. Judy
Hi Judy. I’m glad you liked it. I’m trying to stretch point of view. It’s a fine line to walk–to get in a kid’s head. I’m still working on it.
Oh, your opinion?! I repeat a few adjectives such as “big.” That’s a basic adjective for a kid. It may repeat too many times. I will revisit the post later. I often edit extraneous, unclear language after the fact. Thx.
I do the same thing. Every time I read a blog I change something…They are organic!
The agnostic in me took a hike while I read this, and I remembered my Nana and the stained-glass window we donated to her church after she died. Nana swept and dusted the altar and the pews on Saturdays, and sometimes brought me along, pinning a handkerchief to the top of my head as a gesture of modesty before the Man who lived in that House.Your writing is beautiful, as always, but this piece really touched me. Perhaps I do have a soul!
You have a generous soul, Scribbleheart. If I think of God in this way, I can believe. My parents kept it simple, and it worked. BTW good story in your comment.
My most powerful interaction with God was on one Christmas morning when the family dog, a Basenji lookalike, prowled under our tinselly tree and, without seeking permission, investigated our most scared yuletide fixture, a slightly meretricious black-steepled manger, hidden in a blizzard of finely wrapped presents, and snatched the baby Jesus from its creche–a nativity scene turned crime scene! He, a gutta-percha infant, was swallowed whole and from that point on I realized that God must either not exist or that he has a great sense of theater.
Catherine, your story is charming, as usual.
No doubt. God has a great sense of theater. I have spent my life laughing. For some reason, funerals get to me–when a comic incongruity occurs. Both my mom and dad had several mystical experiences they attributed to something divine (not Bible thumpers, just quiet doers).
Thanks for reading. It is always a joy to hear from the magical island in the sea.
This is a favorite!!
Sent from my iPhone
So glad you like it! Means a lot! Part of a book chapter–stay tuned.
Very effective storytelling from the voice of a child–filled with vivid images and imagination! 🙂
Oh, Catherine, I felt so happy when I saw your book, Hillbilly Belle in Alabama. I can’t wait to read more of your wonderful stories! I always stop and take the time to enjoy your posts; a treat in my busy day. Thank you!
Not long ago I was motivated to read First Kings, Chapter 6, et seq., about the building of Solomon’s Temple. It had a room where God would live, along with the Ark of the Covenant. As God often did, he agreed to live in the room just as long as Solomon and his people obeyed the rules. For example, God expected Solomon to be faithful to his wife, the Pharaoh’s daughter. If the rules were flaunted, God told Solomon that he would send the Israelites into exile once again. Skip to the first verse of Chapter 10: “But Solomon loved many strange women.” Isn’t that always the way? He not only loved a bunch of strange women while still married to Pharaoh’s daughter, he took to worshiping their pagan gods. Thus began the Babylonian Exile. Presumably, that was the last time that God lived in a specific place on earth. I wonder if he kept hours. Maybe he had a sign that he could hang on the door: “I’ll be right back.” We’re still waiting.
Maybe it’s Chapter 11. King James.
The rhythm, the tone, the perspective, the writing. Girl, You. Are. That. Good!
I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of walking down the old country dirt road that went by our house and picking blackberries for my Momma’s blackberry pie. And then when we got older, riding our bikes down that same country road and falling in those same blackberry bushes which were covered in stickers and eating blackberries while we nursed our boo boos. But ya know, you don’t see blackberries around anymore…they just kinda disappeared.
I also remember wondering how they got that big ol’ God in that little house and how He got into my heart and when and how He got back out to go to the bathroom in our house which only had one bathroom for five people, but I figured since He was God, He probably snuck out to the neighbor’s house since their place had two bathrooms. And now you don’t see God around that much anymore either…He and Jesus are no longer welcomed in our schools. And when was the last time you took your children to Church? Have you even invited Jesus into your heart or God either, for that matter? How are our children going to learn like we did? We haven’t killed anyone or been in prison…or at least I haven’t…I don’t know about you. What about our kids? I called my daughter the other day and she went to church some growing up, and she talked to me like I was dirt under her toe nails. Why? I don’t even know why. Because she saw it on T.V. and thought it was cool…I guess. I certainly didn’t raise her that way. You ask yourself…what is this world coming to? I know where it’s going to…the way of the blackberries…gone with the wind.
And I’m afraid straight to Hell
if we don’t change our