Friday, December 01, 2006


I remember the suits, and the proper fragrance of perfumed and gentile ladies wearing big hats with scarlet feathers and according to my Grandmother, far too much rouge.

I remember our pew, front and center.

I remember leaning way back against the curved and cold backplane and staring way up in the "sky" at that man, the preacher, way up there in that pulpit on high.

Rays of colored light would stab into the congregation through window pane stained in the colors of our Lord and His passion.

To a kid like me, he seemed like an angel, this preacher, or emissary from council-on-high - until, that is, he broke the peaceful reverence.

His booming voice would at times scare like a thundering blast, the fear causing me to wonder if, perhaps, it was sent from hell - but in hearing the word knowing not to surrender to such fear.

I remember respect. Reverence. An absolute decency, more pervasive than wafting sweet smells, or the chiseled and tensioning jaw line of an introspective patriarch.

Mother would hand me a mint to "quieten me down", or a firm squeeze at the nape of my neck from my Grandfather, which invariably would perch me back against the hardened, glass-polished wood of that flowing pew - my eyes again locking in death stare with that loud messenger far above.

It sends a chill to my spine even today.

We were a family among families. All like us in so many ways, and some, so many ways different.

Uncle Mick was always there, and sometimes his brood. Granddad and Mick, they looked so alike. In spite of the fights of their youth, I always knew they loved each other like brothers, so I am told, will do.

It seemed everyone was connected, if not by blood, then by a common desire to partake in it.

What I remember most, is the consistency.

Like the well-appointed clothing, there was never anything out of the ordinary here. You could count on it like you would a master tailor, a well-conceived sermon, or the tear that would invariably form in an old lady's eye.

I felt certain it was yet another response to that booming voice from on high, but today I wonder if perhaps that tear she brought with her from home. Either way, it must have been the word that caused it to well in eye.

I remember, so many times, walking out the front steps of that church feeling like my heart was about to explode...elation in the highest-there is no nirvana that could be better.

After church we'd see everyone at the "Sky Chef" was THE place to eat. Located in the glass cathedral that was the McGhee-Tyson airport terminal; you would sometimes feel as if you'd ascended from a preparatory session back at the sanctuary to a place that had the potential (after a good meal, of course) to fly you on aluminum wings to an angel's nest far above the cloud.

Here in this church I would be schooled in a kindergarten, tempered by a boy scout troop, and then sharpened to an actualized edge of sorts - fired as an acolyte, wrought as an usher, tempered as altar boy; there was simile to the ball-ping represented by that ringing chord from a hammered tune as choir boy or bell ringer ; and then this Master's sword would in final act be sheathed in a scabbard that was the church altogether - from administrator to leader and even laity minister in that same pulpit-inspired and divine conduit for booming voice that left me in such awe in my enchanted youth.

It was a scabbard that ensured peace while the sword itself rested in the sanctuary of that place.

There was a magic in the Sunday's of my youth. There was a mystery.

And there was God.

How I'd like to find that airport today, and like the song of old I know I would, fly away.

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