Easter 1978

Children who grow up in the Episcopal Church today probably don’t remember their first communion. Our theology today is one that includes children at this family meal from the time of their baptism, which is frequently done when they are infants. And I love that children never remember a time when they weren’t welcome, when communion was not part of what church and God and community mean. That said, I grew up at a time when first Communion was a big deal, and not done on the day of baptism, but when you were a bit older. There were classes of preparation, days, weeks, months of anticipation all for this tiny crumb of bread and sip of wine. I remember my own first communion and the excitement that went on around it. My mother took me shopping for a dress, I imagine, but most certainly for an Easter bonnet. She bought silk flowers for it and we wove them in and out of the holes in the straw hat in the week before Easter Sunday, the day that would mark my first communion.

That Easter morning, my father went, as was his custom, to the early church service to read. My mother and I ate a lazy breakfast and were getting dressed. I remember the distress in his voice as he entered the house, calling my mother’s name. Calling her name, over and over, until we both came running. “The church,” he said. “the church is on fire.” Easter morning and the church was burning. (To be precise, it was the Christian Formation building, but still, the Church).

We arrived at the church, like so many others, a silent vigil, watching in horror as hoses full of water broke through windows, as orange and red flames spit out of that beloved space. As the fire began to die down, word came that we would have our Easter Day mass at the Baptist Church around the corner at one o’clock.

I imagine how strange all of it must have been for my parents. Not just not having Easter in the Church, not just the horror of watching helplessly as that sacred space burned, but the strangeness of watching their daughter take her first communion not in the familiar marble altar rail, but in a rather generic worship space, without the smells of incense and the colours of the stained glass windows, without the comfort of what was, at that time, home. And yet, even in the different space, it worked. It was Easter. The community of the faithful was gathered and fed. Hymns were sung and Alleluias proclaimed. And we returned to our home, gratefully, the next week.

As for me, of that day, I remember very little. Except for kneeling at a rail, filled with expectation, curious and excited all at once. My eyes fixed on Father Ferguson, and I stretched forth my hands to receive that funny piece of bread. And it was good.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Happy Easter.

i’m still here!

Hi y’all (if anyone is still out there!):
I’m still here.
I went away on vacation in mid July–hands down one of the best vacations in years. If I can’t get out of the States to go trail-blazing in Spain or hit the Holy Land to get a little closer to those roads that JC walked, send me to my native land of fried okra and heirloom tomatoes out of my parents’ garden. Leaving Athens, driving to Florida (private frickin’ beach, off season, y’all–I saw 4 other people on the entire beach while I was there–paradise), the cooler was packed with veggies out of my mom & step-dad’s garden, as well as veggies from my papa & his beloved’s garden. It was heaven. We had cold cucumbers and tomatoes for lunch for days and it made my heart happy. Almost as happy as seeing all the people I love.

On my last day (last hour) in Athens, I sang happy birthday to my grandmother, on her 90th birthday. We sang it 6 times and each time it was new to her and she was delighted. “Sarah, hurry up and cut me some of that cake. I’m hungry!” (And how great does my mom look?)

I also spent a little bit of time in Decatur and saw a friends from college that I haven’t seen in years, which made me unbelievably happy. And a really bad movie: A Simple Plan. Don’t watch it. It’s awful. I mean really bad.

And there was the beach–books and dolphins and sand dollars and blueberry pie and wine and sun and Monopoly and no internet (save my iPhone–but even so, no email for 12 days!) and sea kayaking and a lost $300 pair of Rx sunglasses and seashells and green beans and coffee and no mosquito’s and coconuts from the trees and the priest at Mass who forgot to consecrate anything but the priest’s host and figured no one would notice if he just threw some unconsecrated wafers in the ciborium (I noticed), Scrabble and margaritas and sunsets and it was all over far too soon.

Since I’ve gotten back it’s been work and life. I’m turning over story ideas in my head which I have yet to get on paper. I’m a bit homesick for the South, which, having been so eager to leave, always suprises me a bit. Pepper, a 5 month old black lab spent the weekend and I remembered with joy how much fun it is to have a dog around, and also, bittersweetly, knew the loss of Micah even more deeply. I’m not ready–not yet–for another dog. But I’m open to the possibility. In time.

There’s more to write, but not now. For now I drink coffee and wonder about Stewardship and the Virgin Mary (not as far apart as you might think!) and step forward, one foot in front of the other, in this strange land I call home.

lucy finds a window

it’s been forever since i’ve posted anything–sorry about that. it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. i moved on october 1st. it’s been a transition! i’ve moved to a much, much smaller place (that charges much, much less rent). it is, hands down, the smallest apartment i’ve ever had. so 3/4ths of my stuff is in storage. and i’m learning the much needed art of de-pack-ratting. 

i can’t decide if i like this apartment or not. what irks me about it is the smell. it’s got that old grandpa stale smell in one of the closets. vinegar, bleach, damp-rid…you name it, i’ve tried it. my latest is aunt lynn’s suggestion of a plain old bag of charcoal to absorb the odor. we’ll see. they’re going to paint soon, so that may help as well. 
the other weird thing–and it’s really only weird in the sense that it’s new too me–is that i live on a floor full of people. it’s kind of like walking down a hotel floor full of doors. i’ve never lived in an apartment building with more than 6 people in it, so this is weird. and it’s kinda creepy. i walked out for church the other day at 7:15 on sunday morning and could hear my neighbor snoring. so, you know, thin walls and doors. 
but the good stuff…it’s cute. i need to put things in their place and paint and get pictures on the wall, but it’s really cute. very vintage, very charming. yeah, the sinks a bitch to do dishes in, but it’s got great big cabinets and storage. and i have a big stainless steel table that goes in what would be the dining room–an extension of the kitchen–so i have some decent counter space, room for my coffee maker and my kitchen-aid mixer. 
and the best of all is the window. pretty much floor to ceiling windows, which makes for very happy kitties. my lucy has just discovered a way to dive from the floor to the table to the kitchen window and, clearly, she’s found her niche. all this makes me happy. 
plus i’m really close the the church, which means i can easily walk to and from. and i live, now more than ever, fully in the city. it’s a little bit like being back in NYC–not the same, but a little bit closer. i walk home past outside (for now) patio restaurants and bars, ice cream shops open until 11:00 pm, coffee shops, grocery stores and people. lots of people. 
so it’s not perfect, but it’s good. for now. for awhile. which is good, because i don’t fancy packing up my stuff again anytime soon!

a room of her own

in my last apartment, i had a wonderful sunroom. it was my favorite thing about the apartment. the problem was that it overlooked the courtyard shared by all the apartments, which meant that we were all basically staring at each other except at odd hours of the day when all the students were in class or asleep. but my writing nook was in that room–my purple chair, bought for me when i was a baby, by my grandmother, my ottoman that i bought on a street corner in new york and a pot of tea made in the teapot my father gave me for christmas. my father remembers very few details about my life (he once forgot my middle name), and that he remembers consistantly that i love tea and teapots always makes me happy. anyway…sermon writing often happened in that spot in the sunroom at 4:00am, when all the world was asleep but me and the holy spirit.

from june until october, i lived in transition–all my belongings in storage, house sitting for a friend. sermon writing was different because i didn’t have that room, that space. although i had a huge house to myself, there was no nook, no ottoman, no teapot. it was, in short, not my room.

my living room is pretty much unpacked at this point (it’s taken me forever and a day to get unpacked and it’s still happening, but that’s another post). i’ve found the teapot and the chair and the ottoman. but i’ve changed it up some. the chair in which i sit has changed and i no longer need the ottoman. there is no sunroom–just a row of window and silver sage paint on the walls. but the room is mine. i look out on the wet chicago street, lined with trees where leaves are turning from green to yellow, and am grateful to be home.