Saturday, April 03, 2010

The most important thing to remember if you were going to Easter morning service at the Evangelical United Brethren Church on old Highway 17 was not to drink too much orange juice with breakfast because the preacher talked a long, long time before we got around to singing “He Lives” and going home and the bathroom was a 2-seater outhouse in the churchyard, down the front stairs, past the stained glass windows and next to the cemetery where your great Grandpa and Grandma were buried. Honeysuckle vines grew up the side of the outhouse in the summer and bees nested in the rafters right above the door. In the spring you were pretty much safe; it was too chilly, the bees weren’t buzzing yet. But you knew they were there from last year’s Bible school when Miss Carlson your Sunday School teacher warned all the children to “be real careful, just open and close the door slow, they’re not so much concerned about you as long as they know you’re just there to take care of business and not bother them.” Sunday school boys told us girls snakes lived in the floor of the outhouse and surely they probably did because every now and then one of them would sneak into the church basement and make all of us scream during a pot luck supper. I personally myself had seen a spider crawling up the back wall of the outhouse on more than one occasion. Clearly, for reasons beyond the obvious issue of fragrance and lack of toilet paper, it was a place you didn’t want to visit often and when you did, you wanted to make it a quick and stealthy slip in and out, unnoticed by anything that buzzed, slithered or crawled. I hear they have plumbing in the building now which is nice, especially for little kids who hate spiders and garter snakes, but I can’t imagine Easter is nearly as exciting.

Time passes, things change. One of my second-cousins once-removed or some such familial linkage my grandmother explained, left that little church a nice pile of money a while back. It was a small fortune he had accumulated over a lifetime of hard work and farming. The spruced the old church up a bit; enclosed the old concrete steps with a entrance, refurbished the massive stained glass windows and I'm sure the inside of the place got some long and well-deserved TLC, in part as a result of his generosity, but also because simple farm and small-town folks loved the place over generations and just refused to let it die. I keep telling myself I've got to get back there for a visit one of these days if only for the sake of "remember when".

My parents were married in that little church, the home church of my family for many many years. I stood on the small platform with my Sunday school class, back to the audience and refused to sing during the annual Vacation Bible School program because my 6-year old self was mad I had to leave my brand new swing set, dress up and go to church to perform on a perfectly lovely summer day. I learned to make fancy little folded creations out of my grandmother's lace hankies in the rickety old wood pews, her way of entertaining me during long sermons she knew were slightly tedious to a little kid. Over the years I remember the same people sitting in the same pews every Sunday, like they staked their claim when the place was built and everyone just understood the system. The offering plates were wood and posted on the back wall, every Sunday, was Last Sundays Attendance (usually around 30 people or so...) and Last Sundays Offering (why I remember seeing $23.15 posted there, I can't tell you but I do, clear as if it were yesterday.)

Outside the door and a short walk across the grass is the church cemetery. Lots of familiar names there. And just down a few rows.....the legendary spot little kids used to approach with caution, wanting badly to believe that if you are very quiet and make it clear you're just opening the door to take care of business and not disturb them, the bees will leave you alone.

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