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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Salem

I think they say that hearing is the best trigger of memory after smell. And if they don't say that, for our purposes here just assume they do. I heard Heavenly Sunlight at church tonight, which yanked me back to about 1982 in a place called Salem, near Alba, TX.

I didn't know it at the time, but Salem Church of Christ was a place where the roots ran pretty deep. There was an old, no-nonsense building with wide, white asbestos siding that would rub off on you like chalk if you touched it. It was high off the ground on piers, and smelled like, well, exactly the way a church building should. There's a Confederate cavalry officer buried in the cemetery adjoining, ringed off by a chain-link fence. When I would get loud, the porch served as the nursery. I remember the sand. What everyone parked on was like yellow beachsand, surrounding the 10x30 spot that was actually paved with ancient blacktop. Everyone would stand around in bright moonlight in lengthy Friday-night conversations (early on the mid-week service was on Friday nights). I see and smell these things as if they happened last Friday.

As a small child, I had kind of surrogate grandparents there: an elderly couple, poor as churchmice. They would always tuck three or five dollars in my hand for 'ice cream money' which wasn't really ice cream money at all. They were truly good, deep down, the way so few are. To make endless possible stories short, the men there led singing in turn, each doing a song and sitting down. Dad preached. Every one of them knew several songs, but due to time, I guess, they only got to lead one or two. So all of them had a "usual." My Paw Paw Lennon's two were Heavenly Sunlight and Farther Along. I have a faint memory of a crowded, unbearably hot little church building where I stood for an hour or so the day we buried him, probably singing those same two songs.

So tonight, this kid starts up with Heavenly Sunlight, and I'm wrestling a feisty Jack. And when I looked at Jack, the continuity of it all struck me like an anvil. And I wished old, smiling, bald, cancer-ridden Paw Paw Lennon could see me now. And I started to appreciate the heritage we have in Christ, at least in the physical, familial way. That this faith is not some new idea, an untried idea. Our ancestors have practiced it longer (and maybe much better) than we have, for a long long time. It was passed from person to person to person with care.

On to the wanderings of our Captain. Sometimes we can accept bad things from a loved one, if they're tempered with good things. This weekend, I can overlook Jack peeing a football-sized spot on my shirt (during church) because I got home Friday to a 2-tooth grin and a little voice that said, "Da Da." Bygones are now bygones. Today we went over to the bayou for the poor man's bluebonnet photo shoot and hit the swings on the way. It was about the most beautiful day imaginable. Heavenly Sunlight? Your darn right it is, Paw Paw. Full pictures are forthcoming.

We are now 35 or 40 seconds from the child crawling. He's already pulling up and smashing his fingers, toppling over, you name it. I'm discovering that babyproofing the vessel's rigging and cannon is a monumental headache and darn near impossible. I mean, what safety measures can you put around black powder? Flintlocks? Cutlasses? It's maddening. And most of the crew can't figure the 'proofing out once it's in place.


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