I have been on a Pilgrimage.
It began on that superhighway known as Google. Then, it was on to numerous rummage sales and thrift stores in regions far and wide. Antique stores seemed logical since what I was searching for was something very old. I left each one disappointed. Often, there were situations fraught with danger and loathsome creatures….like bats, and in one place on the prairie, a very tall and rickety ladder that ended in a barn loft full of pigeon poop.
Who knew that I would find exactly what I was looking for in the most unlikely of places?
Actually, it really isn’t so much a church as it is a building that used to be a church. The church has, er….left the building. It is set to be torn down along with the tiny parochial school and church rectory owned by the diocese. An entire city block of old, brick structures will be gone soon according to the nice Church Lady who helped me the other day at this formerly sacred, now dank and moldy, place where hundreds of families once went each Sunday to worship and practice their faith.
I am not a member of this parish or any other, for that matter. This would, no doubt, disappoint my Irish Catholic grandfather, who attended Mass every week of his life, sitting in the same pew in a tiny mission church on the Leech Lake Indian reservation which, ironically, was named after St. Catherine, a virgin princess and scholar who was martyred during the 4th century by the pagan emperor Maxentius.
But, as I’ve already explained…I was on a pilgrimage, on a search….which is how I ended up at a rummage sale in a church.
Hallelujah and BINGO. There they were! Rows of old, oak pews! I did a little liturgical happy dance in the aisle. The benches are heavy and solid, and worn smooth by the bottoms of the Faithful (or Fidgety) who, for over a hundred years celebrated Mass in that sacred place. My treasures will be cut down to size and delivered to me soon.
When our house was built several years ago, one of the things that I absolutely, positively, wanted in my kitchen was a breakfast nook. When I was young, the family of a good friend of mine lived in a beautiful, older home that, in addition to a sun room, had a fine old kitchen with a breakfast nook. I remember summer days of good sandwiches made from thick slices of her mother’s homemade bread and glasses full of her dad’s homemade root beer and toe-numbing January “snow days” of hot cocoa with marshmallows slurped up while sitting in that nook. Those memories of those times, that kitchen, that childhood still make me smile and feel warm inside.
My own nook, with the old church pews, will look nothing at all like the place I remember. And yet, to me, this space in this house built in the woods will be a sacred one to me. It will be small enough for a dinner for two and a spot where friends will visit, face to face, over cups of coffee. It will be large enough for the frosting of Christmas cookies and cousins and Thanksgiving pie. It will be a comfortable spot to linger, to laugh, to visit. A place of peace and communion. Every family needs a nook. A place in a kitchen built solely for the purpose of holding in the love.
The great cathedrals of the world were built by men.
Women build different kinds of churches.
This will be mine.
There is a girl I know who is turning 17 very soon.
Because I am her Auntie (and have known her since before she was born) I am probably biased when I report that she is pretty flippin’ outstanding in all of the ways it is imperative to be pretty flippin’ outstanding when one is 17.
To say that she is bright would be an understatement. To say that she is good, and sensible, and caring does not do her justice, though she possesses those qualities, too. She is a strong girl both mentally and physically. She is disciplined in her studies and in her music. She is a girl who will go places. A girl to be admired.
And I do.
Seventeen. That year between “Sweet 16” and college visits. The year made famous in a song. Because I was once 17 a very long time ago, I know that there will be days when she totally “gets” what Janis Ian was writing about. Days when she isn’t feeling fabulous at all. Days when she doubts, or is scared, or feels alone, or too tall, or very small. Days when she feels like she’s all thumbs and out of tune.
Seventeen is the year of standing on a diving board at the edge of the swim raft on this enormous lake called Life. Since there’s no life jacket, this is scary but also pretty awesome. It’s the year of possibilities. Of childish dreams that begin to turn into adult plans and goals for the future yet to be created.
Sunlight and sparkling water and a thousand tomorrows are waiting for strong swimmers like the girl I know.
Happy 17th Birthday, Dear Girl…
They became friends as first graders more because of proximity than preference. I suppose this is true of children in any neighborhood. They were little guys who spent hours playing touch football and soccer, collecting all things Pokemon, and tracking mud into the kitchens of their mothers. Two of the three of them were obsessed with pandas as evidenced by the elementary school Halloween photo of the two of them in full Panda garb. They walked back and forth to the elementary school three blocks away every day. Then, in middle school they walked in the other direction toward the high school. There were sleepovers and trips to the cabin and birthday parties year after year. Sometimes, they drifted apart. Always, they found their way back.
One was a red headed, freckled face boy. One a tow-head. One was black haired.
Three Good Friends.
This past weekend, they came to visit me, the mother of the black haired boy. They are all 21 years old now. And they are still good friends to each other. They ate…a lot. They sacked out and watched football. They went hunting. They drank a few beers and had a few laughs.
What a gift. To be friends with people who knew you when you were afraid of the dark and who knew you before your voice changed and who know your deepest and darkest secrets and fears.
During the years we were raising our two children, many, many children came through our door. Some, I was glad to see leave. Others, I was fairly neutral about. There were (and are) some I genuinely enjoyed. And there are a small handful I love almost as much as my own.
I fed two of them lasagna over the weekend, listened to them talk about their plans after college graduation, and marveled at the passing of time.
One is now a smiling red haired gentleman who is still as passionate about my peanut butter fudge as he was in the fifth grade. The other one is a tall, blond, bearded hunter and fisherman. And then there is the third. My dark haired Trickster whose loyalty and love for his friends is just one of the qualities I admire.
Good friends. Such good friends.
They are blessed and they don’t even know it yet.