Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preacher, Preacher, Hair on Fire

My mother's family
My mother's family was a large one, as you can see. Although one of them was missing in this photo, there were 13 children in all. There was such an age spread that the older ones had already left and started raising their own huge families when some of the younger ones were still being born back home. My mother is that sweet child in the bottom row on the far right. This photo would have been taken around 1919.

They lived on a farm up by the border between Maine and New Brunswick. You can tell they are farmers by the "farmer's tans" on the men--tanned and reddened faces with white foreheads that would have been protected from the sun by their hats when they were out working on the potato crop. Many years later, my mother would beg me not to move back up to Canada, because all she remembered about that place was the hard, hard work grubbing up potatoes out in the fields.

See that fellow who looks like his head is smoking? That's my Uncle Clifford, who later became a preacher. He was a man who liked to pray whenever it occurred to him, and he liked lots of company. He came to visit our family when we had left the dust of the Canadian potato fields far behind and had moved to a suburban lifestyle in northern California.

My mother had also left the "holy roller" church of her childhood far behind, and my sister and I were raised like little heathens. My parents occasionally did send us off to church on our own with dimes for the collection plate. I remember having a real religious revelation one Sunday on our way to the neighborhood Episcopal church. I explained to my baby sister that we should walk in the woods and Appreciate Nature instead of attending church with the all those "tea party ladies." She agreed with me, as she always did back then, and we made sure to look around appreciatively at some trees and flowers as we flagged down Glen the Ice Cream Man to spend our collection money on creamsicles, all frosty orange and white.

My parents were pleased that we were seemingly "getting religion" every week with no effort on their part. We were also pleased with the arrangement, as was Glen the Ice Cream Man.

All was well, until Uncle Clifford showed up, probably taking a swing through the western states on some missionary trip or other. As I said before, Uncle Clifford liked public prayer, administered often and lengthily, with all participants down on their knees. I spent my Uncle Clifford prayer time peeking over my folded hands and sneaking looks out the California-style picture windows, mortified that my friends might be passing by and might see me in this peculiar position.

As I peeked, I noticed that the adults all kept their eyes tightly closed while in prayer and that gave me my getaway opportunity. I inched along on my knees, painfully and slowly, across the hardwood floor until reaching the carpeted hallway and, speeding up on all fours, made it to my room where I crawled under my bed.

I fully intended to stay there until Uncle Clifford went off to save some other hapless suburbanites, but my mother eventually discovered my hideout. She refused to believe that I was "talking to Jesus" under there, as I claimed. Sadly, that made her suspicious of my other religious activities, and I don't remember seeing much of Glen the Ice Cream Man on Sundays after that.

Little Bucksnort and me, before we got religion


Sylvia K said...

Hmmm, sounds like some of my childhood antics. I went on the big search for religion in my early teens, hoping there was such a thing. That lasted for a number of years until I discovered that for me God was everywhere and not just in a particular building. So, I would have been with you and Bucksnort. Have a good weekend and give her my love.

My name is Jean (aka. Auntie Bucksnort) and said...

You... you... you satanic little heathen, you! Of course I remember none of this (see tomorrow's entry on my blog for details) so I STILL believe everything you tell me - including how nice it smells here in Clovis - not.

your counter-religious devotee, Auntie Bucksnort