The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

You tell people up here that you’re from the South, and nine times out of ten, they say the same old thing: “I’m sure you miss the sunshine.” Rhonda and I both miss taking sunshine and easy morning commutes for granted. But what we really miss are the laughter and embrace of our mothers and grandmothers and aunties, kin and not kin. We miss the big oak tables in their dining rooms where, as kids in the seventies and eighties, we ate bowl after bowl of their banana pudding as they talked to each other about how much weight you’d gained, like you weren’t even there. We miss helping them snap green beans and shell peas sitting at their kitchen tables watching The Young and the Restless on the TV perched on the pass-through. We miss how they loved Victor Newman, hated Jill Foster, and envied Miss Chancellor and how she dripped diamonds and chandeliers.

We miss their bare brown arms reaching to hang clothes on the line with wooden pins. We miss their sun tea brewed all day in big jars on the picnic table in the backyard, then later loaded with sugar and sipped over plates of their fried chicken in the early evening. We miss lying next to them at night in their four-poster beds with too-soft mattresses covered by ironed sheets and three-generation-old blankets. We miss their housecoats, perfumed with Absorbine Jr. liniment and hints of the White Shoulders they’d spritzed on from an atomizer that morning before church. We miss tracing the soft folds in their skin when we held hands and watched our favorite TV shows in their beds. Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest.

We miss how they laughed and were easy with each other. How their friendships lasted lifetimes, outlasting wayward husbands and ungrateful children. Outlasted that time Alma caught Joe cheating and she whacked him on the top of the head with the sword he’d brought back from the war, but he told the people at the hospital he didn’t know who did it. Outlasted having to hide your medicine bottles in your shoes because, otherwise, seven of your nine children were liable to steal them. We miss how they seemed to judge everyone but themselves. Or maybe that judgment was in the “nerve” pills they procured from the Chinese doctor on Bay St. who didn’t ask questions. We miss their furtive cups of brown liquor on Friday and unabashed cries for Jesus come Sunday.

We miss their one gold tooth that made us wonder who they had been as young women. We miss their blue crabs, the shells boiled to a blood red in wash tubs atop bricks over makeshift fires built in the yard. The wash tubs reminded us of cauldrons, full of rock salt– and cayenne-drenched water bubbling and rolling, mesh bags of seasonings and halved onions and peppers floating on top, along with potatoes and ears of corn. We miss how they stood over those cauldrons like witches, stirring a potion. With sweat beading on the tips of their noses and smoke swirling around their hands and wrists, they wielded long-handled spoons to press the frantic, flailing crabs toward their deaths.

We miss how they made our Easter dresses and pound cakes and a way out of no way.

Deesha Philyaw, from “Snowfall” in “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia Press, September, 2020)


Notes:

  • Let’s rate this book as: “Wow.” And Highly Recommended.  Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Winner of the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award, and so deserving.
  • Kirkus Book Review: “Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”
  • Los Angeles Review of Books:  “Her characters create intimacy and have hope, not despite their ugly odds but because of them.”

Sunday Morning

All gods are homemade,
and it is we who pull their strings,
and so,
give them the power to pull ours.

—  Aldous Huxley, Island


Notes: Quote Source. Photo: DK, Feb 5, 7:25 a.m. Cove Island Park.

Sunday Morning

How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning.

— Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers


Notes:

Sunday Morning

The Sun’s rays shimmered through the needles of the tall pine tree overhead, and the grass glistened with dew as Joshua walked through the meadow, deep in thought. Sunday morning was quiet in Auburn. No noisy traffic broke the peaceful silence of the Sabbath rest. Sunday should be that way everywhere so people could give their wearied souls a rest from the nerve-shattering noise of their workdays. The quiet of nature is God’s tranquilizer.

— Joseph F. Girzone, from “Joshua: A Parable for Today” (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1983)


Notes:

  • Joshua, a Parable for Today” was a gift to me from our virtual blogging friend Ray Visotski. Ray’s Blog can be found at Mitigating Chaos. Ray, I’m grateful for the gift (which will stay with me) and for the friendship. (BTW, to tie into this quote, I looked for a pine tree and could not find one, and the grass was glistening but not with dew but with ice – and the meadow will have to be replaced with Long Island Sound and the Atlantic – – but the tranquilizer was all there.)
  • Photo: DK, Cove Island Park this morning @ 7:28 a.m.

Sunday Morning

I didn’t know if there was anything like a God. I didn’t care. But it was mostly clear to me we were not just castaways in some tohubohu bearing an ensign of meaning only for those desperate enough to concoct one: I felt mostly certain more was going on than met the eye—despite not having a real clue just what that “more” might entail. My assuredness on these matters owed less to faith than it did to experience, for I’d been hearing echoes of the uncanny since early childhood.

— Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, September 15, 2020)


Photo: DK, Daybreak. December 20, 2020. 6:23 am. 28° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT

Sunday Morning


Photo: DK, 6:30, 6:35 and 7:12 a.m., Sunday, Nov 29, 2020, 33° F.  Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning


DK, Daybreak. November 22, 2020. 6:30 to 7:02 am. 41° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT

Sunday Afternoon

It felt as if one’s entire world was one, long Sunday afternoon. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.

—  Ralph Gibson


Photo: Eric Kanigan of Sully and me. More on our Sully here and here and here.

Sunday Morning

 


Daybreak. August 30, 2020. 5:55 to 6:15 am. 66° F. Humidity 76%. Wind: 11 mph. Gusts: 28 mph. Cloud Cover: 3%. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Sunday Morning

DSCF1156 - geese

June 7, 2020. Daybreak. 5:14 a.m. 62° F.  Wind: 9 mph, Gusts: 27 mph. Weed Ave, Stamford, CT.

Paul Klee: “One eye sees, the other feels

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