I went alone. H. was traveling back from Michigan; Figgy had a lot of homework; and Sis and Don are all the way in Connecticut, a tough ride on a weeknight. I was composed at first--daydreaming, even, and fidgeting, like I did as a kid in church. But by the time I went to Communion, I had to hold back the tears to say Amen when the priest presented the wafer.
It was good to be back in my old childhood church, surrounded by things I still know so well even though I've belonged to my Montclair parish for 20 years now. I was home in some sense of the word--with the suspended lighting fixtures, the all-white statues of Mary and Joseph, the polished pews, the gilded Holy Water receptacles, the Stations of the Cross, the altar. I spent many a girlhood Sunday taking in every detail. So many memories. It occurred to me tonight that in a plain childhood, a young girl craving glamour and pageantry could find more than a little under the church's steeple. Imagine: Priests and nuns in dark, mysterious robes that grazed the floor; rosary beads; rimless eyeglasses on Father M. and Sister A.; altar boys in black and white; brides, with veils; Sunday dresses and hats; frothy white Communion dresses and little dark suits; the May Procession; voluptuous bouquets; older widows in coal-black clothing and sturdy laced shoes; gleaming, golden chalices; plain wicker baskets passed hand to hand for collection; ushers; crowns of fresh flowers on the Mary statue in the grotto outside.
I loved it when my Mom put on a pretty silver or black dress and pearls and her gold charm bracelet for a night out. I liked her brown suede jacket, her mink stole, her My Sin perfume. I watched Sis set her hair on orange juice cans and put on pantyhose and fashionable clothes she sewed herself. But church offered a chance, every Sunday, to drink in another, very different kind of glitz.
After Mass tonight, everyone was invited over to the parish hall for light refreshments. I went briefly and had some frittata, a little brownie and some baby carrrots with dip. Noreen, someone I ran track with in high school, was also there. [Sadly, her Dad just died a month ago--in his 70s.] She told me that the room we were in used to be the bowling alley in Saint Mary's School [the school closed recently, after decades]. She showed me those little arrowlike markers underfoot, the ones you look at when you are about to release your ball on the shiny floor, aiming for the pins. My mother bowled every Thursday night for years at Saint Mary's, but until now this was a secret space I'd never seen. My classmates and I didn't get to bowl.
You didn't? Sis said when I called her after Mass. We did. We had a bowling league. I think it met on Saturdays.
That's my big sister for you. Ahead of the curve. Good night.
P.S. Not sure quite how to word this, but I am aware that many people do not have happy memories of the pageantry of Catholic Church. I sat and watched from a safe perch. I am so sorry that some people have suffered unfairly, and so much.
- Boot camp in the park. The fresh air felt great. Really hard workout, though--running up stadium steps and around track.
- Was a little late for boot camp due to complication, so stayed after and walked 3 track laps with my friend Heidi.
- Walked Sug with Barbara and Benz.
- Turkey on rye.
- Decaf latte.