thoughts from a fella who used to be a little boy in church chewing peppermint gum

by tobias crabtree

If everything went away, by everything I mean people and clocks and devices and cars and all things man-made, and I was afoot and wandering on the earth, I wonder if I would recognize Sunday. For whatever reason, Sundays are a bit different to me. Sunday mornings speak to me in low, personal tones. The fog stays a bit longer. The sunlight carries into spaces that are usually dark. The early morning stars sing stories of every faith and imagination since man first began to look for some kind of god. Sunday holds my thoughts for me all week and spills them out when I arrive. I can remember certain feelings from my childhood that took place on Sunday, things that couldn’t happen on any other day. After all, Sunday was church-day. It was the day when my family acknowledged God, my parents’ God. My Pa sat in the kitchen with the Bible open and my Ma helped round up the kids, all five of us, for the trip to the church. I endured church. Some things were good and some were boring. My Ma knew it was tough for me to endure so she helped my little spirit by giving me a half stick of peppermint gum, she knew that I was not above plucking a used piece from the bottom of the pew so she gave me a freshie. Plus my Mom was the bomb, she still is the Sweetest Thing between the stars and the bottom of the sea. The service itself was usually boring unless the speaker pulled some stunt or told a really good story about some dude possessed by the devil or some poor fella (which usually ended up being the speaker himself) who used to be a fighter/drug dealer who found God through some unbelievable event. Usually the sermon was just really boring and it was followed by the invitation which was sometimes cool if someone made a big scene out of going down the aisle to get saved or someone decided to confess something in front of everyone; otherwise, the invitation was boring and often too long because the speaker was bummed that he hadn’t dragged more people out of their seats with the well prepared guilt trip he just finished delivering. These weren’t my favorite things about Sunday, although I do actually think back on all that and smile. It’s a slice of my life that I wouldn’t trade if I could. I love that my parents are who they are and they love me right back, no matter how much of a pain-in-the-ass I am. And I kinda am that.

I had secret church on Sunday’s. Come to find out, the creeks still ran under grassy banks and over sunken logs on Sunday. And the painted slider turtles still sat all in a row on the edge of the half-submerged concrete. And the butterflies still followed intricate pathways through the pond-grass and nettles; the Cabbages and Brownies and Painted Ladies, the Swallowtails both Tiger and Black, the Monarchs the Morning Cloaks, the Admirals, the Skippers and the Sulphers, all in an endless river of colors that continue, even now, to amaze me. My church was any stream, any tree, any field. The timbers of my church were rooted in living soil and they swayed under skies that surrendered to the seasons. In those places, I learned to worship and I spent hundreds of hours on my knees watching the magnificence of the earth unfold like the wings of a dragonfly. Some might say this is not the Truth. I would say it is nothing but the Truth and it is as pure as it was before I knew it. So maybe, because of the fact that I was taught what it meant to believe wholeheartedly in something, maybe that’s why I still find myself walking out into the woods with a pounding heart. Ready for the moment of complete submersion in what I know is real and good and not words and not text and not some translation of a thought from someone else.

I’m not sure what nostalgia is. I can tap a button and find a definition. Or I could define it from my experience. Nostalgia is a slippery word, kinda like deja vu. If I were to give nostalgia a color it would be somewhere near the color of a morning at Trinidad beach just north of Arcata, California. It would be grey but there would be that early morning periwinkle kind of blowing in and out from behind it. Yeah, and there would be the colors of the sounds of sea gulls and terns and sea lions that are beyond that big stone that knows all the great white sharks by name and talent and etiquette. I think of nostalgia as a bit of a condition. I have it. I have it almost all the time. It doesn’t have to include sadness, but sometimes sadness leaks in from the gaps between the thoughts. I wonder if nostalgia is just a realization of the facts of life. Life, this utterly amazing, irretrievable, electrifying collection of heartbeats and daydreams. Nostalgia might just be the wind blowing over the wild flowers of a life that has been lived, catching us in the now and delivering a fragrance that cannot be revisited. Every day is a yesterday in the making. I am aware of the hurt-and-heavy that comes with living, but even that is a treasurable item.

I’ll end with a story of a Sunday, a once upon a time. It isn’t at all that different than any of your Sunday stories because it is only a story. It is a telling of a thing as I remember it from a more innocent me. I was 11. My family had just turned left from Pierce st. onto Jefferson. At that precise moment, a neighbor named Ed, 19 years old, from the other end of Jefferson was speeding in his hotrod firebird and he was coming towards us. The little 6 year old blonde girl from across the street chased a ball into the road. Many things happened at once. Ed saw the beginning of a sorrow he would never forget as his car struck the girl and sent her into the air. My Dad stopped the car and said, Oh my. The little blonde girl tumbled lightly and fluttered to the ground like a leaf, her socks still in the road where she was hit. I stood over my father’s shoulder as he held the little girl’s head. Softly, so softly, my dad was speaking to God and me and that little blonde girl, Oh darling, oh my, oh little darling. I do remember seeing her eyes looking about for a few seconds and then fluttering off into that other space that we don’t understand, way out there where there ain’t a single track to follow and where we dump our tears into the shadows cast by the ones we’ve lost to that space.

Have you ever built a little boat out of sticks and put it into a stream? You should try it. Put a little time into it and make it so it floats, even if it’s not perfect. When you set it free in the current, there is a flicker of time where you are still attached to that simple, tiny craft. And when it disappears around the bend, you will miss it.