the way home
i’d just dropped him off, had gone to the classroom door, kissed him, reminded him–because he looked stricken–of his bus stop. where it was, the corner he suddenly couldn’t remember, the one he’s looked out at nearly five-sixths of his life.
i turned then, headed for home, me at 5’ 4”, pushing a bike and a helmet and the training wheels too, all of which came to maybe 30-some inches. so i was listing, had a crink in my side, as i bent and i pushed. and every once in a while the wheels, over the bricks on the streets that are cobbled, decided to go a way all their own. so i’d get jammed in the shin.
it was right about then, crossing not far from the church with the steeple, that i heard my name called.
oh, not in the way that you would have turned too, turned to see who in the world wanted to go out for coffee, say hullo, otherwise check out the world as i knew it. no, not like some shout that ruffled the calm of the morning.
what i heard startled me, made me turn. but you wouldn’t have heard it.
it was the church. the church called me. said, psst, get over here. you and the bike that is banging your legs. cross the street.
so i did. when a church calls your name you do what it says. trust me. who knows who’s doing the calling. and there’s not a soul, not a soul i can think of who calls from a church, who i’d not want to do as they say.
i left the bike and the helmet there at the door. i yanked on the door. it was open, unlocked, a marvel given the way things are in the church, in the world. believe me, there’ve been plenty of times when i needed a church to be open. and it wasn’t. no matter how hard i yanked i could not get in.
do you know what it feels like to be standing with your hand on a tall wooden door, a door that feels like a plank to a castle, and you can’t budge the hinge? can’t get a crack of a chance to get yourself in, settle down, pour out your heart to the God who you know is right in there. but the folks who run things seem to have forgotten that, sometimes, not at mass times, there are folks on the street who need to, who have to, get in. we have our reasons, you know.
well, bless the church by my house that thought to leave open the door. and had candles besides. real ones. not those faux ones that hum because they’re lit by a battery. and forgive me, but battery-operated prayer does not cut it with me. what if it runs out of juice? does my heart-felt petition go up in vapors? pffft, into the dark?
i knelt me right down. right up at the front, off to the side, under the carved marble feet of mary. you know, the blessed virgin. let me tell you, there is–to my liking–hardly a place in the world where a mama can feel quite so embraced, so understood, as there looking up at the very big toe of dear mary, the most blessed mother.
she soaked up my load like one of those paper towels you see on all the commercials, where they dip the tip of the towel into a puddle of kool-aid, and shhhhhlllpp, soaks it right up.
mary did that right to all of my worries. i gave her the whole wad, every last thing i could think of for all of my boys. the one i’d just left with the quivering face. and the big one, the one off at the high school, where he seems to come home every day with a smile i’ve not seen before. he is happy right now, but the place can be tough, and i thought it smart to stock up on prayer and protection.
i learned long, long ago that to be all alone in a church at the start or the end or even the middle of a day, is a most holy thing. i know God does not really live there. not only there, is what i mean. not exclusively there, not nowhere else there.
but still, to be alone in a cavernous place, especially the one where i knelt beneath mary, a place where a long row of stained glass makes the light pour in in a cocktail of colors. a place with a particular quiet that is not like that of the woods, or even the night. a place where, despite all logical thinking, you are certain God is right there in the shadows, heck, just there at your back. and any darn minute you might feel a brush of the wind, or a finger ever-so-lightly there on your shoulder, and you’ll turn, and there will be God. there will be the face of the one you have prayed to all of your life. the one who’s dabbed all your tears. oh, my God, think of the kleenex. the one who’s put air in your lungs and wind to your wings. the one who, really, you live for.
only you’ve not seen him lately, because you keep forgetting to stop in the church. you’re not so keen on the church, at least lately, when everyone’s there. you like it best when it’s just you and the light and the colors and God. mary, too. mary is welcome.
so i sat there after i knelt there. i just soaked up the sense that really that place is a good place. is a place i really should visit. it’s a place on the planet that feeds me like few other places. especially when no other soul is there right beside me, is blocking my prayer with some hat with a brim and too many flowers.
after a while, i knew that my visit was over. as i got up to leave, dipped my hand into water that’s holy, that’s blessed, that i splash like some kind of a mad woman, over all that might need it–my lips and my eyes, my heart and my head, even my ear lobes–i thought how i might have just found me a new way home in the morning.
i thought how i might have just found the way home.
i felt rather blessed, and most delighted, that, hobbling toward home, i heard that church call my name. now i know how to get there, and who’s there when i yank on the door.
do you have a sacred place where you don’t often go, but when you get there, you know that you’re home? or do you have a sacred place you go often, because it so fills you? have you ever been away from a place for a while, and been stunned at how home you feel, right away?