The old country church was unlocked for us by the beautiful woman who has held the key for many years. All we had to do was ask, and she wholeheartedly obliged knowing how important it was for us to touch base. Then, my son and I were left to ourselves to take in the ambient memories, a few of which are our own. Most are accumulatively shared with generations of ancestors who have attended services, held the hymn books, prayed together, listened to scripture.
Generations all tied to my son were baptized, confirmed, married, eulogized within these walls. His paternal family has sat in these pews, have sung in these choirs. His ancestors helped build this little holy place. He knows this inherently. He's aware of this through the stories we have passed onto him. The gift he feels is a sense of belonging that stretches from the present back into the breath of shadows. The stories echo home.
It was my son's idea to spend time in the little church during our first visit back to a place this family of mine holds close to our hearts. Initially, his request surprised me. I knew he wanted to walk the circle of the village road to say hello to the people in our lives whom we hadn't seen since last summer. Though I knew it would be an emotionally charged pursuit, I wanted to as well.
Going inside the church wasn't something I expected my son to want to do. When I thought about it, his desire made sense. I guess I just didn't realize how much that place already held the stories for him. As they do for his Dad. As they do for his Aunt and Uncle. As they do for his Cousins. As they do for his Sister and Me. Stories linger in the breath of the shadows.
Like everyone, however, who is attached to this village, the Spencer's Island church cradled those important ties that bind in the breath and shadows of people who tangibly represent the eternal. My son had only ever attended a few services there, the last two being a memorial service for his grandparents and a rededication of the church which included remembrance of two elders who had passed on in recent years. The names Spicer Currie and Gamblin touch chords in us. Deeply meaningful, ancestral names. At those services, he sat in a pew surrounded by an extended family many of whom he didn't know personally but who knew him. He is the namesake of his Great Uncle Max. This is how he is "known." Uncle Max was an elder and a lifelong active resident of this community. More intimately, he was our constant anytime we visited and he continues to cast a big presence in our lives. God, I miss him.
As I took photos from the balcony, it was Uncle Max's voice I could hear the most pronouced...........singing in the choir, telling us stories, welcoming us with a huge smile and a big bear hug when we arrived to the big old house he had grown up in, which had been left in the Will to his sister, my Mother in Law..... my son's GrandMim. The old house is now out of our reach. We don't have access to it anymore. But, the visit to the church reminded us both that its not what matters. What matters is feeling the spirits of past and present which emanate throughout the village, especially in the pews of this little church.
While my son looked around at the dedication plaques and recognized the names of relatives, he asked many questions.... good sense of belonging questions. I could see in him how much it meant to feel this grounding...... this sense of place and person and hoped it helped him find a settling in the turmoil we have been experiencing. His spirits were bouyant, uplifted........ which in turn lifted mine.
I continued to look around through the lens of my camera to catch the shadows of mid morning. It was then that I remembered something about shadows ........... one can hear the sounds, the voices, the hymns caught in their breath when there's light shining above. For it is light which allows the shadows to form...... Light provides the breath..........the spirit. No light. No shadows. No breath from the past......
As we left........... my son asked me to remind him of his first trip to Spencer's Island.......... It was November, 12 and a half years ago. He was 6 weeks old, and slept through the night for the first time in his wee life, cozied up in a basket bassinet right beside me........ The next day, we all went for a walk into Uncle Max's woods on a beautiful crisp sunny day.......... he in a snuggly wrapped around his Dad's chest ..... content as can be ..... and when he was hungry, I sat comfortably on a log in the middle of the woods and nursed my boy. He loves that story. So do I.
More to come........................