Train A Child In The Way He Should Go…
It’s odd sometimes how simple things such as a Graham cracker and peanut butter can bring back such a wealth of memories.
The night had turned cold after a most glorious week with temperatures reaching 80 degrees all week. Eager to get in bed after a difficult week at work, I began getting our cat “China” ready for bed. However, I decided on a little snack before retiring the cat to his room and I to ours. I walked into the kitchen totally undecided when my eyes spotted the Graham crackers on the bottom shelf; beside it a jar of peanut butter. Hmmm I thought, I haven’t had one of these since like forever, therefore a Graham it would be. Sitting down in the kitchen booth, I began to make my snack, yet before I finished, a wave of memories from a long time ago swept over me like the rush of a desert wind.
Suddenly it was 1964; the Cuban missile crisis was behind us, Kennedy was dead and war in Southeast Asia was building. However since I was only eight at the time, these things did not hold my interest as much as hearing the fascinating stories of life before cars and planes as told by my Grandfather. Having been born in 1893, he could weave such stories of farms, mules and wagons that was sure to fuel my imagination.
As I spread the peanut butter on the cracker, I recalled how early on Sunday mornings my Grandfather would arrive at our home in Greer some twenty miles from his home in Greenville. I would be watching impatiently for his arrival and then I would see his two tone 1954 Chevrolet coming up the gravel road. I always had trouble hiding my eagerness when Grandfather would arrive. It always meant that I would get a shiny silver dollar to put with my collection and I would get to go to church with him back in Greenville.
Almost as soon as he would arrive, we would depart. I can still smell the interior of his Chevy now as I crunch down on a tasty Graham. Though he drove at unmercifully slow speeds, it seemed as if it were just a few minutes down the road when we would arrive at church. As we walked across the parking lot toward the large building ahead, I recall Grandfather always being the gentlemen tipping his hat to the ladies as we passed them by. They would in turn smile widely and walk on by with their heels clacking on the stone pavement. After passing a small grove of oak trees we would find ourselves walking up the large stone steps at the rear of the church. We would in this course pass several neatly dressed men who would always smile; reach out and grasp Grandfathers hand shaking it vigorously. They would exchange small talk and then we would then enter into the back of the church slipping quietly into a pew to which I later in life learned in good humor that this is what most all good Baptist do.
The sanctuary before us was large with almost floor to ceiling stained glass windows. I remember quite well the multitude of aromatic fragrances which mixed freely in the air which made think it was springtime even in the middle of winter. In particular was one perfume which carried with it the overwhelming smell of roses and powder. Even as a child I seemed to notice that this scent belonged primarily to all the sweet old ladies. I can still see their chalky white faces and red puckered lips as they would come over and speak to my Grandfather and invariably steal a kiss from my blushing cheeks.
With the service soon to begin and to help keep me quiet, Grandfather would pull out his gold pocket watch for me to hold onto during the service. This watch always held my fascination. On the back was the engraving J. D. Wilson and the year 1905. I would recall the tales that went with this watch about how Grandfather got this when he was a young man working with the railroad. I would often sit and imagine myself being an engineer with the little striped cap and always as soon as the preaching would begin, I would be pulled away from my daydreams and reminded that this is where I pay attention to what was being said and pay attention is what I did.
The preacher was in my eyes an old man, but younger than Grandfather. He spoke with a thick low country dialect that dripped with grits and honey. Paying attention to his words were never hard to do even though much of it I did not understand fully at the time. I always liked it when he would take what the bible says and break it down into tiny stories that related to the circumstances that surrounded our lives today. He would tell how Jesus says we are to forgive our enemies and that if I had enemies in my own life that I was to forgive them. I didn’t know then how these teaching were going to come into play later in my life like they did, but not before I stood on the brink of self destruction was I able to see the saving grace that I was so adamantly taught in my youth.
A few years passed, it was 1973 and I soon forgot the church, Grandfather; and God, or at least I thought I had.
1973….the decent into darkness ( to be continued)
J. Allen Wilson © 12-2007