On Easter Sunday, I always wore a new dress to church. My shoes didn’t tie like everyday sneakers. They were secured with a single strap across the top of my lace-cuffed socks and buckled on the outside edge of each shoe.
My fingernails, ragged and uneven from swing set chain rubs and tree-climbing scrapes, were painted globby pink.
I climbed into the back seat of the neighbor’s car and sat primly still — squished between the bodies of my sprawling brothers.
The sunlight of Easter morning shone through the car windows as we traveled the five miles to New Hope Church.
Mom twisted around from her perch in the front seat and questioned us in lilting — yet serious — tones. Did we brush our teeth? Do we have our offering? Did we remember to bring our Bibles?
Bibles were raised. Teeth were bared. Coins jangled inside my brothers’ pockets.
My fist clutched a worn handkerchief with a quarter knotted inside, specially wrapped so I wouldn’t lose it. I rubbed my stubby fingers over the flat circle it made against the graying cotton and tried to figure out which side showed the eagle and which showed the man’s face.
A final dip. A curve. We were there! The white gravel of the church parking lot exploded beneath the tires and we rolled to a stop. Legs and elbows wriggled into the open air. I ironed the front of my dress with my little white New Testament, laying holy words against the wrinkles like a faith healer.
Music called to me from unscreened windows flung open wide. Hymns I grew to know by heart banged unashamedly from an upright piano that my mother said “was older than the hills.”
“He Arose!” and “When We All Get to Heaven” pinged against the crookedly hoisted Venetian blinds behind the windows. The pianist was self-taught; she added special chords that gave a tickle to the melodies.
I forced my legs to walk and not dance toward the giant double doors. I felt my spine straighten with pride. This was MY church.
Spearmint gum. Furniture polish. Lilac-scented dusting powder. The smells of church escorted me along the center aisle leading to our favorite pew. I wriggled my flouncy backside against the hard, slick wood; the swishy sound was as comforting as crickets on a summer night.
My brothers took their places, slumping in mock defiance. Mom flapped at them with a songbook and hissed at them to sit up. Then we watched as the same people we saw every Sunday filed into our lives. Their faces reflected the comfort they felt and the faith we shared.
Mom shook hands and patted arms. In those first few minutes of church before the opening prayer, Jesus’ love surrounded me wearing scratchy suits, pastel-colored dresses and gentle smiles.
Finally, a signal only adults could detect whooshed across the seated crowd. Like weeds bending in a sudden breeze, the rustle of talk and laughter peaked… and then fell silent. Eyes and ears leaned forward in anticipation. It was time to worship.
For me, a little girl covered in warmth and hugs, Easter Sunday had begun the moment I slipped lace-topped socks into shiny, slick-soled shoes. I waited for the preacher to say “Let’s pray,” so I could close my eyes and feel the joy of Easter over and over inside my heart.
Robin Garrison Leach is a freelance writer and columnist from Quincy, Illinois.”Robin Writes” is published in numerous Missouri and Illinois newspapers. Contact her at email@example.com