The truth is if my grandmother weren’t ever in my life, I’d never had any church experience. My parents rarely agreed on anything, but they seemed in perfect union about this one matter—they both hated church. I went with my grandmother every Sunday because I liked the stories, the music, and the churchyard.(photo by J. Caron )
Service United Presbyterian Church still sits out in the country, off a dirt road, next to a reservoir of pristine water, its sparkles and reflections called out to me every Sunday. And if I could, I’d be in my bare feet on the soft grass, with “How Great thou Art,” rolling over in my mind, looking out over the water.
A simple, yet beautiful, one-room red-brick church, was all anyone needed on a Sunday morning. I am grateful for the years of uninterrupted faith I found in this church’s walls and on its lawn. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve been so certain and felt so comforted, including right now, this moment as I write this.
As I grew, I questioned statements like “the Jewish people are God’s chosen people,” on the one hand, while on the other hand, I was told that if you did not accept Jesus as your personal savior, you were a sinner. This was just the beginning of my questions and wandering, much to my grandmother’s heartbreak.
She was a woman of faith, a woman who knew the order of the world, knew her place in it, and her relationship with God. She knew that an innocent heart, like mine, should not use words like hate and God (in vain) and she told me and my sister so. She knew that sex should be only between a man and a woman and that it should only happen after you are married.
I admired her knowledge and faith, but it seemed that what she knew and what I saw (and felt) were two different things. I wish I had the chance to discuss all this in more gentle terms, rather than in my impassioned teenaged voice. Even though we disagreed on many things, I never doubted my Gram’s love for me. It’s something I still feel almost daily and she’s been gone for years.
Once, when my daughter lay in a hospital bed, I heard my mother’s and sister’s soothing voices over the phone, but it was Gram’s voice that woke me from my restless dreams, healed my fears, and strengthened my resolve in the wee hours of the morning. “It will be all right,” her voice said, clearly. I was in that place that parents know so well when their children are sick. I was asleep, lightly. I knew it every time the nurse came in the room, yet I didn’t lift my head from the pillow. In a sort of state between waking and sleeping, my grandmother’s voice came to me very clearly. “It will be all right.”
It was as if her words filled me with light and energy. I was immediately alert,energized, soothed and confident. Ready to deal with the hospital and my coughing daughter. It’s amazing what dreams and memories of such a strong love can give you.
Some people think of food memories and memoirs as nostalgic and touchy-feely. And maybe this story is just that. But I know what the scent of Depression cake recalls for me. Perhaps that’s the only thing that matters. Do you have a food memory that fills you with strength, comfort, energy, or light?