Does God live here?
Late summer is slipping away. Watching children line up for the school bus put me in mind of a small child’s perspective. How our view of the world changes when we grow up.
“This is God’s house,” said the Sunday-school lady. The full skirt of her bluish-green dress puddled as she scooched down. The brown-speckled flesh floor looked like Nannie’s hands. The tips of the lady’s white gloves rested on the edge of our maple table. She rocked on her heels.
Last time she tried to sit in one of our squared-off chairs and tipped over. We laughed. We were loud. The lady rose with a tight-lipped smile. Her midnight-black pouf with no part shone but didn’t move. A careful curl wisped along either cheekbone. She fluffed her bangs.
The lady’s buttons were bright blue. They punched down one side of her dress and then down the other. Sometimes the lady wore pink, other times brown. I liked best when she wore blue. Her buttons changed color, but they were always large and round and flat. I wanted to steal one to put in Mom’s button box.
God grew and shrank, depending on who talked about him. Poor God. How did he fit in his house? God was so big he had to leave when we visited his house.
I pictured him trying to sleep at night. His head stuck out of the blue-and-red-and-yellow window with pictures around the tall man whose hands and feet turned open. I especially liked the lion, the giant bird, the lamb, and the cow with the wings. God’s feet stuck out the other end of the church, where we sometimes ate supper. Afterward, all the children raced along different green, black, red, and blue lines that ran up and down the yellow floor. The lines made shapes. Mom said they were circles, half-circles, and squares. The big boys shot baskets.
The floor smelled funny. It was waxy and sweaty.
Mom said God lived in our hearts and pressed a hand to her chest.
A song said God had the whole world in his hands. That stuck with me on the way to Mama Hattie’s house. Dad drove our rattle-trap white station wagon. We always reached Spooky Hollow as night crept across gray dusk.
Dad rolled down his window and called into the rush of air. “Here it comes, Spoo-ooo-ky Holler!” A twang stole into his syllables. For the next seven days, “hollows” became “hollers” and “over there” became “over yonder.”
Crammed in the middle seat, we squished from one side to the other as the wagon lurched and pitched. When riding home from church with Dad, we called it “playing corners.” His sedan was cavernous and round. Sometimes we took turns crouching over a peephole in the worn floorboard, staring at the pavement and counting how many times Dad wandered over the yellow line.
The station wagon had wings. I wished for sharper, longer ones so we would blur past the inky trees walking in the smoky fog. Here and there crooked arms and skeleton fingers thrust up, down, and out through the leaves. My sisters and brother shrieked.
“Look, there’s an old lady in a long dress, right behind that fat tree.”
“That one doesn’t have a head.”
“Revenuer—he busted up their still.”
“Ghost deer! Do you see them?”
My eyes squeezed shut. Fly. Just fly away.
In kindergarten Sunday school, the teacher counted off the weekdays God took to make the world. I could spell all the days. On Wednesday, he separated land from water. The National Geographic showed pictures of the Grand Canyon. God probably spent most of the afternoon crashing his fist into the ground and splitting rock. But as shadows fell late in the day, he gave his hands a rest. God lightly printed his thumb into hollows and coves to push up the North Georgia peaks.
In summer, the mountains rolled green, purple, and blue, hazing in the distance. Old Sharp Top pointed to the sky like a pyramid. A faraway dream. The warm weather gave way to cool days but left a trail of heat—tree canopies flaming crimson, copper, gold, and yellow.
Plenty of space for God.
Buttons courtesy of Marco Bernardini