If proof of God exists in my early years, as the tutorial at the Methodist church suggests, I’m hard pressed to find it—although my having been born is something of a miracle. My parents were young and wildly inappropriate for one another. They were college students who met at a party and then…the details get a little murky. One snap shot in my possession may or may not be my parent’s nuptials. I have very little photographic evidence from my childhood and even fewer explanations. Despite my father studying film in college, he did not own a camera, so all that remains is a small and odd assortment of pictures taken by extended family members and friends.
My parents split when I was five and my mom rented a tiny house half a block from a park. For two years, we lived there. I walked myself to and from the nearby elementary school for grades first and second. While my mom worked, I wiled away long afternoons at the park where I met my best friend Michelle, two years my senior and owner of a bicycle with a seat long enough to fit two rear ends.
I had heard of God (the giant peeping Tom), but it was not until Michelle that I gave God more than a passing thought. Michelle and her mom lived in a house even smaller than ours—one bedroom instead of two. Michelle had lots of ideas, one of which included wanting to please God and she explained the best way to do this besides being good was to go to church. The extent of my knowledge in this arena involved that old game of putting my hands together with my index fingers sticking up and reciting the lines, “Here is the church. Here is the steeple.” Then I would “open the doors,” wiggle my fingers and cry, “And here’s all the people!”
Michelle had her eye on a church in our neighborhood. We could get there on her bike, although we would have to walk it across one busy street. I wasn’t eager to go to church, but I adored Michelle’s adventures, and it looked like she had her heart set on this. With permission granted by our moms to venture outside our normal confines, Michelle came to fetch me on her bike early one Sunday morning. I sat, she pedaled, and off we went.
The ladies greeting people at the door didn’t know what to make of us. I probably hadn’t brushed my hair, much less dressed in anything special. “We want to go to church,” Michelle announced. They said we were welcome to attend Sunday school in the back. Michelle pointed to the sanctuary with the pews and the grownups. “In there,” she said with great authority, “is where we want to go.” The ladies clucked at each other and told us to wait. “Let’s go,” I hissed. Michelle told me to shush.
The ladies returned, seeming very pleased. We could attend regular services this week but if we returned the following week, and they hoped we would, we were to attend Sunday school. Michelle nodded slowly: she would accept their deal.