The concept of church was simple in my childhood home, if the door was open, you were there.
Sunday mornings would be spent getting our dresses ironed and on before heading to Sunday school. The church process was ingrained in us from a very small age.
You were to be respectful to the elderly people. This included letting them kiss your face, pinch your cheeks and ruffle your hair without making ugly faces and especially without pulling away.
Failure to operate as expected ended you up with a nasty pinch, and let me tell you people, my mother was the expert pincher. You never saw it coming but it hurt!
She was a crazy kamikaze pincher that would be smiling, talking with someone, and get a hold of you then pinch/twist before her arm disappeared back beside her.
Sunday school was always taught by one of my aunts and included everything from Jesus, bible verses, snacks and a swat on the butt for acting up. The arts and craft projects that came out of that little room would pile up in the backseat of my mother’s car until it was a muddy mess that had to be scraped off or washed out of the floorboards.
But we learned a lot, and in that little southern church my foundation was built. I learned that Jesus would provide everything I needed in life. I learned to keep an open heart and I learned that little bologna and pickle sandwiches would not kill me.
The brief intermission between bible class and preachin' was mainly for the older ladies to have plenty of time to shuffle from their classroom at the back of the church to the front pews. My mother swore it was so that kids could get a drink of water and use the restroom because God didn’t like us getting up during preachin'.
We didn’t have a children’s church. People of all ages from that community and some like us that drove out from town all gathered in that sanctuary and waited for the Word.
Those paper fans of old days were pulled out of a few bibles during the hotter days. Frankly you had to be sure not to sit too close because some of those women would fan themselves so fast and vicious, it could take an eye out.
The church had those big ole pews with the blood red padding on the seats. The backs were smooth and worn from years of congregations moving through. The occasional dark spot where some dad had snuck into the church to sand out and smooth a spot where their kid had taken a knife and carved.
The padding was faded but plush, the results of those said elderly ladies that prefer something soft to sit on for their fanning. The pews were long and families all had their own area. We sat towards the back on the north side. We didn’t sit anywhere else. Ever. It’s where we belonged.
Big church with my aunts and mother in such close proximity meant punishment for sleeping, talking or anything unauthorized would be delivered swiftly and with quick judgment. However, we learned at a young age that good behavior was rewarded with food.
My entire attitude toward being good was shaped by “purse candy”. If you have never had purse candy, I feel for you…. It’s the tootsie rolls or jolly ranchers that filled the bottom of someone’s purse. It was put there especially for good church kids. It was how we measured time as well.
Exactly halfway through the sermon, the designated aunt/mother would look around casually to see how many of us children were attentively listening and behaving in big church. She would then delve into the depths of the purse and pull out candy for the good kids.
Very discreetly you would be given your treat. Then it would take long minutes of careful planning to open it without making noise with the wrapper…. Because she could take it away as fast as she could give it.
Once that tasty treat was safely in your mouth, you passed the trash back to her. (You learn fast not to tuck it behind the bible on the back of the pew in front of you or under the pew cushion!)
Years passed and eventually we would all go our separate ways. One Sunday, I found myself with my toddler back in my hometown and attending church with my family. Imagine my surprise when I found a piece of candy passed to both myself and toddler mid-service.
Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Dividing her time between Grand Lake and North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.