At several of our former parishes, I helped out with the music program while Ed was the pastor. I remember one specific church with a tiny choir of about 7-8 women. We were busy working on Christmas music, when I realized that none of the women had ever heard of “Lo, How a Rose,” a beautiful old, well-known (or so I had thought) Christmas carol. I took the time to teach it to them, and I remember saying, “You might hear this on TV or radio or even in a store during Christmas shopping season. You'll suddenly recognize it and think, Oh, yeah, that’s the one Carol taught us!” Oh, the significance of leaving one’s footprint for posterity!
I imagine we have left our mark in one way or another on every church we served. It is also true that they have left their marks on us, and therefore, they join all the other characters in our ongoing life story. This applies not only to people we met in church, of course. From casual acquaintances to family members, our memories are full of the people we have known - their quirks, their accents, and the wonderful characteristics that made each one of them unique.
After blogging about Aunt Bessie last week, I did some reminiscing with Ed about the various phrases we use on a frequent basis - phrases that immediately remind us of people from our distant (and not so distant) past. These folks, living and dead, probably never imagined they had become part of our linguistic repertoire.
I remember one preacher we heard at a revival. He preached a lengthy sermon, as one is wont to do in revivals, but at one point he said excitedly, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” The way he said it was so funny, we have never forgotten it. Now when Ed and I agree with a plan, we both say, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” All this from a guy we only met once and will never see again. I can’t even remember his name.
After Ed gave up drinking, the United Methodist Church required that he go see a psychiatrist for evaluation before they would let him pursue a path to the ministry. Ed remembers that this doctor wrote very little on his notes, but one sentence stood out, an observation which irritates Ed to this day. The doctor wrote: “The patient is stiff and rotund.” Ed, of course, has to defend himself, which he has done on a regular basis in the ensuing years. “Of course I was stiff and rotund!” he explains. “The doctor had this huge, overstuffed leather couch that when you sat down on it, you sank at least 8 inches. I was very overweight back then and couldn’t get up out of that damn couch!” Ever since then, when we feel lethargic and bloated, we say we are “stiff and rotund.” It still gives me a chuckle.
We had a sweet parishioner who was a grand, old Southern lady with an equally charming Southern drawl. During one hot summer, she told us that when she was little and it got this hot, she used to “go lay on the kitchen floor under the table, on the linoleum” to get relief. She stretched out the syllables in "linoleum" in the traditional Southern way. Now when it gets hot, we say we need to lie down “on the linoleum” to get cool. Thanks, Mrs. Johnson, you charming Southern belle.
The tradition continues to this day. Ed’s doctor said a couple of years ago that his cardiac risk assessment was something like 20% risk of having a heart attack in the next decade. The doctor kept saying, “That’s HUUUGE! That’s HUUUGE!” in an agitated fashion. Even though Ed thought that if he were a gambler, a 20% chance of losing sounded great and he would take it to Vegas in a heartbeat, he couldn’t keep from chuckling about the way that doctor said the word “huge.” Of course, every time a statistic comes up, we have to mimic dear Dr. Trenkle.
One year, a religious fundamentalist was arguing with us about how old the earth was. When asked about the Grand Canyon and other geological marvels, he replied, “Oh, God just created those with the APPEARANCE of age.” For years after that, every time we passed an old house or building that we had not noticed before, we comment on it and say that it must have been built the day before “with the appearance of age.”
My point is that all these folks have inadvertently given us ongoing laughter in our lives, and I sincerely thank them for their generosity, even though they were clueless as to their part in our little production. They’ve been a part of our lives ever since. And that...well, that’s just HUUUGE!!!
And Aunt Bessie’s phrase? Her favorite expression was “Oh, foot!” when she was aggravated, but the one we still jokingly use when our visitors depart (with a true Aunt Bessie-style half-grin/half smirk): “Come back when you can’t stay so long.”