Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…
Boy, he is loud. His voice, a deep baritone of strength, bellows over the sea of gray hair surrounding us.
I mouth the words I’ve said three million times while tracing the grooves of polished wood holding my hymnal. That book must weigh at least ten pounds, makes way too loud of a noise when you drop it. My favorite polish, sweetheart pink, is down to small flecks atop my jagged nails, I inspect them as they follow the maze of wood grains in our pew. I have to finish chipping this polish off before school tomorrow, nuns are the only women on earth who do not appreciate a glossy coat of the perfect pink.
Click, click, click, click.
Can my brother ever stay still? If Grandpa wasn’t praying so loud that boy would be in BIG trouble. I don’t know what these heavy clips in the pew are for either. No one else is using them amid the miles of flowered dresses to my left and navy sport coats to my right but I’m WAY too mature to try trapping my sleeve in one when it’s almost time for Communion.
Grandpa would be beaming if he turned to me right now. I have successfully linked my long knobby fingers perfectly together and my clear lip-glossed lips are not missing a single word of the Lord’s Prayer.
My granddaughter-of-the-year stance is certainly trumping every wiggling fidget of my brother.
And forgive us our trespasses…
He really is the loudest person here. I feel my face getting warm as that perfect chestnut french braid turns back from a few rows in front of us. Her nose scrunches and her eyes tell me that my praying family is totally bugging her. My red face burns hotter because now I’m embarrassed for my embarrassment. Even if we are in church I glare my best snotty glare back. She doesn’t go to my school so I am brave.
There is nothing about this booming figure next to me that I am not be proud of. He’s just talking to God, so what if everyone can hear?
Just to show how proud I am I look over at him. He always has that comb, blocking the tracings of a worn wallet barely hiding in his back pocket. I see the black beads threatening to spill from the end of his sleeve, aged fingers swirl them as he prays. A rosary, always within his fingertips.
The emerald of his sweater traces our Irish blood and ends in a “V” at his tie, a perfect triangle held down by that beaming voice. His hair, brilliant silver twisted with white, not a single strand out of place. I watch his bifocals teeter on his kind face, reflecting the mass book he does not even need to glance at.
My mouth is still moving, just in case Grandpa looks my way, but I keep watching, trying to soak up a drop of his faith, his pride.
As I think back to this day and the path my life has taken, I think “lapsed Catholic” may be the term best suited for me. I worry about this and whether my late grandfather would still be as proud of me as that little girl hoped he was that Sunday morning.
Sundays in church or not, I think he would be.
My grandfather and his dignified life of conviction taught me faith, unwavering love for family
and where to find my big, beaming voice when I need it.
This post is part of the Red Dress Club’s memoir meme. It was written in response to the prompt:
Make a list of some of your most vivid childhood (or more recent) memories. Jot down a few memories and then pick one and write it down in as much detail as possible. Investigate what this memory means to you.
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This is a great post, thanks so much for sharing it!
i grew up Catholic, so you just took me back to being in church and hearing a big booming voice reciting the Lord's prayer, not just reading your entry 🙂 Thank you.
Julie Gardner says
This was beautiful, full of just the right details to make me feel like I was there. Especially when you were brave in the face of the girl who didn't go to your school. Loved that. Loved it all.
What a lovely tribute to your grandfather.
Loved this so much, I felt like I was in the pew with you. I had lots of favorit parts but my most favorite part of all was the small flecks of sweet heart pink on jagged fingernails- that made me happy.
Karen Peterson says
You wrote some really beautiful description here. And I love that you told the story in present tense. I think it makes it more relateable.
Oh, I really like this! This is an experience I never had, not even remotely . I never had a grandfather and we didn't go to church, but I can still feel exactly what this must have been like for you.
There are some really great lines in here. Some of my faves:
"nuns are the only women on earth who do not appreciate a glossy coat of the perfect pink."
"She doesn’t go to my school so I am brave."
And I love the end with the big, beaming voice. Such a great…well, it's not a visual. It's a feeling. It's great.
Oh I love this!!! You painted this picture so beautifully! I was right there in the pew with you.
Oh this was wonderful! Very cleverly written in the present tense from a child's perspective.
I'm sure your grandfather is very, very proud of you.
I know Grandpa is proud of you! I know he enjoys watching over all of his kids, grandkids and great grandkids from heaven. He certainly left a lasting impression on all of his family.
My experiences in church were limited to going to Mass with my bestie after Saturday night sleepovers, and I never knew either of my grandfathers.
I'm still moved into your space, into the mix of pride and embarrassment, in the snotty look for the girl with the French braid, the pink nail polish.
I'm not a big church person, but this brought me back to my childhood memories sitting in the pew and the innocence that accompanied those Sundays.
Mad Woman behind the says
What a lovely memory. I don't remember sitting in church with my maternal grandfather but I did have an opportunity to lunch with him, just as I was turning 22. He told me he was proud of the woman I was becoming. For all of the 22 years I had known him, I had never recalled him ever saying anything remotely personal to me. This statement was huge. Thank you for taking me there.
I am more than certain that your Grandpa too would be proud.
And yes, the voices of our families that embarrassed us, for me, my mother's. Wow did that woman sing hymns with some serious conviction.
Really beautiful writing in here, Jessica. You captured perfectly the wandering thoughts of a child and the pride and love you had for your grandfather. I love the details of the chipped nail polish and the lip gloss.
And you use your booming voice every day in this space.
This brings such vivid memories. Well written, with great spirit, and honesty.
You did a great job capturing a little girl's voice–comparing herself to her fidgeting brother, noticing the snooty girl in the pew ahead, lip gloss, chipping nail polish. I could almost smell the incense. Also, a lovely tribute to your grandfather.
Kate Hopper says
Jessica, this is so beautiful. I love the way you capture the wandering mind of a young person in church. Your love for and pride in your grandfather comes through loud and clear. Wonderful use of details. And I think it's clear to all of us that he would be so, so proud of you! Lovely writing!
Thank you Kate, I'm honored that you took the time to read and enjoyed my post. Thanks so much for offering a prompt that took me on a journey through memories I hadn't visited in years.
Elena @NaynaDub says
Beautiful memory and I'm sure he would absolutely be proud!
arms wide open says
your grandpa sounds like a fabulous person… i think he would most definitely be proud.
This is beautiful. And it conjured up so many memories and thoughts for me. Conflicts of what my adult like does not reflect of my upbringing.
This post does what I love posts to do…it has stuck and idea…and thought…behind my eyes. And that means soon I will be writing too.
There is so much here that is lovely that I could go on and on pointing it all out.
I love that you were able to remind me what it's like to be a little girl.
This line is perfect: "My red face burns hotter because now I’m embarrassed for my embarrassment."
I loved going to Mass with my grandmother…the way she knew what to say and when. The way she held her rosary and the way she beamed at me when I sat quietly and made her proud. Such lovely memories. Thank you for transporting me back to those mornings at church.
Your grandfather would, undoubtedly, be so very proud of you. You are lovely, kind, generous, intelligent, and compassionate. He would be beyond proud.
Wow, what a vivid memory!
I can relate! I remember my aunt singing in church, louder than anyone else, and God rest her soul, she wasn't any good, and very off key! &heart; BJ
Fabulous job! Loved the flow of the Lords Prayer through it. Brought back memories of my own.
Just like your grandfather's booming voice and unwavering conviction, your blog here is your booming voice and unwavering conviction for her.
Sarah Halstead says
I love it. Great post.
Rachel Loudon Snyder says
Very well written. I loved reading it!
By Word of Mouth Mus says
You have a gift with words and your grandfather sounds as tho he was a huge influence on your life. You have great faith in the world Jessica, and we are enjoying this voice you have found.
How could anyone not be proud of the lovely mother and woman you've become? Of course he would be
This tells so much about both your grandfather and yourself. While you may have taken a different route than your grandfather in some ways, you've followed in his footsteps in so many others, and I think you're right, he would be very proud. He clearly was a major role model for you.
Tracy Morrison says
Oh I love this – the only times we ever went to Mass when growing up were when we visited my grandparents. My grandpa was always my loudest voice trying to lead me to the lord. Never worked..but I will always remember him for that.
The JackB says
I can't say that I remember Mass, but grandparents I do remember. I liked the detail regarding his voice, but I think that you got something wrong. Brothers never cause trouble, that is something that is limited to sisters. 😉
Oh I can remember many of masses that were exactly like that. You immediately transported me back to mass, daily, in my uniform, the nun telling us that we needed to speak up if we expected the Lord to hear us!
I felt like I was in one of those old big Catholic Churches, my knees hurt from the kneeling! Such imagery, I love that your Grandfather was so much larger than life and of course – you were the good one – brothers are always the troublemakers!!! Excellent writing, as always!
I loved this post and how you ended it with "finding your big voice". From painting the picture of your grandfather being larger than life to your careful examination of the man behind the big voice; I really felt like I knew him.
Often times as adults when we are feeling under pressure, overwhelmed with despair or lacking grace towards others; we really lose that big voice with a prayer on its lips that draws us closer to the real Voice we should be listening to.
Wonderful post and introspective as always. I adore getting a notification that you have written something new because it gives me such joy to read how you are writing with your heart! Well done!