Esther-Stella’s mouth was the first part of her to arrive in a room.
“Did you see those skateboarders in the parking lot? Why, they about slammed into me when I got out of my car! I gave them the ‘what for’, they won’t be back.”
Well, that was a mixed blessing, for sure. Skateboarding was not allowed in the church parking lot. Still, we’d like the boys to come back. Our youth have skateboarding events.
“Would you look at that altar cloth? Why it’s as crooked as the day is long! No - no, it’s just the shadow. Boy, can you believe how early it gets dark?” This was spoken with a shake of her head on which not a single hair moved. “It’s going to get cold soon, too. Then we’ll know.”
My human nature wanted to ask, ‘What will we know?’, but I bit my lip instead.
“Now Bernice, you played that hymn for us to sing Sunday way too fast last rehearsal. Nobody could keep up.” Esther-Stella had arrived at her seat and was situating herself.
Okay, first of all I still want to know ‘what we’ll know’ when it gets cold, and second of all, Bernice did not play the hymn too fast, some of us had no problem keeping up. Third of all, who is she to make everyone’s decision and why don’t I speak up?
By the time rehearsal ended I was having my usual debate with myself. Is this really the church for me? True, it’s just minutes from my new home. This is now my community, but when are these people going to figure out why we’re here? How long are we going to be influenced by the likes of Esther-Stella? I am not tied to them. Maybe I should leave.
Tonight though, I lingered for cookies and coffee with some other members. Esther-Stella’s two older sisters were there talking of times past.
“Oh, we had the best hamburger place around. Could that Tippy ever cook! He had a real heart for kids, too. We loved his place.” Millie recalled.
“And the huckster, remember him? One time he brought little Billy Wynzer home. Billie wandered out of his yard, and all the way over to Finley Lane. That huckster knew where he belonged and brought him right back.” Mara added
“He didn’t bring Esther-Stella back though! Remember how we had to watch her afternoons until Mom came home from the lamp factory?” Millie asked her sister.
“Oh, she was a terror,” Mara said in a matter-of-fact way.
(Another lip-biting moment for me.)
“She would yell at us and play with things she shouldn’t have - and run away from us!” Mara described how the afternoons went.
“One day she ran all the way down to Clock St. The barber called for us to come get her. Well, we did.” Mara slapped the table top with her hand. Cookies jumped, coffee sloshed.
“Tied her face to the wash line!" Millie jumped in.
Now here was something I hadn’t expected. Nor could I quite believe it was possible. True, proportionately speaking, the longest part of Esther-Stella’s body was her face, but tie it to the wash line? No, even frustrated older sisters wouldn’t, couldn’t do that.
“You tied her face?” I asked in disbelief.
“No!!!!” They laughed.
What Millie had said was that they ‘tied her fast to the wash line’, but with her accent ‘fast’ sounded like ‘faste’.
“Mom got home then and made us untie her.”
Did I note a trace of disappointment in Mara’s voice?
“So, where is she tonight?” asked Bernice. “She should be here to let us hear her side of the story,”
“Oh, she probably went back after those boys,” Millie answered.
“Doesn’t she know when to stop?”
I was afraid I’d asked that and gave a visible sigh of relief when I saw Millie turn to answer Bernice.
“No, maybe not, but she’ll want to talk to their parents if she can, and try to tell them why their boys can’t skateboard up at the parking lot. Then she’ll probably tell them we’d welcome them in church.” Millie said in no uncertain terms. “That’s what she does.”
I just sat there, because sitting is what I do, but I thought about Esther-Stella and how much more there was to her than I knew. I thought about this community too, the one I felt no ties to. Maybe I want some ties after all.
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