Treasure Hunter 101
Through the hazy fog of partially-lost memory, I squint to see my past.
As the mist gently lifts, I see her – the five-year-old version of myself – walking beside my best childhood friend, Janet Maloney. There we were, like two little ducks, scurrying after Janet’s mother as she led us through two huge, heavy doors. Our feet clicked loudly as we tapped our way into the barren chapel. The church felt empty. Abandoned. The ceilings seemed so far away, as if they were suspended from the sky. Creatures had been carved into dark wooden walls that stretched upwards to hold hands with heaven. Everything looked big and dark and reeked of something I had only smelled after rain. This new world around me seemed immense and unknowable, sterile yet smothered in supernatural secrecy. And, as a child who was never taken to church, it was scary. Ominous enough to silence two rambunctious young girls, which as any parent would understand, is a miracle in itself. A strange woman approached us as we loitered behind long rows of benches. Her wardrobe was drab and colorless, just like the rest of this place.
“Hi, Sister,” Janet’s mother said to the woman. Her voice was saturated with something that wasn’t herself. Sorrow, I thought. Or perhaps exhaustion. Later, I learned it was the sound of divorce.
“Hi, Sue,” the woman replied through eyes of pity. She waved her hand, suggesting we follow her into another room. So, we trailed behind as her long garments swept the path before us.
I don’t remember uttering a single sound during my first visit to the Catholic Church, but when the invisible gag in my mouth disintegrated, I gushed about my adventure.
“Mom! Mom!” I shouted with my typical childish excitement. “Did you know that Mrs. Maloney’s sister works at the church?”
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