Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Aunt Elsie II

I was Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey's 'substitute child' for many years. They were childless and I was the youngest of 15 Jones family kids. So I would go each summer to spend a week with them--which, for me, was wonderful--coming from a southern West Virginia town of 500 to a suburb of Charleston, the state Capitol and a small city of 70,000, was an adventure.

The only weird thing was how, each night, before bed, we had to kneel down on our knees and say prayers. Uncle Harvey and Aunt Elsie were very devout. He was a Nazarene minister and she was his partner in running the church--musician, Sunday school teacher, accompanying him on pastoral visits. So we knelt down to pray before bed. Her prayers were short and sweet. His were loud and long. Mine were whispered and almost non-existent.

No TV in their house and the radio tuned to a Christian station. My parents were devout, but nothing like Elsie and Harvey.

When I was in high school, they adopted Denise, who was 6 or 7 at the time. She shook up their world. A TV appeared in their house. Lots of things changed. A child, at their age, made life different than it ever was.

When I was 11 or 12, during my summer visit, Aunt Elsie tried to teach me to play piano. I was an awful student but did learn a short song I can still play today. My father and mother came to pick me up and Elsie told me to go play my song. My father said, "Jimmy, we're trying to talk, can you stop that racket?"

Aunt Elsie explained to him that it was a song I had learned. He asked me to play it for him and I refused. Fathers and sons stuff. We hurt each other whenever we could.

Much later, when I was going off to Harvard Divinity School, my Uncle Harvey told me: "it's bad enough you're an Episcopalian. Don't go up there and become a Unitarian."

I think I answered something like this: "Episcopalians are really Unitarians with pageantry..." Something like that.

He was never comfortable with my Anglican leanings. Elsie didn't mind--was even interested, just glad I was a part of the Christian world....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.