Miss Muriel Lowe took a tighter grip of the Bible, tucked deep under her arm, and mounted the brick steps that led up to the First Methodist Church of Rebel’s Crossroads. She was late. Something that didn’t happen often, however today was important. Palm Sunday began the week leading up to Easter and everyone who was anyone came out on these two particular Sundays.
Muriel took her cues from her mother and her mother from her mother. Everything had to look just right. She’d badgered her nephew, Hubert, to take the afternoon off from the Treasurer’s office and drive her up to that new mall. There, she’d managed to wrangle two new outfits. Today’s ensemble consisted of a sheath dress of deep Kelley green, topped off with a cream colored coat embroidered around the edges with an array of flowers sure to make Monet jealous.
Why, she’d even spent an extra twenty dollars so that Eva Green could put a bit of color, a shimmer of Champagne gold, in her hair, just like in her youth. She reached up and fingered the back of the highly trained curls wondering if it all been in vain. Few would see the change beneath the splendid bonnet with the wide brim. She’d seen it first in passing. Sitting at a jaunty angle in the store window, it called to her. Unable to resist its siren call, she’d walked in and purchased the straw creation and to her delight, it matched the color of her dress. The wide satin ribbon and bow clutched a handful of shamrocks and mirrored the cream of the jacket. Yes, it was a spectacular outfit, fit for Palm Sunday.
“Morning, Miss Muriel.” Dan Rodger’s smiled as he handed her the bulletin. “Running a bit late, I see.”
“Yes.” She said as heat crawled into her cheeks. “Just a bit.” “She took time to look around. “Where is your lovely wife?”
He gazed past her to the corner of the church building. “She’s lining up the children and waiting for her cue.”
“Then I must hurry to sit down. I don’t want to keep them waiting.”
The warmth of the sunlight faded as she moved into the sanctuary. The early spring sunlight broke and splintered by the stain glass, showered the worshipers with all the colors of the rainbow. To her delight, every pew was filled. The heels of her sandals tapped against the tile that lined the sanctuary floor as she made her way to the third bench on the right where her family had always occupied. The right side is the one on God’s good graces; her father was fond of saying. Miss Muriel slid into place.
Setting her pocketbook down, she gazed at the altar. A profusion of pastel colors represented the offering from Doris’ garden. Gladiolas, always a favorite, dominated the white wicker basket in shades of pale pink, blue, and yellow. Yes, Doris had done herself proud. It was a shame she had to go down to her daughter’s in Virginia Beach and miss the splendor.
Precisely at eleven, the air inside and out filled with the ringing of church bells across town. Baptist, Presbyterians, Lutherans, even the Catholic Church, rang in unison. Feet skidded on the floor as the congregation rose and the doors flew open. At first, the sound was minimal.
Yet, as they marched in the words to the child’s hymn, Jesus Loves Me, became loud and clear. Even though they were too small to be seen over the heads of adults, the palm leaves cut from green construction paper waved with conviction back and forth. When they reached the first pew, the children stopped, lining the inside of the center aisle. Behind them a single line took up the center. The adult choir joined in with the children. Their voices in harmony echoed and filled the rafters of the structure until the windows vibrated. This was all that is should be. Muriel’s heart expanded and to her surprise, tears glistened at the corner of her eyes.
She watched as the minister, Reverend Finlay, walked passed. Later, after the service, they would all gather at the fellowship hall for a pot luck dinner. Plates of golden brown fried chicken, a staple of any southern gathering from weddings to funerals would dominate the table. To be sure not a chicken would be left alive within a fifty mile radius. Other offerings included bowls of creamy southern potato salad, and baked beans sprinkled with dark ground sugar would wait to be plundered. All would be washed away with sweet ice tea.
Then, one by one, mothers and fathers would grasp their children’s hands as they cross the streets to gather at the central park. Under the watchful gaze of General Archibald Saunders, Mayor Moore would preside in the one-hundred thirty-fourth Easter Egg Hunt. It happened this way, generation after generation. Grandmothers and grandfathers handed down the tradition to their children, then mothers and fathers passed it on to their offspring, and to Muriel, it was a glorious rite of spring. In small towns, traditions and families ran deep.
Yes, Miss Muriel mused. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Blessings to all who enter here today,” Reverend Finlay’s voice boomed. “May the Lord grant you peace.”
Happy Easter to everyone from my home and the folks at Rebel’s Crossroads.
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