Especially at times when I wasn’t supposed to
My cousin, Angela, was exactly a year and a month older than me. But we got along as if we were twin sisters.
She was one of my most favourite playfellows. I remember how she enthralled me with the little fairy inside the seashell. Every time I would come to visit, there would be another tiny typed note from the shell fairy waiting for me. Oh, how magical it was to look forward to my next visit to discover what words the fairy scribed just for me.
She fascinated me with tales of the witch in the cellar. When my aunt would ask Angela to fetch a jar of preserves from the cold cellar, we’d hold hands and walk together down the back stairs, along the long hall to the dark metal door at the end. I couldn’t bear to stand the fear of opening that heavy door to see the witch inside and would turn tail and run to the security of my aunt in the kitchen upstairs.
She had the best Fisher-Price toys. While I had the Play Family House, Little People Parking Garage, the Play Family Farm, and the Little People School House, Angela also had the Play Family Castle, the Play Family Airport Set, and the whole Little People Village Main Street. We could spend hours creating worlds of adventure.
Her bedroom had a deep-purple plush carpet. Perfect for pouring out and counting her pennies from her Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken Coin Bank.
She had a way to make me laugh as no one else could. And especially at times when I wasn’t supposed to laugh.
We’d walk the 12-minutes from her home to arrive just in time to get a seat halfway up the aisle on the left side.
Being super-ticklish, Angela only had to pretend to reach over to tickle me and I would start to giggle. She’d make faces at me, crack jokes, and generally be her funny self and I would squirm and shift working to keep my snickers inside. Sometimes the whole pew would vibrate with my contained laughter.
I could hear the disapproving growl from the lady in the pew directly behind us. I’d sneak a glimpse to catch her deep frown while slowly shaking her head side-to-side.
The mass continued and we’d settle somewhat. The First Reading, Second reading, Gospel, Homily, Profession of faith, Lord’s prayer, and finally the Sign of Peace.
The priest would say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” We’d all respond, “And also with you.” Then the priest would ask us to “offer each other the sign of peace” which meant we were to shake hands with the people around us and say to them, “Peace be with you.”
We’d turn around and with the biggest smiles on our faces, like little cherubs, we’d shake hands with the grouchy old grump, and with saccharine voices, we’d say, “Peace be with you.”
She’d return our handshakes — but only because it was the thing to do, I’m sure — and mutter back, “Peace be with you.”
After church, Angela and I would continue to play, laugh, and enjoy the day.
It’s funny that even as a young child, I could sense the cold and somber attitude that some people chose when attending church instead of the joy and solace that having a relationship with Jesus can offer.
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