Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oklahoma Sundays

I remember sitting in the back seat of our 1950s Ford in Virginia, drawing images in the window's condensation with my white, soon to be grey-fingered, gloves.
 My parents, sister, and I must have been on our way to church, since that was the only time I wore gloves, but my memory stops there.
          My Sunday recollections don't pick up again until in Oklahoma, where I was living with my mother, sister, and grandparents. My grandfather went to a Presbyterian church in downtown Tulsa. I went with him once and decided it was the most boring service I'd ever encountered: One long hour of nothing but sermon - how did people stay awake?
          We went to St. John's Episcopal, a newish building on what were then the outskirts of the city.  Those were the days when you put on your best for church, and although I had long ago discarded the white gloves of my childhood, I was expected to observe the policy of some sort of head covering. Our mother doled out chapel veils to my sister and to me, a doily-like circle that made me feel very grown-up at eleven even if the bobby pin holding it in place inevitably drilled a hole in my scalp.

 It was unlikely anyone would fall asleep during our service. An Episcopal service - or Church of England if you're across the pond - runs very close to a Catholic Mass and can be quite the aerobic workout.

     If you're really gung-ho, you genuflect with each entrance and exit of your pew. Once you've picked your spot, you pull down the kneeling pads attached to the back of the pew in front of you; you'll be using them often. You arrive and pray to, I suppose, sort of announce your presence to God. 
     Then the workout begins. 
     You sit, you stand and sing, you sit, you kneel, you stand and sing again and eventually you hike up to the front for communion - more kneeling, not to mention more genuflecting as you come and go. I wonder now how the arthritically challenged survive.  Finally, after all this, you collapse into your pew to catch your breath and listen to the sermon, which you appreciate that much more for its total inactivity.
          Attending St. John's during an Oklahoma summer added its own challenges. Our church, while newly built and gleaming, was not air-conditioned back then and I recall more than once tipping over sideways in a mid-kneel faint and being ushered outside to get some air.
          One more hymn after the sermon - sometimes our Uncle Sam came with us and he would be next to me singing proudly, and loudly off-key - and out we went, all polished up for another week.
          We'd convene after services back at the house with a big dinner with cloth napkins and glass coasters in the dining room at twelve-thirty. In the winter it might be a standing rib roast or in the summer perhaps fried chicken, ice tea with mint from the garden and my grandmother's watermelon pickles. Conversation  would include a critique of that day's sermons
          The rest of the day was our own and we would then head to separate areas - we were all heavy readers - and the big house would fall silent. When we later grew hungry, we would forage on our own, my grandmother having established a policy of no cooking for the rest of the day. Our suppers might be a continuation of the noon time meal with leftover fried chicken, or maybe just a giant bowl of ice cream. I thought my grandmother's policy was genius.
          We wouldn't gather again until a highly competitive group viewing of College Bowl. With my uncle  a tenured college professor at OSU, my grandfather a chief geologist for the Sun Oil Company, my mother a graduate of OU, and my sister an all-around know-it-all,  it could get pretty lively.

          Finally, the seat of Matt Dillon's pants would appear on the screen for his weekly showdown in the street, and another episode of Gunsmoke would bring our Sunday to a close. 


  1. I like the Ford!
    Oh don't get me started on church! However, you do vividly describe the routine back in the 40's and 50's.

    1. Not quite the same as the one we had - ours was a boring green - but that grill brought me back to my childhood.

  2. I've been to an Episcopal service a few times and was amazed how close it was to the Catholic mass. I was the youngest person by about 20 years. Maybe 30.

    I wonder what your Sundays are like now?

    1. Emily Dickinson said it best:
      "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,
      I keep it, staying at Home -
      With a Bobolink for a Chorister -
      And an Orchard, for a Dome -

    2. I had to memorize Emily in High School....
      Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed....

  3. My best friend from seventh grade on was Episcopalian. She became such in college; the weekly pageantry fascinated her. She never swayed me; I like the one hour flat Sunday of our little community church.

    1. I found the range of services in the Episcopal church interesting. Some are very "low church" - almost casual, while I remember going to a "high church" one with a girlfriend in Washington D.C. that had a clergy member walking down the aisle bearing a be-jeweled and smoking incense orb.

  4. I was raised Episcopal and you are right, it could be an aerobic service. We were high church. As my dad said, watered down Catholics.
    You really ate well on Sundays. Standing rib--wow.
    I still enjoy seeing Matt Dillon's behind.

  5. Great story. I love remembering times like those. Poppy and I still watch Matt Dillon.


Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear what you think.