The Way, The Truth, And The Light

When he was six or seven, Ansel Head remembers there being a lull in his church centered education. For some reason, he stopped attending Canterbury Methodist.

Maybe the family was on the losing side of the merger with the bigger church and was taking their business elsewhere. It could have been that they wanted to avoid the substantial assessments for the stately sanctuary required to more properly reflect the high social status of the church’s members. Or most likely, there was a disagreement among the adults as to what church the young Head should attend.

His father’s family were Episcopalians as befitted their ancestral station in the South. His mother was raised Presbyterian. Why Head started his formal religious education in a Methodist Sunday School is a mystery. Head suspects it was a parental compromise since this denomination offered courses somewhere between the fundamental Presbyterian take on a predestined road to eternal damnation and the more ritualistic Episcopalian approach to salvation. In any case, his father telegraphed his position on the subject by not participating in his young son’s Sunday exercises.

Whatever the reason, the Methodist experiment ended with no explanation to the young Head. As was to be the case in most of Head’s religious education, the Methodist’s’ schooling had caused no lasting harm. But it was during this period that he first saw the light, found the path, and was thereby saved.  His redemption was only tangentially a result of his going to a Sunday School.

In those early years, his mother had required as the dress uniform for church a collarless tweed jacket, ruffled shirt, hideous short pants, knee socks, and highly polished Buster Brown tie-ups.  He had protested this mockery of his cowboy persona, but without success. Finally his grandmother heard his weeping and wailing and gnashing of baby teeth. She called down to him, “Come, come unto my kingdom at Hill-Leigh and sit at my feet.”

When he arrived, the room smelled of sweet but acrid smoke waffling out the open windows up to the heavens. Only the glow from burning tobacco was visible. (She had taken up the pipe in an effort to curb her appetite for ciagarettes.)  Suddenly an early morning sun beam broke through the overcast skies and shined its golden light directly on her face and silver grey hair. She began, “Yea, though thou walkest through the valley of shame, fear no evil. For I am with thee. My money and position, they will comfort thee. I have prepared a table with your favorite foods in the presence of thine rulers. I will anoint your body with new digs. Your cup of Ovaltine will runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell under my watchful eye forever.”

Placing her cool hand upon the boy’s troubled brow, she continued, “Now, my son, go in peace.”  The sun disappeared behind the cloud cover as she returned to puffing on her pipe emitting more sweet but acrid incense waffling up to the heavens. Her face disappeared into the burning tobacco.

Lacking the synapse power to fully follow this sermon, Head nevertheless interpreted his grandmother as having vowed to right the wrongdoing. Faith in her charity gave him hope.

Sporting his new long pants and a collar shirt with his mother, grandfather, and grandmother.

Sporting his new long pants and a collar shirt with his mother, grandfather, and grandmother.

On a day thereafter, she descended upon his household and delivered unto him long dress pants and a button down collared shirt.  She had not lied to him; she had spoken the truth; and it pleased her to have answered the young boy’s supplication to support, help, and comfort this child who was in danger, necessity, and tribulation.

A dispute erupted between the grandmother and mother. The mother argued the old law: The mother is the mother and decisions about her child’s dress code are a mother’s alone. But the grandmother preached a new way. Her light was strong and her application of the Force much stronger. The old law was vanquished. The grandmother’s clothes were to be Head’s new Sunday uniform. He was saved. A superior being who liked him best had shown him the way, the truth, and the light. Thereafter, he would love and worship her all the days of his life.

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