Forever the sentimentalist, I wanted to honor the memory of my cousin and I wanted to see (and hug) the other cousins who would be mourning the passing of my sweet Sandy Smith Prado. To attend this funeral, I’d need to be back in that church building where I worshipped with my aged father scores, maybe even hundreds, of times during his latter years. It’s always a little bittersweet to be there. So many memories come flooding back. It’s where he fell and broke his wrist in the parking lot, while on my watch. It’s where he got confused, while ill, and came into the auditorium on that Friday, wearing his coat and tie and carrying his Bible. He thought it was Sunday. One of those dear cousins found him lying up near the communion table later that day, barely conscious. (He recovered and lived happily for several more years.) The graves of both my parents and both sets of grandparents are just across the street from this building.
But there are so many more sweet memories than difficult ones. This is the place where my grandparents and my parents worshipped and it was on the third pew, on the left, where I was trained to behave and sit still during worship. Several days went down in infamous history. There was one Sunday when I stood up on that pew at age three and sang the commercial jingle “Winston tastes good like a (clap-clap) cigarette should.” (Needless to say, there was never a repeat performance of that.) There was another Sunday morning when I forgot to take off my little shorty-pajamas and put my little-girl panties-on under my dress. My mom discovered that omission when we were en-route to worship and so she said “How embarrassing that will be when people see you have on your pajamas!…You will have to sit very still today so no one will know.” She said I had never sat so still for an hour in my whole little life! I can still smell the wooden tables the men of the church had built and placed in those beige-tiled classrooms and I can still feel the slats in the seats of those now-vintage ladder back classroom chairs. I can see those 20th Century Christian workbooks and attendance charts. Those were good days.
When my sisters and I met up at Sandy’s funeral, I brought the old stroller from our childhood days to return it to my sister Sami. We’ve been passing around the old metal and wooden stroller for years now. Whoever has the youngest baby in the family has the stroller, so that all the babies get a chance to have a picture made in that old piece of nostalgia. Eliza Jane was passing it on along for baby Ashton.
And so I was there, with both my sisters, in the yard of the Jacksonville church and I realized: This is the stroller that my parents were pushing us around in when we were worshipping with them at this place. And right over there is one of the big oak trees that were planted on this church lot within a few weeks of my birth. They were just saplings planted by my father, just after the property was secured for the church. The trees are huge now, but children still play around and under them while their parents visit after worship, just as we did during the 1960’s as our parents talked and laughed and sometimes had “dinner on the ground.” (Our mothers had bigger hair and smaller bank accounts than most mothers today! Our mothers had stockings with garter belts and and our dads had pocket watches and tie-tacks. We kids rolled around in that old Rambler as we drove to church—no car seats or even seat belts. Sometimes my daddy even held one of us in his lap while he drove.) Those were good days. (i really love also that there are JSU buildings in the background of the pictures. These are buildings that my grandfather and my uncles helped to build. There are also buildings back there in which my parents got their training to be school teachers in the mid-twentieth century.) Did I say that I can get a little sappy about the past?
And, as we remembered, we grabbed a phone and made a few pictures. (Now, there’s a sentence we would have never said back in 1965!) I’m glad for the quick pictures of the stroller in the churchyard under the old tree. I will treasure them for whatever time I have left on this earth. Eliza Jane did not want to pass the stroller along to baby Ashton Nicholas. She cried. She wanted her turn to last a little longer. Truth be told, so did I. If only the babies’ turns to be babies could last a little longer. If only the end of the stroller days were a little more gentle on a mammy’s emotions.
My dad used to call the stroller, the “conveyance.”…”Did you bring the conveyance?” He called his walker this, too, when he became old and needed ambulatory help. He pushed that stroller great distances, I’m sure—conveying his little ones through neighborhoods and zoos and parks. And, just like that, it’s not his children, or his grandchildren, but his great grandchildren who are being conveyed.
Whatever you plan to do with your babies, you’d better get on it. Most importantly, be sure their conveyance to heaven is always a happening thing. Make sure their conveyance easily transfers from the streets of your neighborhood to the streets of gold. And it’s okay if you treasure the memories of the baby years a little more than the people around you. You know the importance of blamelessness. For you, those baby years are the innocence—the sweet purity before God (not yet lost) that Christ restores (once lost) through Calvary. It’s okay to love the little conveyances that are reminders of those sweet years.