She usually points at the stained glass window and breathes a reverent, “Ah winnow, mama. Ah winnow,” stretching out a pink finger and staring wide-eyed. This morning, going down a less travelled staircase, she was drawn to first the Choir Room and second the Sanctuary.
We looked at the pictures of choir directors in robes and standing beside pianos, then at the faces of singing congregation members. “Ah singin’ singers sing,” she nodded. I smiled, taking her hand and leading her toward the door. She held her arms out and said, “Mama, ‘old me?” She settled in my arms and we slipped down the stairs, admiring the window and the shapes the light cast through it onto the floor.
When we got down the stairs she craned her neck, the honeyed light through the bank of windows in the Sanctuary was too great a pull. Her body leaned away from my own and I slid my hand behind her to keep her from falling.
“Look d’at, mama. S’dat?” She turned to me, waiting for me to say something that would explain the halos of light. I began to give a dismissive and vague explanation as I went toward the door, but something pulled me back. We walked to the door of the Sanctuary and stood at the threshold for a moment. She didn’t push or pull, or even say anything, her head just scanned the room.
I stepped on foot in as my nose began to burn. The landscape of gently fraying tapestries shining under beams of gold and green light held me. Our heads turned together and looked toward the back wall, nondescript dark wood paneling and cabinets open to reveal inexpensive canisters of coffee and the various paper accouterments necessary for large coffee service. Finley put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Mama, ember.”
I looked at her, my eyes burning as tears raced to the surface and cascaded down my cheeks. “What, honey?”
She touched her forehead to mine and then leaned back as she said, “Mama, member?”
I nodded and said, “I do, honey. Mama does remember.”
I have no idea if Finley was really saying what I heard, but standing there bathed in the light of so many Sunday School memories, the smells of old tomes, standing coffee and aged rooms, I remembered my grandfather and his love. For me, for my grandmother, for my mom, for life.
He loved so much. I remember now.
Here’s to loving and remembering.