08 May 2017


I was trying to read. I had a vague idea of what I was looking for, but hadn't marked definitively the selections I needed, and I only had a few minutes before the service started. The woman behind me was doing the sporadic chatter where she'd trail off and I'd start reading again, and as soon as I got on a roll, she would say something else to me.

Mental note: Don't arrive early for church ever again.

I started to smile and nod while still searching for the quotes I wanted to use in my lesson during the second hour, sort of glancing over my shoulder so she'd think I was paying attention to her. I didn't want to appear unkind.

Another woman, one I knew fairly well, marched in through the back door with her granddaughter in tow. The girl was 5, maybe 6. Self-assured but still volatile in the ways children usually are. The grandmother pointed out the pew off to one side that she intended to sit in, and the young girl let out a whine, indicating instead that she wanted to sit in the center section. The announcements had already begun, so the grandmother started to argue silently with her progeny.

The reading could no longer hold my attention as I stared (rather awkwardly) right at the pair. After some hand-waving and quiet back-and-forth, the grandmother was exasperated. I expected she would wave the white flag, but instead she seized the girl by her arm, just above the wrist. She began to drag the child who no longer cared that church was going on around her and let out an ear-piercing scream. The girl went limp, obviously hoping her grandmother would give up and let go, but the woman was determined to sit in the pew immediately in front of me. She pushed the girl ahead of her, finally letting go when she could sit. The girl, feigning devastation, flung herself to the ground and continued to cry through a prayer.

Turning back to my book, I had to go back to the beginning. I wasn't sure what I had read and what I hadn't. I tried not to think about the still-crying child on the floor just in front of my feet.

The grandmother eventually tired of the sobs. She picked up the girl off the floor and walked her out the door from whence they came.

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