A few weeks ago I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We lived there for 8 years right after college and right after marriage. It was my adult beginning and I loved Tulsa. It took several months for me to find a job, ( no teacher shortage back then) and I immersed myself in a church family. I’ve been back several times over the past few years and took pictures of the home we built there and schools wherein I taught. But, I had never gone back to the site of that church. On this trip, I found myself literally down the street, so I ran by.
With heavy heart, I drive away from the places that meant so much to me, so long ago, in another life. How can they be so run down, so dead? My memories of them are NOT dead, they are vibrantly alive.
The church where I sang, where my daughter began her life. Where she stood on the platform at age 2 ( I have the picture) and “directed” praise & worship one Sunday morning after church. It’s the place where we huddled in the basement during tornadoes and laughed around tables laden with food. In that basement, every Wednesday night, we gathered with our spiritual family for dinner. Weddings and funerals of friends filled these walls. The sisters I never had, the women who became mentors, all of their spirits float through this place.
I knew it had been sold and became a funeral home. Today, it’s an abandoned shell, the etching on the sanctuary windows coated in dust and grime. The glass doors where we entered and exited laughing and hugging, boarded up with plywood and graffiti. The beautiful spring and fall landscaping that I remember is shriveled twigs and branches with barren brown dirt. It’s just a place but, in my memory, a place of happiness and joy, a place that I grieved deeply when life moved us away.
The parsonage is still just steps away from the building. So many meetings, dinners and soirees took place there. So much laughter and a place where tears flowed as I sat in on the patio or in the living room or even in the kitchen. Dinners cooked by the amazing Brenda, truly hostess with the mostess. Her house was owned by the church, but she put her heart and soul into making it a home for her family and for us. It’s now a BANK. The irony, that our parsonage is a BANK. How could that happen?
The pink “mansion” that was our nursery and Sunday School rooms is long gone. I think It was demolished by the funeral home owners for more parking. The wooden building on the back of the parking lot is gone too. It was our Girls Ministries/Missionette building and I spent many hours there. Several years we used one room of the three as storage for aluminum cans. It was standing joke that we funded our program on pop and beer. Cockroaches love those beverages also and the building was generally infested no matter how much roach spray I used.
I sat in the car and let the memories wash over me. These places that hold so many memories and were the locations that my life revolved around. My sorrow is deepened by the reality that those who would understand are gone also. Both of the Brenda’s.
Brenda A. would sit across the table from me as I lamented this without a coffee, she doesn’t like coffee. She would chide me, and not gently, for my sorrow. Life goes on, move on.
Brenda H. would hold a coffee cup and empathize, then wisely counsel me to move on, a full life is always evolving.
So, I wipe away the tears, and drive away, doubting I will ever drive by here again. And I smile, because this place and the people associated with it, happened.
CHALLENGE: Write a sentence about a place in your memory that is no longer there.