An image moment: One that grows from a sound

By Mary Bok | Jan 29, 2011

“She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes.”

I hear the wind pressing the rain against the glass, and I shudder and push away the premonition of winter’s approach.

"She’ll be wearin’ red pajamas when she comes…." (scratch, scratch) I hum softly to myself. And remember to send Liz the pajamas I bought for her birthday, but I won’t sing that song over the telephone when I call her next week, because she might not get my joke. That sometimes annoys me and fear that that would taint my ‘best wishes.’ I do wish her well and I do want her to be happy. That’s why I’m sending her those pajamas — it’s so good to feel something warm and soft and bright red between you and the chill of a cold, wet night, when the rain presses against the glass.


When I answered the phone, I heard the dusty church pew voice of a woman I barely knew. She sounded far away and a little above the place where I was and would always be. I took a deep breath to steady my listening.

“May I add your name to our church prayer chain?” she asked. “Of course I won’t tell them about any of our personal failures and physical handicaps. That would no be any of their business, you know. Their job is to pray, not to broadcast the wrinkles in any of our dirty laundry. Our intention is to bring your renewed health and strength into your own focus, and to feather your spiritual nest with our love. Amen.”

“Amen. “

Again, I say, “Amen,” as I quietly replace the telephone receiver.

And then I take the elevator down (go deeper, our teacher Kathrin directed us), and I hear the voice of my great-great grandmother echoing down the long corridors of the years. She is preaching to her flock, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who sit in a wide circle at her feet in impatient devotion.

“Oh, how blessed it is when brothers become one in the spirit of love and practice the art of reverence and peace in all their encounters. Amen.”

“And, yes, and, my darling child, of course I meant to say sisters, too.”

And there I stood by the elevator door, listening to the voice and thought of this long-ago woman, as they ring so surely in my memory and my dreaming, even as her life’s blood moves in my veins. I think of my Aunt Ann, who sat in that circle of children, and how irritated she must have felt as she listened to her Grand-Mama’s sermon, and I imagined her thinking to herself: “What could Grand-Mama know about the surplus of stupidity and finesse between those wretched little boys. How could she guess? Or see beyond their angelic smiles and winning ways?”

There really has never been an explanation of the older generation. They only shoot from the hip. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. That is about the size of it.

And here we are today, two generations down the line, sweating and straining against the same harness, swatting at the same flies, looking for a way around the steepest part of the mountain.

Here she comes!






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