Oh, and you're not supposed to talk.
The thing about sitting in the second row is you can't be too fidgety, because 78 grandmas will scold you afterward. They will also wonder why you don't sit up straight and later, why you leave the house while your hair is still wet. They will meet boyfriend after boyfriend and eventually husband, whom they will take in as one of their own, and straighten his tie. They will delight in your children on the few times they appear in that sanctuary, though you will never make them sit in the second row, and the grandmas will have dwindled in number by then (but not a mite in ferocity). That's how the village is supposed to work, especially for a fidgety four-year-old with no local blood-relation grandparents.
The hero on this particular day, though, happens not to be a grandma, but my parents' insurance agent, a man named Alan. He has kids just older than I am, and must have felt a daddy-recognition of my impending disaster status, woe is five-year-old me. Somewhere in hour four or so, when the sanctuary was overheated by the midday sun and I was absolutely not sitting up straight and definitely no longer not pulling at my confining turtleneck, he wordlessly handed me a roll of Lifesavers candy.
These instants of memory – they stay with us. Children remember when they are shown grace and when they are shown scorn.
Immediately I was distracted from my misery and quietly set about unveiling the treasure. Before I could lose my positive momentum into the frustration of being unable to pull that red string from the protective cellophane, he reached over a second time and began the unraveling for me. And then this long, lanky man sat back and let me work at it myself. He leaned his ridiculously long arm across the top of the pew, not touching me, but cradling me anyhow from the heat and the exhaustion of being at the front of the community.
When I needed shelter, he gave it, even though I was too young even to know to ask for it.
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This has gotten so long that I think I'll post the second half in the morning. Please come back tomorrow, won't you?