I was at church today, and I did not want to be there. Our priest is doing a series about how Christians need to be active in the political sphere, and America as a Christian nation...blah. I don't know. Christian political activism just doesn't sit right with me. It seems to start out with good intentions, but it ends up being about "our team" winning. Which is neither Christian nor good politics.
Anyhow, I was weary from trying not to argue in my head, and I looked away, at the window. There is a wall of windows at the front of the sanctuary, and they look out on a magnificent view of the mountains. However, the blinds were drawn, because behind us sits a man whose eyes hurt when faced with a wall of brilliant Colorado sky. It is wrong, it is simply wrong to begrudge someone such a small comfort as drawing the blinds on a bright Sunday morning. And yet, as I stared at the blank pleated beige, I itched to pull them back and see the sky.
That itch, that anxious desire to do something, sparked a memory that I haven't thought about in years. I sat there, in church, leaning against the warm side of my husband, and in my mind I travelled years and miles away to my seventh grade classroom.
Seventh grade was - what? Awful, naturally. Seventh grade simply is. But I was also the only white girl in a Catholic mission school on an Indian reservation. My dad was the English teacher. I wasn't even Catholic. Even my teacher hated me, and that's not an adolescent self-absorbed sense of persecution. Everyone hated me. Except, of course, my dad. But having him there only made it worse, because neither of us could change anything, so he just had to witness my misery, making it harder to pretend it wasn't happening.
The classroom was in an old building, part of the original mission, so it must have been about a hundred years old, now that I think about it. It was really quite beautiful, with glowing honey colored wood floors and thick adobe walls. One wall had a wide bank of iron rimmed windows. They were old and drafty, of course, but lovely. However, someone had painted over the lower half of them, erasing the outside world with a thick coat of tan.
The windows made me crazy. I sat at my desk and stared out at the sky, which is absolutely colorless in my memory, and it melted into this wall of paint. Why would you paint a window? Who could have suffocated the sky like that? Day after day I sat there and stared, positively hungry for some light to leak through.
One day I was standing by a window, trying to peer over the paint, when I noticed a tiny flake coming away from the glass. I reached for it, and it fell away under my fingertip.
I tested the edge of the new hole with my nail, and soon another flake pulled free. It fluttered down and landed on the floor by my shoe. I shot a look at my tormentor teacher, and set to work in earnest. Sharp shards of paint cut into the skin under my fingernails, but I was a child on a mission. Within minutes I had cleared a patch the size of a plate, and I stood in a confetti litter of paint.
Of course, then I was noticed. I don't even remember what my punishment was, only that I was in big, big trouble.
And I was absolutely certain it was worth it.
I thought about that moment today, that bright hole in the paint. It stayed there for the rest of the year. For all I know, it's there still. Silly as it may seem, I am still proud.
I indulged in a moment of self-reflection there, in church, facing another wall of blanked-out windows. Usually when I think about myself, it is in order to reproach. There is fertile opportunity for reproach. But today I was pleased to think that the stubborn, silent little girl with flakes of paint under her fingernails lives in me still.
It has been a hard year. Death and grief and loss and harsh blessings. And mono, for heaven's sake. Truth be known, I am tired and heartsore.
But I recognize this itch I feel. I will not always sit and let my vision be blocked.
There will be light.
Thanks to everyone who weighed in on my last post. I was simply blown away by your wisdom and wit and thoughtfulness. I still don't know exactly how to proceed, but I feel better, and I thank you all.