Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday School Shoes

All of the girls in my Sunday School class had pretty flowered dresses with ruffles.  They wore little white socks that folded down and also had ruffles.  Even their hair looked ruffled, fluffed out about their shoulders and secured away from their faces with huge ruffled bows.  And on their feet, they all wore identical black patent leather Mary Jane shoes.

Oh how I wanted a pair of those black patent leather Mary Jane shoes.  One day, Mom took me shopping for a new church dress, and I begged, “Please Mom!  Can I have some church shoes?”  

“No, Danica.  You don’t need new shoes.  Your school shoes do just fine.”  

My heart burned within her.  It was so unfair.  It was so unjust!  My school shoes didn't 'do' and they weren't 'just fine'. They were old. Scuffed. The pink was faded and now looked more grey. The sides of the soles had black marks from the ashphault on the playground. No. They would not 'do just fine.' But, Mom had spoken, and so let it be written, so let it be done. The injustice of it continued to fester in my heart until Sunday had swung around again and it was time to put on my pretty but practical church dress, plain cotton socks, and the old, scuffed tennis shoes with tattered laces.

Dad rounded everyone up.  “Come on!  Time to go!  Into the van!  Let’s get to church!”  I sullenly climbed into my seat next to Anna.  I hated this van.  “You know when I was a boy,”  Dad said as he backed out of the driveway, “Grandaddy wouldn’t wait for everybody to get in the car.  He would say, ‘We’re leaving at 9:00’, and if 9:00 rolled around and somebody wasn’t in the car, he’d leave them!”  I had heard this story before since Dad told it every Sunday when we left for church.  I hated this story.  

We pulled up to church, which was really a school and was only a church for us on Sundays, and everyone piled out of the van.  We joined the stream of families trickling into the foyer, all holding black bibles with gold trimmed pages, all wearing their Sunday best.  Inside, there was a little group of men clustered around a tall, steel canister.  They were all using the little black handle on the bottom of the canister to pour coffee into their white styrofoam cups and then they tore little paper packets of sugar and dumped that into their cups, and stirred with little back sticks.  Usually the ritual fascinated me, but today I was trying to look angrily at the tiles right  in front of where I was walking, instead of at my feet clad in the horrid used up shoes.  I hated that coffee.

We passed the mural that always fascinated me, too, and I had to peek a glance in spite of myself.  It was painted down the hallway that led to my Sunday School class.  It depicted a monkey that started standing up straight, and every time the monkey straightened a little bit more, it started to look more and more like a man, until it was walking completely upright and holding a stone hammer in its hand and looking exactly like a person.  Dad said that this showed ‘evolution’ which was something evil and bad, because God made the world in seven days.  It said so in Genesis 1:1.  

We had reached the door of my Sunday School class.  All the girls sat at their tables, with coloring sheets in front of them, diligently digging through the buckets of crayons to find the ones that weren’t broken.  A flannel board stood on its easel in one corner, ready and waiting for my teacher to stick the magic figures to it that miraculously stayed in place while she told her story.  Usually I longed to touch that board and figure out how it worked.  Today, I hated it.  

I found a seat and immediately tucked my feet under my chair.  Everyone else was coloring compliantly.  I hated their calm.  I hated the injustice of it all.  They didn’t have to worry about dirty old stinky shoes with torn laces.  They didn’t have to wear plain cotton socks that were the same as the socks they wore to school.  They matched from head to toe in their ruffles and bows and lace.  

When it was story time that day, I sat on the carpet and immediately pulled my feet under my dress so that nobody would see.  I didn't enjoy the teacher sticking the pictures to the flannel board. I didn’t even enjoy the snack like I normally did. Usually it was a delight to eat the animal crackers that Mom never bought at home.  Today, I hated the animal crackers. It was a relief when the grown  ups started showing up at their door to pick everyone up and take them home.  

The only thing I did not hate, in fact, was the little white paper bag my teacher gave me to put my coloring sheet in. It had 'Danica' written on it in black marker, like every week, and like every week I carefully unfolded the top where she had folded it down. At home, I would make it into another paper bag puppet to add to my collection. I loved those paper bags.