Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Holy Pain

I woke up this morning with a terrible crick in my neck that no amount of stretching could touch.  As I poured my first cup of coffee and tried to shake it out, I had an instantaneous flashback to 1989, to the first time I recall feeling the equivalent of a hatchet wound in my cervical spine—a memory I haven’t considered in decades.  I saw myself at age 12, lying on the floor of my bedroom in a dress.  My parents were having some kind of open house or party or something – an opportunity for other grown-ups to walk through our house, peering into our rooms while eating delicious hors d’ouvres.  And there I was for several hours arranged on the floor, moving only enough to keep all my limbs from falling asleep, my head arced at a strange angle, conspicuously reading the Bible.

Why, you may ask, did I choose that particular pastime?  Was I working on an assignment for my religion teacher at our parochial elementary school?  Had I exhausted our family library except for the Good Book?  Was I looking up a clue for a crossword puzzle?  None of the above.  I’ll tell you what I was doing: The night before, I had woken up out of a deep sleep to the revelation that reading the Bible would be a very interesting, very unique, and probably very impressive thing for a young girl to be doing when a group of adults wandered by.       

I don’t recall why I decided to sprawl across the floor, but I am certain that it was a conscious decision.  Probably I didn’t want to risk people thinking I was reading a Sweet Valley High book, and the floor seemed most likely to showcase my King James edition.  I chose my outfit carefully with a mind to non-wrinkling comfort and settled on a cotton dress, as similar to the wardrobe of a character out of an L. M. Montgomery book as possible.    

I daydreamed as I dressed, imagining how things would go.

“Hello, Meg,” a grown-up would say, and I would turn my angelic smile upward. 

“What are you reading, dear?” the guest would ask, and I would say oh-so-serenely, “The Bible.”  Then I would turn my attention back to the passage at hand, likely a parable. 

The adult would raise his or her eyebrows and say one of the following: 1.) “A noble pursuit!” 2.) “She puts me to shame!” 3.) “What an interesting, unique, impressive young girl!” 

Word would spread quietly through the party that Mary and Terry’s daughter Meg was a serious, pious, near-perfect child who exhibited uncanny similarities to Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. 

“Someone should write a book about her,” someone would say.

“A book?  Someone should write a series about her!  And then someone else should turn the series into a Broadway musical, a movie, and a successful TV comedy/drama, airing immediately after Doogie Howser!”

I couldn’t wait.  I found a spot where the sun shone down on my open Bible and experimented with a accessories.  To underline with a pencil, highlight with a highlighter, or neither?  Maybe a pencil would be just the right touch, while a highlighter would be over the top.  Ultimately, I decided to have the pencil handy in case the spirit moved me or the audience seemed to demand it.

And finally the guests arrived!  I could hear them making small talk downstairs, so I made sure I was ready.  Dress spread artistically across the floor?  Check.  Legs crossed daintily at the ankle?  Check.  Holy look on face?  Check.  Bring on the adults!

I waited and waited and waited some more.  Oh, it’s not that people didn’t walk by—they did, and they did say hello to me.  It’s just that no one—not one curious person—inquired after my reading material.  An hour in, I had a terrible crick in my neck and I’d read the same passage 15 times.  Then the foot traffic dried up, and my ray of sun dissipated.  “Don’t give up,” I told myself and stuck it out for another hour. 

I don’t know exactly how long I stayed there, but it was long enough to write a poem in the margin of Mark’s Gospel about a girl who heard the call of God but succumbed tragically to consumption before she could attain martyrdom.

My Bible-In ended in the least picturesque of ways.  My older sister Mary Claire strode into the room, stepping over me on her way to toss her bag onto her bed.  Then she turned around and left with just as much authority, pausing only to glance at my torso.

“Get off my side of the room,” she said. 

By the time I had peeled myself off the floor, I knew that my elbows would retain the imprint of the rug for a week at least.  And my neck … oh, my neck!  It smarted like you wouldn’t believe.   So much for piety being my avenue to stardom.

This morning, sipping my coffee and tipping my head from side to side, I mourned a missed opportunity.  Then I packed my Bible in the diaper bag in case Charlie and I found ourselves with a moment to read in the park.  The kid’s got a future in novels, series, film, and TV.  All he needs is an interesting, unique, impressive hook … 

No comments:

Post a Comment