And the People said "Amen!".

September 6, 2018

It was July 1978,  and hotter than a six shooter.  My cousin Jason and I had made our usual escape into Pa Julian’s 1971 red Maverick immediately following Sunday school. It had snuff running down the side of it and probably hadn’t been washed since Pa bought it and the Maverick was six years old.  I was six that summer, just like the Maverick, and was spending most of the summer in Bradley, Alabama,  while my mother was completing her work contract in Daytona Beach, Florida.

I loved summers in Bradley at Bigmama’s and Pa’s house.  Bigmama played the piano like a drunk Jerry Lee Lewis trying to get right, and Pa didn’t believe in all of that Pentecostal carrying on, so he went to Sunday school, only,  and then broke the hell out of there like any good Baptist would.  He said that his daddy was a preacher, he’d gone to preaching every day at Mount Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, and he’d even run a revival once in Florida, so he didn’t need any more church.  Betty never fussed.

We knew like clockwork that Julian would be heading to the Maverick once preaching commenced.   Jason and I hid in the floorboard of the snuff covered car full of fish guts, worm hooks, and empty snuff cans. We hunched down in the back, giggling, and were forced to hold our noses the entire way home.  Pa pretended not to notice us, but he knew we were there.

When we arrived at home, about a half a mile around the curve in the road, we popped up to let Pa know that we were stowaways.  Like every time that we  had done it before, Julian said….”Look at you sorry bunch of hacklebacks!  Betty is gonna tan yore hide when she sees you youngins.”  We laughed, changed into our swim suits, and then headed down to the creek, across the street from the house. 

We’d been down there about ten minutes when the cars started down the red dirt road hill.  One after the other they came down and out poured the ladies in dresses, and the men in short sleeved dress shirts with pocket protectors and clip on ties.  Betty and her green Malibu were in the lineup.  OH LORD!  When we saw her climb out of the car in her Thelma Harper polyester dress, and her support stockings that connected to her girdle and garters, we immediately remembered what had been announced at church.  It was baptism Sunday!

The next thing you know...

The next thing you know, we were making a fast decision about what to do next.  Jason was 10, so he was always bossing me. Boojee and Jennifer were with us that Sunday and they were older and made the executive decision to hide We knew that if were caught "half-naked" at the creek in front of the church people- especially us girls- that Betty would take us down to Fly Flap City and  break at least three fly flaps on us.  She had quite a collection.

We ran out of the creek and hid in the trees on the other side in  he woods and watched the baptisms.  We almost went down and crossed the creek further up, and were going to sneak up to the house without ever been seen, but it was too deep, so we remained. Figuring if we could wait out the baptisms until everyone was gone, we could sneak back up the hill and go in the side door without being noticed.  By then, Bigmama would be putting dinner on the table, but we never made it to the side door before she saw us.

I don't remember anything ever taking longer in that baptism in my entire life, until Aretha Franklin's funeral last week.  Seems like when you go swimming, the minute you get wet and have a swimsuit on, you have to pee.  We were freezing wet, and we needed to pee.  On top of trying to be still, quiet, and invisible, we had to pee and were doing a rain dance in our minds while biting our purple shivering lips.

Joe and Rufus and Thomas Earle were in the creek with the people being baptized. There were a lot of hallelujahs in the air that day.  Rube Timothy was standing on the creek bank praying and smiling that huge smile of his.  That little man could pray, Lord, could he pray!  

One after the other, the baptism candidates came to the water to wash away their sins, but it didn't stop there.  Shouting commenced, hands were raised, arms were waving and everyone was praying down heaven.  The Holy Ghost had apparently come to party, because Bigmama stood on the creek bank praying and speaking in tongues for what seemed like forever, I mean forever.  

We knew Bigmama would be the last one out of there and figured once she was done, we could stealthily head back to the house and blame forgetting about the baptism on Pa and act like we'd been playing the whole time in the yard.

Finally, around 2 o'clock, after every single person had driven or walked up the hill, Bigmama stood on the creek bank in her Thelma Harper dress, her Mason catalog shoes, and her Kevlar stockings.  She yelled in the highest pitched voice you've ever heard "Hollllleeeeee, Jaaaasssssson, Boojeeee, Jennnnnnifer! You boys had better get up that hill!"

She had known we were there the whole time.  She always knew exactly what we were up to and chose the appropriate fly flap,  according to our deed.  That baptism Sunday I won my first trip ever- an all expenses paid trip to Fly Flap City.

Love y'all,


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