by Ashley Cottrell
“Child, I swear if you put them jeans on you gon’ feel a little more than the Holy Ghost!” Nana always came up with new phrases to describe a butt-whipping. She hated whenever women wore jeans to church. Somehow, wearing jeans to church is the universal symbol for “You’re child is becoming a whore.” Well today, Nana would be proud. She’s all I could think about as my comfortable pantyhose made friction with the hem of my skirt. With me being away at college, it was my first time back in church all year, and I wanted to make a good impression.
After Nana’s passing about two years ago, mom and I left our cozy family church and began attending this one. What a wonderful Sunday morning to be in church; stayed up all night watching the Good Times marathon like a fool so I’m tired, while sitting on a cold bench with itchy pantyhose in a sanctuary full of people who despise one another, terrific. As I squirmed in my seat for comfort, a cold stare my mother shot at me insisted “Be still!” as if I were a three-year-old.
“May the church say amen,” the pastor’s way of catching everyone’s attention, “How is everybody doing this fine, Sunday morning? Praise the Lord.”
He’s always smiling, a hard thing to do when your wife is bi-polar bringing hell on Earth and accusing every church woman of trying to sleep with her husband. I guess it’s his reason, or inspiration, for staying at church all day. Ironically, no matter how late we arrived at church, we never missed tithes and offerings. Our deacon, who took his job a little too seriously, never failed to remind us how the church was in desperate need of repairs.
“Mornin’ Ms. Jones. Mornin’ Ms. Davis. Hope I’ll see ya’ll in Wednesday night Bible Study. Remember to bring your fans until the Lawd Financially blesses us to fix the church air conditioner.”
He’d always end his pointlessly long conversations with a bear hug and a quick wink if you’re a woman under age twenty-five.
There were never too many members in our church, which is the main reason my mom continues to attend. Aside from the extra sixty strangers who only show up Easter Sunday, the comfortable average forty church members keeps her on top of the drama and gossip. Occasionally, Ms. Alexander in the front row, along with her usual overly-fitted feathered church hat, would feel the spirit of the Lord to sing a traditional hymn. Her whiny, pitchy high notes and frequent “Woo!” of the Holy Ghost made her sound very much like Prince.
The one thing that absolutely drove me insane, other than the clicker-clat of teenage members’ texting during prayer, was the unnecessary extra hour of gathering after service ends. “Why must we stay here longer?” I would always ask. Mom ignored me, her usual response to a good question. Time to catch up with the gossip I suppose. The elders of the church are the usual first.
“Ms. Jones! Good seein’ you. And your daughter, lovely as always! How old are you now sugar, sixteen?”
“Nineteen. I’m a sophomore in college.”
“Heavens! Already? Remember when you were a little thang.”
I barely know that woman.
“Ms. Jones where’s your husband?”
My mom frowned a little.
“Oh, no Ms. Alexander, that was just a friend last service.”
The pastor walked over next.
“Ashley! Began to think we lost ya. College goin’ well?”
My mom threw me one of her “just say yes” looks.
“Well good! Good! Blessin’ to have ya’ll here.”
The pastor’s wife was never too far behind him.
“Ms. Jones and Ashley! My sisters! Love ya’ll so much. We’ve got to get together for a ladies night out. How have you all been?”
Mom always kept it short and simple with her.
“Great. And you?”
“Wonderful! Wonderful! Just trying to keep up with this husband of mine. You know, I feel the Lord is going to substantially bless you with—”
In the corner of her eye she spotted pastor speaking to one of our new church members, a woman.
“Would you all excuse me for a moment?”
My mom would make her way around the rest of the congregation, returning to me every now and then, informing me of Mr. Brown’s absent wedding ring or the Taylors’ pregnant teenage daughter.
I still can’t fathom in my head why we still attend this church. I couldn’t mistake anyone here for godly. Why am I wasting my time coming here, sitting with un-godly people, in an outfit I would never in my life wear? Why should I be trying to impress them? Maybe, I’m just as fake as they are. I can receive God’s word in the comforts of my own home, reading my bible and watching Joel Osteen on TV. Nana, I love you, but I can worship God without pantyhose.