So I am not the best of human beings on Sundays. ‘Tis a fact and a way of life.
I channel my inner Grouch and will myself away from any kind of happiness on Sunday. Happiness on a Sunday? Bah! By evening, you realise you can’t stop time and you know for sure Monday is ’a-skippin and ‘a-hoppin towards you.
To top it all, we missed church in the morning. So that left the evening mass. The Grouch inside me growls and grows meaner by the minute.
We are seated in the one of the back benches of the church. I look around and for a minute the Grouch slinks away as I silently thank Jesus for giving us a seat in the jam-packed church. All around us are people thronging the aisles hoping someone would disappear and give up their seat. A fitful body of worshippers.
The sermon begins. The priest’s voice has a strange effect on me. His words seem to rake through my memory, picking up odd and forgotten memories, half-baked ideas, half implemented tasks and I go through these thoughts as he ponders on about John Chapter 1.
I come back to reality as everyone rises to sing “Our Father” My favourite bit. Because this is the part where we participate too. So I entwine my left palm in ‘A’s who gives me the ‘Always there for you’ palm-squeeze and proceeds to sing “Our Father“.
In front of me, I see families doing the same. Mothers, fathers, children – all linking their hands together and singing.
There is magic when an entire group of people sing together. You might have been nodding off when the priest speaks, but when a thousand odd voices raise up to heaven, I tell you, I know God is listening.
So I am straining my vocal chords at “Youuuuur Kingdom Come” and feeling all very Whitney Houston-ish when someone takes my right palm in theirs. And clutches it tight. OKAY. Weird moment.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glance at my right side. Old Chinese man. 65, maybe 70. Old. Perhaps, ancient. His papery hand shivers slightly, but the grip is firm. Not rough but firm.
Let me tell you a bit about our church. We are not the kind of church where you hold your ‘brethren’s hands and know everyone by name. No sirrreee….we are the ‘keep-to-yourselves-and-smile-politely’ sort of church community.
I peek further and see that the man hasn’t held hands with the young fellow on his right. Cheeky!
I glance at ‘A’ now, wondering if he has caught all the action. He has. He is singing with that rigid smile people have when they can’t stop trying to hide their grin. A dimple plays in his cheek as he tries hard to stifle the smile.
The Grouch returns by the time we start on “Give us today our Daily Bread“. I am irritated by now. With the possibly? dishonourable Old Man on one side and my Bemused Husband on the other. The song finishes but his hand stays put. Everyone sits down. Oldie and I sit down together like a pair of conjoined twins. I make to pull my hand away, and finally (after a few decades) he releases it.
‘A’ looks on with interest, partially grateful for a distraction from the priest who has started on a fresh set of prayers. I am thinking inside my head “What the HELL was that?” Then I realise that might not be the most appropriate thought inside a church. So I try to rearrange my thoughts and quickly make the Sign of the Cross as penance. Just in case.
After the Mass, we shuffle out of our bench and I don’t dare look at Oldie. We file out of the church doors, my heart sinking at the sight of the the evening light signalling the end of the weekend.
We join the queue of people waiting for a cab. Further up in the queue, I see Oldie hailing a cab.
He is waving with his hands. Oh wait, he is waving with his hand. For he had only one.
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