There is a memory I have from when I was probably seven years old that is so much my favorite that I don’t think I have ever really described it to anyone. I’m not sure if I can, but I’ll try.
As a kid, I used to spend a few weeks with my great-grandmother every summer, and out of those weeks, I would get to spend a few days with my paternal grandparents. They had downsized from a big white house to a mobile home that was decorated with every shade of brown you can imagine. At the front end was the kitchen, with a peninsula cabinet separating it from the living room, and behind that was a cramped sewing room, a bathroom that always smelled like lavender and Pert Plus shampoo, and their bedroom in the back.
When I stayed there, we would watch White Sox games (beloved as they were, they had awful taste in baseball) and spaghetti westerns, go to Colonial for ice cream, attend the ladies fellowship group at church, and Grandma would play dominoes with me while Grandpa listened to gospel music.
And we went to bed early. Very early.
As I layed on the couch, trying to fall asleep while the sun was still up, the ticking of the cuckoo clock would be so loud that it sounded like the spurs on the boots in the movies we had watched that day, and I would try hard to not think about menacing cowboys walking around outside. It didn’t get easier to forget the cowboys when it got dark.
And they got up early. Very early. And this is when it happened: my most favorite still-life memory.
It wasn’t much past 6:00 a.m., and it was still dark out. Since I was asleep on the living room couch, I had no way of not noticing the kitchen light or the footsteps and whispers of my grandparents. I layed there for a few minutes before opening my eyes, and when I did, what I saw was something wonderful that I didn’t understand yet.
Shrouded in the yellow-tinged incandescent light, they sat on either side of the tiny table, reading their Bibles. I remember hearing the word “Psalm” mentioned, but I couldn’t hear it all. They weren’t trying to be secretive, just to let me sleep, but even then, I felt like I was an accidental trespasser, creeping into a scene where I didn’t belong. I remember laying there, thinking that this routine part of their day is what made them good grown-ups and grandparents. I remember thinking that this was beautiful, and I wanted to take a picture of it, but of course, I couldn’t. So instead, I closed my eyes and tried really, really hard to remember everything, just as I saw it.
I remember hearing my grandfather pray. He had a rhythm to his prayers that was like waves on Lake Michigan, not getting too carried away, but rolling over each other nonetheless. I loved to hear him pray. I miss hearing him pray.
My dad prays like my grandpa did. I don’t know if he notices it, but he does. I’ve not heard my little brother pray very often, but he prays the same way, too, with slight crests in his speech and pauses between phrases in a way that is distinctively like Grandpa.
When I listen to them pray, I cannot help but feel like I am still little, laying on that tiny brown couch, listening to Grandpa. Thankful again that the cowboys had finally stopped their pacing, and I am witnessing something beautiful again. They help me remember my favorite memory, and I hope that someday, if my little brother has a son, he will grow up to pray the same way.