The kids and I are spending Spring Break in Washington with my family, and having a blast! Karaoke, Great Wolf Lodge, makeovers, shopping. We always enjoy the cousins, but this has been a particularly fun trip.
Wednesday evening, I left the family at Great Wolf went drove to Chehalis to attend the soup supper and Lenten service at our former church, St. John’s.
It’s a beautiful building, with a steeply pitched, vaulted ceiling finished in wood paneling.
And a fabulous antique pipe organ that I was privileged to play regularly.
One time the power went out during a service, but the service continued in candlelight with Boy Scouts pumping the organ.
I never played the organ without being conscious of all the fingers that have pressed those keys over the years, and all the feet on the pedals.
When I stepped into the sanctuary Wednesday evening, the scent of the space hit me like a body blow, and I started to cry.
It smelled of home.
My friend Vicki was at the grand piano, and her distinctive lyrical style added to the sense, as did the steady stream of smiles and hugs from people I love so dearly and miss so much.
I was happy there — not just at St. John’s, but in Lewis County in general — and I haven’t been happy since we left.
I had a place there. I belonged. And people knew me — I had a reputation that was (mostly) positive and respectable. I was considered an asset to the community, I think.
In Stony Plain, I seem to have gained a reputation for being a troublemaker. For complaining.
I’m not sorry. I had to make trouble, to protect my children.
But I grieve that my image in the community where I live now is not a positive one. I don’t feel that I am viewed as an asset. And I certainly don’t belong.
I had to renew my passport last month, with a new photograph. In the US, you’re allowed to smile for passport pics, so I did.
When I got the picture back, I was shocked to see a smile I’d never seen on my face before.
I thought I was smiling normally. It felt like a normal smile.
But in the picture, it’s only half a smile. One side of my mouth is raised and smiling. The other is not.
Standing in my kitchen staring at the photo, I tried to smile, tried to be aware of whether or not I was smiling on both sides, and I could feel the difference.
Now that I am aware of it, I’ve come to realize that I often only half-smile now. I still sometimes have that flat-out, bug-eating grin I’m known for. But more often, it’s only the left side of my face that smiles.
This week, as I stood weeping in the sanctuary of my former church home, I understood fully what I have lost.
I haven’t just lost half my smile.
I’ve lost my home.