Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The lighting of the world

The small white plastic cross statue glowed in the dark while resting on the blond dresser the whole of her childhood as if it had the power to perform miracles of one sort of another the likes of which would impress any naive girl or boy in need of such comfort. She had received it from memorizing a set number of Bible verses in summer camp, and it came into her possession as a token of appreciation from her counselors. Some would refer to it as a cheap trinket, only four inches high and purchased by the dozens from supply stores like bookmarks, pens and posters for rewards and prizes to worthy youth.

She was way beyond it soon enough as statues and icons made no impression upon her, and the dust collected, yet never dimming the light, though, which held forth endlessly. There was something inside her that kept drawing her attention to the meaning beyond the piece itself. She wouldn’t hear the word, symbolism, until her English teacher in Junior High made every piece of literature, like The Yearling, interpreted with meaning beyond the printed page.

At night when she was falling asleep after one last chapter in a Bobbsey Twins’ mystery, she would observe the glow from the cross perched on its rounded black base increasing as it got darker and darker outside her upstairs window. Its reflection appeared on the ceiling enlarged out of proportion waving from side to side like a shadow puppet on a stick performing a Punch and Judy show. She didn’t draw any unusual serenity from the cross, other than it was one of the familiar objects in her bedroom pretty much like her ivory comb and brush set on the dresser table, her pink dotted chenille bedspread and her collection of Shinnecock Indian dolls set in a tableau surrounded by tepees and war drums.

Some of her friends worshipped the Virgin Mary and carried medals of her in their plastic purses as sacred reminders of their faith. They told her that they were going to heaven because the nuns said so, and they were worried that their cross didn’t look like the plain one in her bedroom. She was not of that persuasion, although she waited obediently outside the church doors when her friends went to confession before they all took off on their bikes laughing a mile a minute to the soda fountain.

Once she put the statue in the desktop drawer out of sight not willing to toss it in the trash in case there was something that she didn’t understand, and it stayed put for a long time until she guilted herself into placing out in full view again on top of a collection of library books.

It was much later that she figured out that it was more of a symbol to her than anything else, and the tiny cross statue grew larger as her personal beliefs gained strength and momentum outside the confines of any religious institution.