A Note From the Editor:
This month, we have chosen to feature three creators who’s outstanding pieces were awarded at our Montage by Moonlight event last year. Each of these lovely ladies placed first against all our other submissions, and were awarded $50 gift certificates at the event. Their pieces were enjoyed by all, and all artists have a small Oscars trophy as a memento of their accomplishment.
“Canary and the Crow”
Two birds of a feather,
Flying to great heights.
One a bird of beauty,
And one a bird of night.
The canary, a bird of song,
Bringing peace and light.
Who knows after each storm,
The sun will still burn bright.
The crow, a bird of death,
Who drives fear into hearts.
Knowing that with every end,
Begins a fresh new start.
We see them as opposites,
Split by nature’s law,
As different as canaries voice,
And the crows hallowed caw.
Though the two may differ,
One thing must be true.
Everything will change,
When they soar into the blue.
In the vast open skies,
Where they fly forever free,
They find themselves alike,
As alone they will not be.
For in that moment,
When their hearts beat as one,
There are two birds of a feather,
Underneath one sun.
Visual Art Winner:
“Italy at sunset on top of Castel Sant’Angelo”
My great grandmother, Lily Mae, always told me that “Grace is nothing more nor less than the face that love wears when it meets imperfection, weakness, failure and sin.” She quoted this from one of her favorite books written by Joseph Cooke.
“Emilee, go ‘round to the pantry and get me some flour. We are making some cinnamon rolls before your mom picks you up,” said Gran.
I could feel a smile creep onto my face. Cooking with Gran was one of my favorite things to do. I walked around the refrigerator to the pantry. I flipped on the light switch to the cupboard and opened the sliding door.
“Mmmmm,” I sniffed, “I love the smell of all these spices in here Gran.” As I looked around the stacks of canned foods, I tried to find the bag of flour that was barely filled. I looked around for a few more minutes and then I saw it.
The bag was on the top shelf, above the washer and dryer. I knew I couldn’t reach the bag from where I was standing, so I decided to climb up the roaring machines.
A few minutes had passed and I was sure that Gran was worried about me.
“BAM!” Gran came running into the pantry. As soon as she had noticed what had happened she began to laugh. Gran grabbed my hand and took me to the bathroom to wash off all the flour I had just dropped on myself.
“Honey, you know you could’ve called me in there to help grab the flour,” Gran said with a great amount of sympathy.
I looked at her trying to hold back my tears. “I know, I just wanted to show you I could do it on my own. I’m sorry.”
Before I even finished my sentence, Gran began to hug me. She told me everything was going to be okay and she forgave me for wasting all of her good flour. “It’s okay Emme, no one is perfect.”
I loved spending time and cooking with Gran.
Gran was the most beautiful, old woman I had ever seen. Her wrinkles were so faint, although every crease on her face told a story.
Gran, as I like to call her, was always so sweet to my brother and I. She never failed to have one or two blow-pops in her pocket. As a child I found a blow-pop could fix most of my problems. The sweet but sour edges always made me tingle. Since as long as I can remember, I have been told I am just like Gran. The funny thing is we look nothing alike. When I was twelve we were standing eye-to-eye. She stopped growing but I, however, did not. The strongest quality we share is probably our stubbornness. I guess it is this trait that has made our relationship so strained in the last few years.
Granny has always been an early riser. This was especially true on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately for our relationship, I do not wake up well. It’s not that I cannot get up early, it is just that I hate everyone until eleven a.m. If we don’t talk I can usually put up with most people. If you will feed me, I keep from rolling my eyes to a minimum. Gran maybe one of my most favorite people on earth, but early on Sunday morning I can’t stand her.
On one of these mornings, my feet had not touched the bottom step of the staircase before Gran laid into me. Most of the time it started with my choice of clothing.
“Emilee,” she asked, “don’t you have anything decent to wear? Where is the rest of it? I declare the preacher is going to have to pray extra hard for you today!” She showed no mercy.
Well I couldn’t leave that alone. So, I would usually retort in some way.
“Mom,” I screamed across the house, “could you please tell Gran it’s not 1930 anymore!”
Gran equaled my volume, “Mitzi,” (my mother) “come look at your child’s hair. I guess she’s leavin’ it wet to fight off the flames of hell.”
Some Sundays were not as combative.
“Emilee, do you have your bible?” Gran asked eagerly.
Gran always had her bible, so she always made sure I had mine.
“Yes Gran! How could I forget it? You remind me every Sunday morning!” If she was feeling merciful, she would simply stare judgement into my heart and remain quiet until we got into the car.
Until the age of thirteen, I did not attend church regularly. Around that same time, Gran moved into our home. I always knew she was right with the Lord, but living with her gave me a new found respect for her love of the gospel.
Once we finally got out of the car, bygones were bygones. We went happily into church.
I know there are many types of churches, but there is something special about mine. My dad always said it was a “traditional Southern church.” I guess that makes sense, because we are Southern Baptist. The people walk in the front, up several brick stairs. I always feel so small beneath the great white columns. God must really want us to come to church, otherwise why make them so pretty?
Being a Christian isn’t always easy. Gran always reminded me of this. For a kid, church begins with discipline. I had to learn to sit up straight, be still and keep my smackin’ at a minimum. The part I had the most trouble with was remembering anything that monotone preacher ever said.
Church can be confusing. The whole congregation is supposed to be forgiving and act as family. However, every Sunday we must be careful to sit in our exact pew. We do this, so we do not upset our spiritual family. I think if we tried to move spots, Gran would be seen sitting alone. Maybe that’s a small-town thing.
Through our many conversations, I learned about the hardships of Gran’s life.
I would often ask her, “How did she make it?” Her answer was always the same.
“The good Lord is with me Emilee and I have faith in his never-ending love.” She always smiled after this, before she spoke again. “In good times and bad, the good Lord’s mercy never failed me. I tell you this Emme, no matter what the problem, open your bible and pray like I taught you. God will never turn his back on you.”
My most vivid early memories are in my grandparent’s house. They looked after us a lot as free child care. I can still smell the aroma of fresh cinnamon rolls being pulled out of the oven; not the can stuff, fresh homemade rolls. Gran would cook breakfast food at any time of the day. It was always good, but the gooey cinnamon rolls always made my mouth water. Most of the time Gran would make us quote a verse of scripture before we got one of those tasty treats. I usually quoted my favorites, but every now and then I would surprise her with a new verse. I don’t know who was happier: me with my roll or her with her scripture.
Last December 2017, we lost Gran. Unfortunately, I was the first one to find her. I was upstairs in my room, texting away. Gran and I were the only one’s home. Eventually I got hungry, so I decided to raid the fridge for a snack. As soon as I came into the living room I knew something was wrong.
“Gran,” I screamed. A feeling came over me, something I had never felt before. I think I knew she was dead as soon as I saw her. It was sad and beautiful at the same time. She had fallen asleep reading the good book and passed peacefully.
The next few days leading up to the funeral was a blur. I remember the large amounts of food people brought and the seemingly endless tears. However, when I think of Gran, it was our private talks I cherish the most. Looking back, she was genuinely interested in my life. More importantly, she was concerned about my soul. Even now, when I hold Gran’s tired, old bible, riddled with notes, cracks in the leather from age, and more than one tear stain, I can hear her calm voice guiding me through my troubles.
I hope Gran will be proud of me. Her life and death has encouraged me to commit my life to God. I’ve been a born-again Christian since I was thirteen, but it’s only recently that I have realized what that really means. So much of my life, I was concerned with staying out of trouble and trying not to sin. I like to think I have grown past that infant stage of my spiritual life. With a teacher like Gran, I should have been making better process on my road to sanctification. Now my days consist of morning devotionals, grace before every meal, special prayers for our church prayer list and I end every night on my knees in prayer.
Every Sunday since Gran passed away, I never forget to carry my Bible. Some mornings when I think of her death, I carry her old Bible. Having her Bible made me feel like she was with me all the time.
“Mama, do you have your Bible?” I asked. Asking my mother this made me realize how much I have grown towards Christ. Although this was a simple question, I felt so much like Gran as I spoke those few words
“Yes dear. I’m so proud of the way you have kept me accountable throughout my spirituality as well as your own. You have grown up so much since Gran has passed. Do you want me to tell you a secret?” My mother stopped in the middle of her gait. She looked at me in all seriousness.
“Yes ma’am,” I answered eagerly, waiting for her to spill.
“I am obviously a lot older than you. I am supposed to teach you about the Lord and the lessons that come with being a Christian, but there have been many moments that you have taught me right from wrong. I am just so honored that you have come this far Em.”
I looked away from my mother, trying to hold back the tears as we walked into church. This Sunday was different from all the others. I could feel Gran’s presence as I sat in our pew. Maybe I could feel her because I was carrying her bible this Sunday. I knew this is where I belonged, in Sardis Church.