Surviving Sacrament Meeting

May 2, 2017

When I was growing up, church was something we dashed to the last minute after Sunday morning cartoons and bowls of sugar-doused Cheerios.

My mom was as kind as she was crazy: she let us bring anything to church except the family dog and roller-skates. Over the years we lugged armfuls of books, crayons, dolls, playdough, Froot Loop yarn necklaces, and various craft projects. One day I asked her if we could bring our Treasure Boxes. Much to my surprise she said, Yes.

 

Dreams, memories, the sacred–they are all alike in that they are beyond our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the unattainable, the quality of the miraculous.”

Yukio Mishima, Spring Snow

 

My memories of my Treasure Box are all of the above — beautiful, miraculous, sacred. There we were, five kids walking into our starched sacrament meeting, each with inelegant, brown cardboard boxes with the tops sawed off, boxes larger than our bodies. (This was the early 1980’s, plastic totes weren’t a thing yet.)

Our boxes held precious things. I was nine-years-old and mine included stuff like:

  • 1 paperback edition, Little House in the Big Woods; condition: well loved
  • 1 yellow clay pot, hand-painted from Kindergarten
  • An assortment of McDonald’s napkins from rare dinner outingswe were always on a budget and only ate out when someone got baptizedsharing fries and if we got lucky, a sundae
  • 1 Kid’s Menu from Holiday Inn, Lake Havasu, AZ (family trip #46)
  • Various CTR rings scrounged from the Primary room floorbent beyond wear
  • Macaroni art from my long-ago days as a Sunbeam
  • Love notes from my first grade boyfriend, Stephen Huffaker
  • Scratchandsniff stickers that no longer sniffed

 

What I can’t imagine are the eyes watching us trot in and out with our giant boxes. And then in the pews — the sigh of sifting paper, the clink of my miniature china dolls, the soft squish of playdough.

 

From deep inside there rose
some glow passing steadily through me, but I was not
playing, now, I felt like someone
small, in a raftered church, or in
a cathedral, the vaulted spaces of the body
like a sacred woods.

Sharon Olds

 

We were anything but bored, each of us sitting like bent trees over our boxes, not-listening-but-listening to the church talks and choir, hymns and testimonies. Realizing deep inside we were part of it all. Sacred. Afterward we’d Sunday home in our faux-wood brown and tangerine Pinto station wagon for mom’s roast with homemade gravy and Texas sheet cake for dessert, thick with icing made from genuine Hershey’s cocoa — it never lasted long on our plates.

 

“I want to hold the holy inside the human.”

Scherezade Siobhan

 

The holiest thing about my childhood? It’s hard because there were so many good things. It might have been the regular roasts, or laughing with our best-friend-neighbor Noelle, or being born squished in the middle of five kids and never being lonely for a single second. But more than that: the good grace of my mother. She loved us, understood us, didn’t care a pew what people thought.

I see my Treasure Box now, that it held more than macaroni art and CTR rings. It held my mother’s heart, her kindness, her craziness, her expansive love, and my own child-heart happy in a God-fearing family that was messy as it was good.

 

What does your “Treasure Box” hold? What gratitudes, precious memories, past and future moments does it hold?

4 Comments

  1. Linda

    May 2, 2017

    wonderful! This is so vivid, raucous and holy!

  2. Heidi Poelman

    May 2, 2017

    I loved this post! This was just what I needed to hear, after a day stressing in sacrament meeting about how my kids are (or are not) behaving. Thanks for the breather and reminder that God just wants us to show up, and give it our best.

  3. Lindy

    May 2, 2017

    Perfect. For some reason, this made me cry.

  4. Jacqueline

    May 2, 2017

    All of my children have their own treasure boxes too! We lived in Germany, so each one is a large Geman cookie tin (each one unique, but all are rectangular with a hinged lid). They hold things like report cards, photos, special little gifts, awards from school, etc. Even though my daughters have children of their own, they each have kept their treasure box. My youngest daughter who just has her first baby looked in her treasure box for her baby book so she could compare how she looked to how her little son looks. Treasure boxes are wonderful!

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