Saturday, April 5, 2014

“E” is for Easter 1960

EThis is a brief extract from the first chapter of my book Old McDonald Had a Funny Farm. Life was so fun and so simple back then…

Fifteen minutes later, Ross and Honey packed the kids into the car and headed off to Newport Beach for the church services. All four children walked demurely near their parents as they entered the church, which was beautifully decorated with pots of snow-white Easter lilies and bright yellow daffodils, just like the ones growing beside the McDonalds’ driveway. After the Sunday School lessons, Honey accompanied Melody to the choir room, and then joined the others in the front row of the chapel. Groups of people, in brightly colored clothing that vied with the beautiful sun-brightened stained glass windows illuminating the chapel walls, streamed through the doors toward the welcoming pews. Waves of joyous organ music accompanied the festive throngs. Feelings of hope and thanksgiving hung on the air with comforting warmth. It was a day scan0036for celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The adult choir stood, divided, in the external aisles of the chapel, and began to sing the triumphal Easter hymn:


Christ the Lord is ris’n today


Sons of men and angels say


Raise your joys and triumphs high


Sing, ye heav’ns and earth reply,



It was so beautiful sitting between the two choirs as the voices echoed back and forth, and the triumph of the Lord rang in the congregation’s hearts. After the Pastor’s sermon, the children’s choir, seated behind the pastor, rose to sing, clutching battery lit candles in their hands. Melody was both excited and nervous at the same time and she fought to stand up straight as her knees wobbled and threatened to collapse from the emotion. She was singing in the choir for the first time, and it was wonderful, but what if she sang a wrong note there in front of everyone: she would die. But no, there was her family sitting there in the front row and she knew that everything would be alright. Mrs. Jarvis lifted her arms and began to lead the very young singers:


When Israel was in Egypt’s land,

Let my people go.

Oppressed so bad they could not stand

Let my people go.

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land

Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go.”


Melody’s heart began to slow down. She had done it; she had sung the right words in the right rhythm on the right notes. It was wonderful singing in a choir and the congregation’s reaction made her feel like she could fly like an angel. At the end of the last service, as she and the other fifteen boys and girls of the junior choir walked in double file down the center aisle of the chapel with their candles shining brightly, the pastor loosed a cloud of snow-white doves. Just as the young choir members were leaving the chapel to take off their choir robes, one of the doves left its circling companions and settled on Melody’s shoulder. She wasn’t surprised—lots of birds landed on Melody’s shoulder (though not those pesky mocking-birds)—but this bird just heightened her feeling of peace and joy. Wanting to share this feeling, she turned around to search for her family in the midst of the festive crowd. Suddenly, she felt a hand clasp her other shoulder. Turning around, she came face to face with Grammy Jenkins. “I see you’ve found a new friend, Mickey.”

The dove flew off to join his fellows as Melody and her grandmother hugged each other.

“Grammy, you came to hear me sing. What a neat song, huh? Where’s Grampa? Is he here?

Are you coming to our house for lunch?”

“Oh, slow down; one question at a time. Yes, dear, the song was wonderful. Grampa is at work. You know the police have to work sometimes on holidays, unfortunately even on Easter. There are many more people here at Easter-time, you know. He’ll try to come later on, when he finishes his shift. Yes, I am coming to lunch and also to the Easter egg hunt. Then, if Grampa doesn’t make it in time, your Grandmother Mary will take me home.”

“Are you coming home with us in our car? Oh, please, Grammy. You can sit in back with me.”

excerpt from “Old McDonald Had A Funny Farm” © 2009 Mary Purpari