It must be told that a “risk was taken to enter in” to that darkened church and encounter the Blessed Mother. At ten years old I found myself taking on a big challenge. It was “to put one over” on my poor unsuspecting Aunt Grace and Uncle Joey who hovered over me constantly making sure nothing would happen to me “on their watch.” They had promised my parents and especially my mother that they would see to my every move. There would be nothing to worry about. “Go and have a good time” were their parting words as my parent’s car pulled away from the curb. That was exactly what I was thinking!!!
I had visited my aunt and uncle’s home many times, especially for holidays, but never stayed overnight or for an extended period of time. It was fun to go there and they were both very kind and loving. My uncle was my mother’s brother. His wife had a reputation for cooking a turkey with its insides still intact on Thanksgiving Day which she never quite lived down. This gives you a little hint of what went on in that household! It also gives you a hint of how I could easily escape their “loving watchful gaze” and make my “run for it” across the street.
On our trips to visit my aunt and uncle in Jersey City, I would be able to see from the car window as we went by, the beautiful church, that sat across the street from their home. It was truly beckoning to me and I knew that one day I would get inside that sacred building.
It’s hard to remember exactly if it was the second or third day of my stay, but I decided in my ten year old brain to “just go for it.” Wow! Did I go for it! When my aunt and uncle were both busy doing other things and grandma was taking a nap, I ventured out to the front of the apartment building. I know I lingered for a bit shuffling my feet around, making like I was looking at ants crawling along the sidewalk and hoping that like the ants I would disappear into the background. I looked both ways and when it was clear, I made a run for it. That “run for it” took me through the front doors of the church and my legs just seemed to be on remote control. I found myself standing in awe before the most beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary. I had made it and I knew something exciting was about to happen me.
My heart was still beating very fast from my quick escape as I stood before the Blessed Mother’s statue. She seemed to be so real as if she truly were standing before me. The church seemed to be empty of other people as the smells of incense and votive candles burning quickly filled my nose and my whole being. I felt so at home and happy to be there and eventually my racing heart calmed down. I quickly forgot about Aunt Grace, Uncle Joey and Grandma.
Looking at the statue of the Blessed Mother, it seemed our eyes locked together in an unending stare. I remember later on hearing the word “mesmerized” in grade school and could understand the meaning of that word completely from my experience of that day in the church. Truly, I was “mesmerized” and more so when “her eyes” filled with tears. I stood there in an incredible deafening silence. . . in awe of what was happening before me.
Did I have heat exhaustion from running across the street? Was I seeing things? What did I do? Was I in trouble with the “Mother of God?” Did these tears result from my hasty exit from my aunt and uncle’s home? Read my next posting to find out the answers to these questions that floated in my mind at that time.
©Anita Guariglia 2017
Image by Anita Guariglia