Monday, February 2, 2009

When sins were small

I sat in the wooden pew, my legs hanging over the edge, toes barely touching the kneeler. My shiny, black hair was still tied back in the braid my mother had twisted that morning, and my plaid jumper retained its pressed pleats. The vast room was warmly lit, by flickering candles on the altar and dusty rays sifting in through colored glass. Whispers and mutterings floated around, telling small children to sit still, wait their turn. I glanced up, saw him approaching, and hurriedly repeated to myself for the hundredth time, the words I would say when the time came.

He leaned over me, arm on the back of the bench, and spoke kindly, though I quickly forgot what he said, for the smell of coffee and tobacco on his breath. But his voice was kind, soft, and Irish. His reddish cheeks, wire-frame glasses over greenish eyes, and tousled brown, wavy hair were endearing to me, a little girl who had her first confession to make. He was Father Matt, my favorite of the three black-clothed men that lived in the rectory, next to the church, by my school.

“Why are you here my child?” he coaxed, as he sat beside me.

“Father, I have sinned.”

The first act of penance followed a script. His turn, my turn, his turn, my turn. I confided in him that I had said a bad word, and that I had stolen a cookie when my mother was not looking. What I was not brave enough to confess was, that I had pinched my baby sister’s leg to make her cry, and that I had snuck into my mother’s bedroom to play with her make-up, dropping a bottle of blood-red Cutex nail polish all over the floor, which I later blamed on my other little sister.

But he forgave me, placing his wide, heavy hand on the top of my head. I received my blessing and walked toward the others, who were in various stages of waiting, reciting, praying, and fidgeting. I kneeled in my assigned row, folded my arms on the bench in front of me, and rested my head. Up high in the choir loft, a lullaby soothed, smoothing my eyes closed. Through sleepy eyes, I watched while the others confessed their baby sins to men, their wrong-doings erased with old words, sent away with smoking incense.


Bonnie K said...

Hi Casey,
Thanks for sharing this moment. What a wonderful way to hold your readers with you. I wondering what will come next,

katied said...

Wow...this takes me back. You painted such a clear picture in my mind of your first confession. I wish I had a clear memory of mine. Thanks for sharing.

Laura-Whateverebay said...

Outstanding - you took me back to the days, when I would play with my Moms make-up...... I miss her much.

You describe a beautiful picture, that I could already see the cast..


Jennifer said...

Very nicely told. I've read a few early confession-related stories which make the whole process seem terrifying, but this has a sweet quality (and we all know the sins get more ... complex ... as we grow up).