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December 12, 2013

Close the book quietly.  Slide it in the wood pocket on the back of the seat in front of you, the pew. You stand.  You sing. You sit.  A plate is passed and a child looks up at his father, who reaches for his wallet, pulls out a dollar. It all happens just in time for the boy to be the one to drop it on the velvet bottom of the plate and pass it to the next person, small fingers gripping the metal that holds his offering in both hands.

You look on with the person standing next to you: sometimes because there are more people there than hymnals, sometimes because you are together, here, impossibly. It is the only time he’s really heard you sing, so you wonder how your voice sounds to him, though he hears your voice every day. He is not singing along, but you see his lips moving, his eyes searching for what comes next. None of this is as familiar as it is to you. You point. You run your finger under the third line of text on each stanza of the song as you sing. You look up and know he’s seeing for the first time words you know by heart.


You are 15 and yours is the only white face among a hundred shades of brown. You have found a way to sing that comes not from your mouth, your lips, your teeth or even your throat, your lungs, your diaphragm. You have become the song. All of the notes are pieces of you that you give to the room. There is no hymnal. Notes are the height of a hand and the length of an arm extended. Held. The song is all of you and you resonate with the echoes of every woman around you who is swaying with you and holding up the woman in front of you.  She is the offering, her clear lines piercing through the words you have all become and making you one.


She is more than one, less than two. Your daughter: discovering melody, words, rhythm, all of it, and tonight she doesn’t want to sleep. She is in your arms, outside of you this bright girl who began within you, and for a moment once again she is not apart. Her body is long against yours, and her ear is on your shoulder. Her eyes are locked on yours when they can stay open, and both of you are singing the alphabet; it makes up the words that make meaning of everything.

For  a while you lost your sense of the sacred. But now it is an offering rushing back on you like a wave. It is as if the water that is outside of you is remembering that you are water, too.

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