The Rain It Raineth Every Day

Today I gave a talk to 30 lovely church women at the venerable old First Baptist Church of Lexington MA and the weather was again terrible only this time it was raining little needles and the day had dawned snowy so the walking was awful.

But the second I walked into the basement of that old church I felt happy.

Church basements all have that same great smell and the Sunday school rooms looked so dear with their wee tables and chairs and some old hooked rugs and bright yellow walls.

When I found the main gathering place the ladies were just tucking into a hot lunch that one of them had put together all on her own: pans of ravioli with sausage and broccoli; Caesar salad; baskets of bread; and home-made carrot cake. I had said I wouldn’t eat the latter but it smelled so much like childhood and a school cafeteria I thought How can I not? and so sat down.

I was the only outsider of course and they did the nicest thing they could have done while smiling warmly at me from time to time: they went on with their regular conversations which let me see right into their lives. This one was having trouble with her dog. That one was going crazy because her husband is always saying she doesn’t talk loud enough. A third one leans forward to say that she was born in this town made famous by a Revolution and still lives on what remains of the family farm. Her mother, in her late 90s, lives there too.

She and the woman beside her described exactly how this town still seemed even just 60 or 70 years ago: pastoral. Quiet. Like the farm town it was before 1775.

The talk and the rain outside took me back I think and when it was time for me to rise and talk for 40 minutes I talked about that past too and these great women laughed and sighed and remembered back too.

I told them what was next for me; how three hours after I got done with them I would be unpacking a picnic in a cemetery as night fell. The picnic was my romantic notion and I’d invited to it a lady 60 and a lady 80.

I’m writing this at 3pm. I have made a beef stew and a salad of Boston lettuce with almonds and berries for this picnic. I have sourdough bread and some cookies, wee little oranges and two kinds of wine, a straw picnic basket and some elegant stemware, fresh-brewed coffee and two thermoses that between them cost 50 whole bucks because they’re guaranteed to keep hot things hot for 24 hours.

We’ll see I guess. But the cemetery we are going to is Mt. Auburn, such a beautiful place rain or shine that  I’ve been thinking lately it’s the place where my man and I will one day go for keeps,  where all day and all night we can look up at its wonderful trees and imagine that we too can still feel the rain on our faces, steely-needled or soft, and the snow when it snows and the strengthening vernal sun.



12 thoughts on “The Rain It Raineth Every Day

  1. I was seeking the author of the poem “The Rain It Raineth Every Day…” and it led me to your blog. I didn’t get the answer, but the story of your experience in the church with those lovely people was more than I could ask for. It took me back, too…

    Thank you!

  2. Well Sabrina it’s none other than Willie Shakespeare. Its from Twelfth Night I think and the Fool sings it at the end. Thanks so much for these sweet words! Visit again!

  3. I hope it didn’t continue to raineth on you by the time you got to the cemetery, and that darkness hadn’t yet fallen so that you could see the food you so lovingly described!

  4. T, you brought back all the memories of the basement of St. Theresa’s Church in S. Hadley, MA when I was a boy (now torn down). Catechism was held down there as well as all other functions. Strangely, I made beef stew yesterday too, but didn’t go to the cemetery. My sister and I often have picnics at St. Jeromes Cemetery where our clan goes way back thanks to the Irish, so I know how relaxing it is. How nice of you to do that for those ladies!

  5. Hi Terry,

    That church reminds me of my favorite building at UVM – the Billings Library. I wonder if it was also designed by H.H. Richardson – he was the architect for a number of churches in MA – including Trinity Church in Boston.

    Hope things are warming up in the Bay State!

  6. Once again, great story. I could smell the church basement(they really all do smell alike), smell the ravioli and see the “wee tables.”

    Most importantly I could recognize the moment. You know those rare moments where new people, new place, for one reason or another, seem all too familiar. The setting is as comfortable as a favorite chair and the conversation easy.

    I’m curious to know how the cemetery date went!

  7. Terry — I just want to add to the above reverential comments, by persons so clearly moved by your beautiful writing, that I too have been to some memorable meetings in church basements which by the end have had me thinking hard on the relative pleasures of being dead and buried. I think it probably started for me back in Sunday School, now that you have mentioned it. And as I think further on this, I must also mention that I have had similar feelings come over me during regular Sunday services held in the upstairs of some very fine churches. But can safely say that I have never experienced this precisely in a woman’s group meeting, and never in the exclusive company of Baptists. So not only have you dusted off some settloed memories and carried me back in time, you have also brought me something new. I particuliarly liked the juxtapositoin of ground water seeping ever so slowly through clammy, close fiting foundation stones fronted by dank crumbling plaster with thr rain and snow and seeping into the coffins of The Dead, only to be warmed by the sun. For me anyway, a salute to James Joyce (vs. Shakespeare). And for all of these impression, I thank you most sincerely. — Walter

    1. i usually like to answer people in any email Walter but this was so awesom and DARK (ground water leaking into the coffins!) You must somehow sense that I am aiming for a green burial myself which means there is no embalming and the coffin is cardboard with NO BOTTOM (how’s that?) thanks for making me laugh ! “thinking hard on the relative pleasures of being dead and buried” in those long church meetings! Funny GUY!

  8. Every time I read your writing, I am awash in a sea of memories. It is nothing short of magical how your experiences make my own past come alive in my mind. And today’s story touches me deeply, reminding me of my own hometown church in Thomaston. How I miss the high ceilings, the wooden pews, the magnificent stained glass windows, and the wonderful sense of history and spiritual experiences. And how I envy those ladies who still reside in their family homestead, as I continue to grieve the loss of my own just two short years ago to this cruel economy! Thank you for bringing alive the sights, sounds, and smells from a time gone by. And especially for making me think of my beloved Mother every time! You are a treasure and a blessing to me.

  9. Fifth paragraph, third sentence: methinks you left out the word “saying,” in the sentence phrase “her husband is always SAYING she doesn’t talk loud enough…”

  10. Thank you for sharing “your world” with ‘me’ I loved this brought me outside my thoughts and into your world for a brief time and it was a pleasant place to be.

  11. Now Terry, I do believe you might just explode all over the inside of that Size 27 Buster Browns cardboard box if’n you don’t get yourself a proper embalmimg. Could give “green” a whole new meaning… Maybe instead you could leave directions for that nice Mr. Lane to pick up several gallons of antifreeze from Fells Hardware, instead of letting him ring up some ungodly number for Old Dave for that puckery formaldehyde stuff. Yecch. But I do spose that I could be all wrong here, not having yet tried any of this out on my own self or my loved ones.

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