There’s a country lane, out in the middle of nowhere, called Klee Mill. It’s way out in the sticks. You don’t watch your approach closely enough, you’ll miss it. There’s not that much to the place; a gas station/convenience store at one end, and a bar at the other. In between, what you’ll find is an assortment of residential, country real estate, which grew up out of grass roots America.
The entire neighborhood is a realtor’s paradise, where any place up for sale is worth plenty. Anybody doing the looking is definitely qualified to be here. It’s an upscale neighborhood. Any realtor assigned to this sleepy little neighborhood is definitely a seasoned professional. The houses are just far enough away from the road to keep one from suffering exhaust fumes.
It’s a very quiet neighborhood. There aren’t so many junkers in the driveways to make the place an eyesore. Any car mechanic living here is already wrenching some place. They don’t have time for junkers. They’re working people. The neighborhood won’t put up with clutter. People take pride in home ownership. There’s always someone mowing grass or trimming shrubs.
About halfway down Klee Mill, is another one of the thousands of Maryland/Pennsylvania Country Methodist Churches, which all seem to be carpeted with the same red carpets. Old sets of mahogany pews are standard, with a mahogany aroma permeating the ancient sanctuary. I know them well, although I’ve spent very little time in the old Bethesda Church sanctuary.
Bethesda Church is not well-enough attended that one might expect a large choir. One of the hallmarks of small, rural Methodist Churches is that it has a young congregation, with plenty of children to attend vacation Bible school. When I was attending, I was holding beauty pageants in my head, perpetually deliberating over which girl in Bible School was the most beautiful.
No one ever won those competitions, and I remain a bachelor to this day.
I spent my entire childhood in a series of these little churches, somewhat to the northwest of where the Bethesda Church now stands. My Dad ran a traveling show, as a country reverend, dragging a family of four, and our very devout mother, from one country church to another, driving an old, used ’55 Chevy, to a parade of parsonages, and a parade of Country Churches.
I can clearly hear the old electric organs, or was it ancient, out of tune piano’s, plunking out the same, old familiar hymns, from well before 1960. The hymnals were predictably preserved in the same, old book-racks, at the backs of pews. Why the Methodists never decorated differently is beyond me. Dad was the reverend. Mom was the Queen of the Woman’s Society for Chicken Suppers.
No reverend’s wife, who always served as the President of the Woman’s Society for Christian Service, ever accepted the accolade any other way. But we were four Preacher’s Kids, with more than a little devil in each of us. The WSCS was the group who sponsored Vacation Bible School. It was approximately like going to Sunday School, except for the cookies and Cool Aide.
Of my two brothers, the one became a fireman, rectifying his sins by chasing firetrucks, the other became a madman in a laughing academy, who wanted to play church all the time. Here we were in Bible School, in the balmy summers of the 1950’s, and some Bible teacher was droning on about something. My sister grew up, worked her way across the country, and married a very nice man.
I wasn’t wasting any attention to any Bible teacher. Not in my very holistic, rebellious childhood of mine I wasn’t. I was employing myself, in a daydream about Gretchen Rolf, the young, the beautiful. It’s Gretchen I’ve come to this juncture in my writing to tell you about. You’re not going to believe me, regardless how much I embellish the tale, so I’ll just tell it to you straight out.
My daydream deepened, and Gretchen Rolf, herself, in that cute, 50’s print dress, was standing next to the open window, beckoning me over. She said that none of the others could see or hear us. With only a thought, I was standing next to, Gretchen, the cute, at the open window. Gesturing out the window, she showed me two, astonishingly small unicorns in the courtyard below, behind the church.
Gretchen took me by the hand, and with one, imperceptible motion, we straddled each unicorn, as if they were little horses. Up! Up! And away! Without a sound, we were flying our two, white unicorns, up and away from the old country church. What devil-may-care direction the unicorns were taking us, and what devil-may-care amazing places we were going, I didn’t care.
I was just glad to be relieved of Bible School duty, accompanied by the beautiful, young Gretchen Rolf. We landed in a back yard of someone or others house. The home owners issued from the back door, and I was under the impression that neither man, nor woman, had the ability see or hear us, just as the environment had been at the church classroom, magically.
I did not know the homeowners.
I have no idea who they were.
It was the woman who came out of the house first.
Next came the man, holding the tiny hands of baby daughter. Baby daughter’s hands were tentatively suspended above her head. She was walking! Go! Girl! Go! I only know there was something about that situation that was starkly beautiful. Then, there was something about that situation that was terrifying.
I can’t account for either thought.
Baby daughter was struggling to keep her feet, in their back yard, as daddy hung onto baby daughter’s hands, with both of his, helping her walk. Mama seemed to disdain the entire scene. Mama wore mama clothes. Baby daughter wore baby daughter clothes. Mama paid no attention to either baby daughter, nor to husband, whatsoever.
It was as though she rejected them both.
It was as if mama wanted both of them to go away at that moment.
I’ll guess, because I don’t have anyone to ask. I’ve been too busy to have someone to ask. I was all of about the age of nine at the time. Something about that moment, was terrifying to me. That’s how it’s always felt. I’ll even admit the entire situation could have been a dream. I’ve lost track of my friend, Gretchen Rolf, and both of the unicorns.
I’ll even go so far as to ask this: what’s a unicorn?
Nonetheless, it’s still possible that it was the pivotal moment for me. I got scared in a big way. None of the girls I’ve met since, have ever been been capable of beguiling that primal fear from me. I never stopped flirting with girls. I never stopped secretly deciding which ones of the girls were the most beautiful. But I think I became a confirmed bachelor right then and there, at age nine.