Jesus and a Moon-Pie

Vacation Bible School was a chore.

Before you get all high and mighty on me, let me explain.

Granny, being in close connection to the one and only God the Father Almighty as well as the preacher, took it upon herself to take a week of vacation every year during VBS so she could serve.

Or, as she put it, make sure no one messed up her Sunday School room where she ruled the nursery.

So, for a week every summer my mornings or afternoons, whenever VBS was scheduled, were spent at the church at the crossroads.
I always thought Granny had some special authority at the church because if we got there before anyone else did, she knew where the key was and would let us in to get things ready.

We’d enter the building with a hallowed reverence to walk towards the stairs down to the fellowship hall so Granny could start surveying what snacks they had and what they needed.
Not only did she run the nursery, which she truly did for a number of decades, but Granny thought herself the overseer of the church kitchen.

And just like her kitchen at home, she would fuss and complain if anything was out of place or not as well stocked as she thought it should be.

“Why are you so worried?” I asked her every time.

“Because,” was her answer. “We gotta have enough food for all the children. It’s important.”

I thought it was kind of silly. Don’t get me wrong; I was never one to turn down a snack, but I thought she was being a bit strident about the whole thing.

But Granny knew it mattered because we didn’t just have our regular kids; we had kids that had never been to our church before and this was their first impression of us.

Lots of kids showed up that we never saw again.

They didn’t come to Sunday School, didn’t ever come back for church.

They just arrived and were later picked up in a car by someone who never got out to introduce themselves or speak to the people their kids had been with all day.

I didn’t understand it.

When I got older, I started questioning why these kids appeared for a week, sometimes, a little dirty, sometimes, acting like this was their sole summer entertainment.

And when it was time for snack, some lingered, eyeing the table wanting to ask for seconds.

The snacks were not that great but when you’re a kid, a cookie is still a cookie.

There were plates loaded down with those vanilla-chocolate fake Oreos that came a million to a pack for fifty cents, some kind of tasteless rectangular coconut one, and some soft, slightly stale chocolate chip cookie that seemed like a prize. To wash them down, we had orange Hi-C or gallon jugs of grape Kool-Aid.

And Granny let them have as much as they could eat.

One day, a scruffy child approached the table with a wary eye and demanded to know where the Moon-Pies were.

A Moon-Pie?

Did he think we had a secret stash of good treats somewhere?

Granny told him we didn’t have Moon-Pies but we did have some mighty fine cookies and asked if she could fix him a plate.

He frowned, very disturbed by the lack of marshmallow cookies.

“My mama told me there’d be Moon-Pies; thems my favorites,” he said. “I don’t like these cookies. I gots these at home.”

Granny nodded slowly. I was waiting for her to explode as she normally did, but for some reason she didn’t.

The next morning on the way to the church, she stopped at The Store (yup, that was the name of Mr. Gambrel’s establishment – The Store; it regularly held “Going Out FOR Business Sales,” too) and bought a Moon-Pie. She never said a word as to why, but I suspect she gave it to that child that had been so vocal about the snacks.

“Should we let someone we don’t know come into our church? They don’t even want to come here,” I complained one summer.

Granny took a deep breath as she tried to explain.

Some of those kids were coming to learn about Jesus and the Lord.

Some were coming to be loved.
Some were coming to eat and be in air conditioning.

And Granny, as judgemental as she could be – and God help me, I can be just like her – told me with a quickness it didn’t matter why they were there. We were going to do what we were preaching all week and we were going to love them and be good to them.

I was shocked.

Here she was, the meanest, strictest woman I knew, and she was telling me to go out there and show all those children some kindness.

I see the signs littering the sides of the roads now, letting people know the upcoming dates of VBS at all the area churches. Each one with a different theme, but all hoping to do the same thing – the opportunity to give children a little bit of Jesus for a few days.

And if they are lucky, a cookie or maybe even a Moon-Pie.  

The heart wants what the heart wants (6/17/2015)

No one plans on falling in love. Well, unless they sign up for dating sites. And even then, plans are sketchy.

But the easiest way to fall in love is to not be expecting it to happen and then it just does.

My child just thought he was going to attend Vacation Bible School.

He had no idea he was going to be love struck.

“Mama,” he began. “What did you think about that little boy that liked you when you were younger?”

“I thought he was sweet, why?”

“No reason.”

A few minutes passed. “Did you think he was weird for liking you?”

My answer was no, but when I was four, I wasn’t worried about boys. My focus was reading, coloring, naps, and an afternoon Hostess cupcake.

Not a lot has changed in nearly 40 years.

As I pondered the first boy who ever liked me, Cole went to his room, obviously preoccupied by my kindergarten romance.

When he emerged, he asked for an envelope.

Curious, I asked why he needed one.

“I’ll tell you later.”

I heard him tearing the envelopes up, frustrated.

A few moments passed before my child stood before me, a piece of paper folded up tightly into a neat little square.

“I don’t even know her name,” he said quietly.

“Who’s name?”

“This beautiful girl I met tonight,” he said. “She has long, dark hair and blue eyes. Did you see her?”

There were a dozen children there, I am sure I saw her but was not sure which girl he was talking about.

“I have no idea what her name is, though…” his voice trailed off as he held the square.

“Is that for her?” I asked.

He nodded. “I wrote her a letter. Do you want to read it?”

“Not if you don’t want me to,” I said.

He nodded. “I want you to.”

But instead, he read it to me. “I like you and think you are really neat. You probably don’t feel the same way, but maybe one day you will.”

The pureness of his words. The hope he put in it. He was a pure romantic through and through and I am not sure where he got it from other than his own abashed love of love.

The courage it took for my shy, yet charming little boy to write such words. If I had his courage to take risks, there’s no telling what I could do, would have done.

But the fear of my child being hurt, being rejected made my heart catch.

“Maybe you shouldn’t give it to her,” I cautioned.

“Oh, no,” he said. “I am giving it to her on the last night. I have to give it to her.”

The next night, he told me her name.

“And, she’s a little bit older than me,” he added. “But that’s okay.”

“How old is she?” I asked.

“13, going on 14,” he replied.

I didn’t say anything. That’s a good deal older, I thought, and girls are usually so much more mature than boys.

Cole is mature for his age – for the most part, or until someone tells a joke involving a bodily function – but still.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, as if he had read my mind. “And Daddy’s a lot older than you – almost 10 years older – so I don’t see what the big deal would be.”

“I didn’t say anything, baby,” I said. “Daddy is older, but we were grown when we met; it would have been…creepy and illegal…if he had tried to date me when I was 10 and he was 19.”

I had burst his love bubble unintentionally. I didn’t want him to be hurt and I had been the one to hurt him.

I could tell later he was upset over this revelation and the fact this beautiful girl was a considerable bit older than him.

“I was hoping she wouldn’t be that much older,” he admitted.

“I know,” I said. “But she could be in college when you are starting high school.”

He dropped his little chin and said, “I could go visit her and take her snacks, though.”

I squeezed him tight.

His heart, of course, was all about how to do something for someone else.

“But you aren’t going to give her the letter, are you?” I asked.

“I am, Mama,” he said. “I don’t care how old she is. It doesn’t change how I feel. The heart wants, what the heart wants.”

The week went by quickly, and on Friday, Cole forgot the letter.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“I can tell her, though,” he said. “Maybe that’s better.”

A small miracle happened. I kept my mouth shut. If my child had the gumption to tell a much older teenage girl he thought she was the neatest thing ever, I wasn’t going to stop him. I would, however, be there to comfort him and give him hot buttered popcorn with peanut M&M’s in it to soothe him. I decided, for once, to not meddle and hover, but let my child have some autonomy in his life.

Later that evening, I anxiously asked him how things went.

“I didn’t say anything,” he said. “I got too shy. I still have the letter, and I will see her again; I mean, we go to church together, you know?”

I smiled my understanding.

“And, besides, she will have plenty of time to get to know me and see how a few years won’t mean anything in love. I just think she is nice, she is pretty, and funny and sweet. She hasn’t got to know me yet, really.”

“By then, you may have just become really good friends, too,” I interjected. “And found someone more your age…”

“Oh, I don’t think so, sweet girl,” he said. “‘Cause the heart wants what the heart wants.”

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the e-published novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”