Cars drive into the parking lot, attempting to avoid running over little toes and the pastor’s wife. They park, always with gaps too large in between, but not large enough for another car. Just like Sunday in the pews, it seems everyone has their personal spot Wednesday nights.
The gravel the cars park on was supposed to be replaced last spring. It is smaller than rocks and bigger than sand. It’s dusty, if it hasn’t rained or snowed. The rocks are sharp enough to bother sensitive bare feet, but smooth enough to not pop car and bicycle wheels. It is that point in the day that comes immediately after sunset. There is still light in the sky but the beautiful colors have been erased and replaced by a dry chilled wind.
There are three long, thick concrete steps leading from the gravel to the large two story building with white trim. During the summer they are surrounded by a thick luscious garden. Strawflowers, petunias, geraniums, broccoli, lettuce, and daisies surround the bleak gray cracked concrete with lively greens, yellows, reds, oranges, pinks, and purples. Now the concrete is like the weather; cold and gray. The flowers and vegetables have been cut and taken away, their corpses like the fall leaves, brown and dying.
The red door with its small brown awning is the only remaining bright color to the larger light brown church building.
The entryway is bright, warm and welcoming. The light of the chandelier fills the room with the light of a million stars. The small chandelier has a slight bend in one of the arms because of a long history of young boys taking football games indoors.
To the left there is a wall-to-wall coat rack that is mostly empty, but the few coats that do hang bode of an early winter. Across from it is a four-foot high wall to prevent people from falling down into the not so well lit staircase.
There is a stained glass window next to the entry doors. It doesn’t have many colors in it and it is only visible from inside. Directly across from the stained glass window are two steps that lead up to a junction. Straight ahead the hallway leads to the nursery and three offices and to a staircase that leads to small classrooms. To the right at the junction are the double doors to the sanctuary, the cry room, and a coffee maker for the coffee-holics Sunday mornings.
Smells waft upstairs. Something sweet, something familiar, and something citrus lingers too. The stairs are long, slightly faded, brown-red and thickly carpeted. The wooden handrail assists the elderly down to the feast that awaits.
At the bottom of the stairs are two heavy wooden doors that are propped open. Just inside the doorway, a dozen round tables, not of King Arthur, are occupied by different groups of people. A table where the infamous little boys who have now become men discuss work, college, and their pleasure at having a home cooked meal sit wearing button up shirts, rock band tee shirts, and jeans. At another table young children talk about what they think are issues, while an innocent brown leather football lies with brand new white lacing at their feet on the white tile floor. At yet another table the inbetweeners talk about childhood camps, and applications to college. The rest of the tables are occupied by adults, some with bouncing babies begging for a bite, and some with silver heads full of advice.
The last table is a long wooden rectangle and is laden with food, plates, forks, and napkins. The big stainless steel pot isn’t full of yellow spaghetti since most everyone has filled his or her plates already. Short blue pans is covered with drippings of thick red sauce indicating clumsy visitors and independent children, and the short clear bowl has a few fresh fluffy bread rolls left. Buckets of butter hide the mostly full salad bowl. The big open window into the warm bustling kitchen has sweet smelling chocolate delicacies on the counter next to freshly made tangy lemonade and sweet grape juice.
One last person sits alone at a crowded table. She jots down notes with a purple pen and black nails. She is taken out of her daze with a shout from a short blonde inbetweener.
“Come on, Aggie! Small groups!”
The thick rubber grip of the pen bounces off the floor, lost and forgotten, and the girl runs to catch up.