Monday, April 9, 2012

Little Brown Church

Little Brown Church on Signal Mountain
Little Brown Church
In Chattanooga, on Signal Mountain, there is an old chapel called the Little Brown Church. It was built in the nineteen-teens in Summertown, an area of the mountain colonized by folks who would come up from the valley in the summer to escape the heat and yellow fever. The story is that they didn't want to hire a preacher, so they split up preaching and teaching duties among themselves. It's still in use during the summer and still belongs to the community as a non-denominational chapel. It is anything but fancy, but it has a lot of charm. In all the years we lived there, I'd never seen it, so Betty drove us out there. I still don't know if I could find it again, as it involved a gravel road that I was sure must be somebody's driveway.

Little Brown Church door

Little Brown Church interior
The inside reminded me of a ship, all made of the same wood.
As I snapped the picture above, I thought, "I've taken this picture before." And then I remembered.

Chapel Interior
In Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina, 2007.
That's a tiny Hank on piano, Laura warming the front pew, and Matt bringin' a message at Palmer Chapel, an old place inside the Smoky Mountains National Park. Cataloochee is a really neat place if you ever get to visit. And thinking of this picture made me think of this from outside the church.

In Cataloochee Valley
Look at them. This was probably a year before I started blogging, so you guys never knew the baby Hank, and ragamuffin Laura. Looking at this picture, I worry that I can't remember how they really were then. Like, their physicality and how they sounded, how taking care of them in every ordinary moment really felt. I remember lots about them and about that time, but I can't re-feel the being. Do you know what I mean? I could break my own heart over it, almost.

L in Little Brown Church

But time, she is marching on.



AlGalMom said...

That little brown church could be the twin of a church we visited in Saugatuck, MI a couple of years back. My grandmother's childhood summers were spent there, and she took us back to see the house her mother and aunt built.

My heart breaks over the ebbing babyhood of my kids, too. It feels like a lifetime ago, especially seeing the older girls as babies, b/c that means it was before the younger ones arrived on the scene. It is surreal to me to think of a time that any of them were not part of my life, and surreal to think of how quickly they are growing, right before my eyes like time-lapse photography.

Erika W said...

That jacket is hanging up in Dev's room right now! I hope he never outgrows it. We were at an Easter party and a grandma friend commented on all the 3 year olds and how isn't this the best age. Which it really is! Then she said, "You will not remember this. You think you will, but you won't." My hear broke right in half and then I ate some chocolate eggs.

Elizabeth said...

I know exactly what you mean. Exactly. And it breaks my heart, too, but strangely in the most joyous of ways, right?

As for the little brown church -- well, I've been there. Many times.

Beth said...

I have those moments of realizing I can't remember every time I see a younger baby. We were with an 18 month old over spring break, and she was so cute, with that emergent language and short temper. She had this hilarious bit where whenever she wanted to contradict someone, she'd slam her hand on any available surface and yell, "Yeah, DO!" So her mom would say, "We don't have any more juice," and she'd pull out a "Yeah, DO!" We cracked up at it. And then I realized that my kids had so many of those every day little bits, and I can't remember 90% of them. Then, instead of eating chocolate eggs, I ate Peeps.

Nina said...

Do you think it's to do with the change from that time to this being so smoothly gradual? Is it harder to recall the feeling of points on that continuum than it would be to remember distinct [ummm... vocabulary failure] sections of time? Do you ever recall the 'being' in dreams, maybe? Because it must be in there somewhere.

I'm not religious but I like that little brown church and the story of it very much.

Veronica said...

As I look at Maggie, I have trouble remembering exactly what Seamus was like at her age, and how it felt to be his mom then -- I know it was all different from now, even though parts of it were the same, but I can't exactly remember it. And now that you mention it, yes, it makes my heart break.

Becky said...

Yes, I do think it's something to do with the unbroken continuity of the slow change and growth. And I think that with your child or your spouse or anyone you live closely with, there is just so much that gets recorded, every day, it's really hard to hold on to past times. It's like a wax tablet that's constantly being written on and overwritten.

Pictures and recordings and videos help, or we hope they do, but there is something about the being that is lost. I guess it is okay though.

Anonymous said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I've always said I would love to go back just one day when mine were little and recapture that sweet time...mine are now 31 and 26...

I love your blog - read it every day

Susan - Williamsburg, VA

Anonymous said...

sorry for the double posting...I'm new at commenting :-D

Becky said...

Never a problem, Susan! Thanks for reading and for saying hi.

delaine said...

Lovely post, Becky! I really like your description of a wax tablet being written and rewritten upon. Those feelings of poignancy I remember so well. For each of you three kids I recall thinking,"this is a precious moment I will treasure and remember." I have many of those sweet mental pictures. But one can't hold each smell, sight or sound in their memory. It's true about grandchildren too. The tender little cheek you nuzzle is so precious and fleeting. Sitting in the sunshine holding a sleeping baby. Playing hide and seek with squealing children. I remember so clearly individual days with each of my children and the sweetness of them. But I can't recall them all. So, I guess it's important that we keep making memories. Those wax tablets get plenty of use!

Rebekah said...

The Little Brown Church was where my father first preached on Signal when we were coming to "interview" for the position at Wayside Pres where Dad ended up being for 23 years or so.

I miss the baby years too. I feel myself missing the present before it even becomes the past. Then sometimes the past seems so vivid, it seems like it's still the present. I remember how slow time passed to me when I was in elementary school. It was so long. Now it goes too fast.

Star said...

Beautiful little church, lovely post, as usual, thanks so much.