Porch song memory.

February 1, 2008

On the back of this old photo, my Mom’s handwriting reads, “Dec. 1975 – Laura on Church porch” (sorry, the face was pretty well blown out by the flash… )


As we have already seen in one or two of my earlier posts, I am quite the fashion plate, aren’t I? Let’s see… I was almost 9 years old here. This is taken on the original porch of the church where I grew up, the Church of Christ at Manor Woods in Rockville, MD. I do have some memories of that red/magenta coat, and I think it’s safe to say that I was very pleased to be wearing that coat on the day this photo was snapped.

But what I really have memories of? Is that porch.

Seems silly, I know. There wasn’t much to the porch itself. Just a plain concrete floor slab with a roof overhead, and some of those metal railings on either side.

I remember chasing friends around in circles there when I was little. I tried to sit on those metal railings a lot, and fell off plenty of times. One side of the porch (behind me in the photo) had a bunch of juniper bushes or trees growing there β€” you know the kind that are sort of prickly, but you just can’t resist picking at the branches when you are young? I couldn’t resist, either.

The real kicker, though… the memory that is most closely associated with that porch for me (and probably my brother)… the thing that comes to mind first, if someone were to say “remember that porch at church?”… is this:

It had a certain sound.

I grew up going to church with my family. Every Sunday. Without fail. And I will tell you right here in front of God and everybody, I really loved it. I have great memories of church and I don’t recall a time when I ever didn’t want to be involved in everything that happened there. It was, quite simply, a part of life.

Oh sure, I sometimes got bored during the sermon, like a child does. I drew my share of illustrations on the back of the offering envelopes or the bulletins (in the place on the back that said “this space provided for your convenience in sermon note-taking” or something very close to that). I did my share of “spacing out” while I sat next to my family, there in the third pew from the front on the left side as you faced the pulpit.

But… on a few precious occasions, my behavior during the church service went above and beyond the boundaries of what was acceptable. Yes, there were some times when I needed, shall we say, a little extra attention from my parents. I don’t even recall specifically what I did, but it was most likely along the lines of talking during communion, or during the sermon. Something like that.

So, when Mom or Dad had had enough, I was deftly escorted out of the pew and marched right down the center aisle of the sanctuary. (I actually have a memory of being carried out at least one time, when I was small… one of those maneuvers where I was whisked up by the waist and toted out on someone’s hip, with my body basically parallel to the floor. Think of that old ToughSkins commercial where they pick up the kid by the belt loop. But I digress.) And as the remainder of the congregation who was safe from punishment watched my grand exit, I was taken out the sanctuary doors, through the lobby and onto the porch

At that point I would be turned over a knee, or whatever position was necessary at the time. And spanked. Just 2 or 3 swats, I would say.

And that is when I would hear the sound.

The acoustics in that porch were such that every time “the hand of knowledge touched the seat of understanding,” the sound would bounce rapidly between the roof and the floor. There was a distinct quality to that echo. A very bouncy or rubber-bandy kind of quality. The kind of peculiar quality that you remember 30-some years later.

My brother and I both were pretty fast learners. Little disciplinary diversions like I described actually only happened to us on a few occasions each. But equally imprinted on our brains β€” right along with whatever “be respectful during church” lesson was imparted to us during those sessions β€” is the special sound that only a spanking could make on the Manor Woods’ porch.

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