The Church Next Door

I know there were other places before we moved into the old two story house at 1009 Park Avenue in Indianapolis. We have pictures of a basement apartment where my parents were janitors and one or two pictures of a rented house on College Avenue. But the only house that holds any memories for me at all, is the one at 10th and Park.

Actually, our house was the second building on Park because a solid brick church with three wide steps up to the front door and side basement steps down to the “deaf” dominated the corner lot. This church, from the front to both sides and around the back, held tremendous opportunities for play and mischief. Most churches back then were not air conditioned and this one was no different. And so, each summer, their stained glass windows would be opened to the fresh air along with the noisy children who frolicked next door, particularly on Sunday evenings.

There was a cherry tree between our house and the church sanctuary windows. And although this tree offered lovely shade for those within, it also provided us with an array of small missiles, from ripe to over-ripe sour cherries to handfuls of cherry pits. There was also a metal fence that played beautiful music when a stick was scraped across its sides.

Speaking of music, this particular congregation was one of the Church of Christ denominations that repudiated instrumental music in a worship setting. At that time, it seemed like the weirdest thing ever and we would help them along with our own toy instruments, home made drums, and operatic voices.

We were brats. But that church got back at us in the end.

I was nearly in high school and I hated living downtown, a constant source of embarrassment when I asked for rides home and mothers systematically locked the car doors when they reached my neighborhood. The church, however, wanted to grow and they managed to buy out the entire half block in order to build a large new building and parking lot. That is, except for our house. My mother would not sell.

They kept up the pressure for several years (I’m sure they were praying intently for God to soften my mother’s heart, which is a truly audacious leap of faith); and only after my brother and I joined ranks with the church in hopes of moving North where our friends lived, my mother caved in with one proviso: the church would promise to not cut down the cherry tree or the Maple tree that graced our front yard (a tree that provided the most luscious display of colors every fall).

They agreed; we bought a small bungalow some 5 miles away (actually they bought it and we made an “even exchange”) and we moved to our first wall to wall carpeting, washing machine, fenced in yard, grass, and oil heat (the Park Avenue house was heated with wood until the last three years before we moved).

Now, as I Google my old address, I am reminded again and again how those folks never did intend to keep those trees or the promise they made. To this day, the parking lot is a waste land that surrounds a functional church building at 10th & Park. When my mother saw the flattened land for the first time, she wept, and never returned there again. Somehow, this loss is a sorrow for me and a stumbling block to my memories.

About Irmgarde Brown

Personal mission: inspire meaningful change, build faith in God and connect people with resources that make a difference in their lives.

Posted on July 11, 2011, in Memory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Your tale of the church next door (nicely written, as usual) takes on the character of a fable, and it prompts this memory of my own: The shoemaker whose shop was around the corner from our house had a placard on the wall that said “In God We Trust – All others pay cash”. That was my introduction as a child to skepticism. Later in life, as a pre-teen trying to make some money selling homilies as art work, I and my friend Gabe Sunshine created a sign that said: “Take their word for it, but get it in writing.” I am not a great believer in the wisdom of aphorisms, but I like some of them nevertheless.

  2. I am inspired by your writing, Irmgarde, and by how well you remember your childhood. We didn’t have a car either, until I was fifteen. I guess that’s one reason I love to walk. I can’t wait to read more about your life. Sign me up!

  3. Read all your blogs here, and they brought a smile to my face. Most of the stories I know already, and I am glad to be one of the intimates. One story that I didn’t know is that you wrote a play in grade school (?) and produced it. I have to share one of my own stories about my early days as a producer. In 3rd or 4th grade, I decided to put on a show at school. Every recess I forced my friends to rehearse dances and other musical numbers. I choreographed at least 10 girls in some kind of marching formation, June Allyson type number, some people sang, some read poetry. I, of course, had a solo song and tap dance combo. All the girls in the show had to wear a red skirt and a white blouse (because I had one already and I deemed this to be the official costume.) I think I was viewed as a tyrant because the girls were asking their grandmothers to sew them a red skirt. But, by golly, they all showed up in red skirts and white blouses on the day of performance. I even convinced a boy in my class to do a tap dance. He took dance lessons at the same studio I did. He had been in a terrible fire and his legs were very scarred from the burns. His doctor said that dance lessons would help the flexibility in his legs, so every Saturday my mom and I picked him up way out in the country and brought him to our dance class. This brave little boy got up in front of all of his class mates and tap danced and sang. The factor that redeemed him to the boys in the audience who were not sure at all that they approved of this tap dancing boy… the end of his number, the punchline was when he pulled a snake out of his jacket and shook it at the audience! The place went up for grabs! He was a hero and a star.

    Maybe I should start my own blog! But you keep writing. It’s fun to read.

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