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.