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by Linore Rose Burkard
Children miss a lot, but one thing did not escape me in my youth: My mother despised our town.
My large family lived in a big, white house on a noisy bus route road, adjacent to a fire engine station and a corner tavern. From the creaky third-floor fire escape overlooking our backyard, we could see the misty outline of Manhattan, cloud-encased and as far away, it seemed, as the Emerald City of Oz. It was my mother's dream, but not mine. To her, it held the tantalizing illusion of real life, as if little College Point where we lived was just a tawdry deception.
(Newer roads have changed that, now. But back then we were a little world unto ourselves.)
The "College" was long gone; there were no theaters, no museums, no culture, according to my mother. Worse, old-timers had idiosyncratic speech; oil was "url," and "ain't" was commonplace.
"Don't talk like that!" my mother would scold. "That's College Point talk." She was convinced her children would grow up to be backward ignoramuses.
Meanwhile, I discovered that life was full and I forgot the town was small. I had scads of friends in school with whom I biked, swam, jumped rope, and played hand-ball. Playing tag, exploring the green oasis at the edge of town--our beloved Chisolm's Park--as well as biking and Little League Softball filled my days. Some weekends we boated on the Sound, and I dug for clams on sandbanks and got sun-burned. I loved school. I loved books. All of us at home owed fines for overdue library books constantly. (I vowed to read every book on the shelves of the children's section, and discovered the Little House books as a result. I also discovered some real sleepers and gave up that particular reading ambition.) I sketched and wrote stories. Who needed New York City?
|The magnificent altar as it was. St. Fidelis Catholic Church|
College Point, N.Y.
Eventually I traded my youthful passions for an interest in boys, and got that first kiss, as well as heartache. At St. Fidelis's each Sunday I admired the alcoved Gothic ceiling and its beautiful painted frescoes of Italianesque saints and angels: culture in College Point! Though my attendance dropped off with adolescence, I loved every inch of that church, from the splendid, graceful arches to the outdoor grotto and Pieta, where the mournful expression on the Virgin's sculptured face troubled my soul.
I didn't understand, then, why the Mother of God was sad.
My own mother couldn't fathom that bigness could have nothing to do with size.
Our town was big enough to grow up in. Big enough, too, to slap you in the face with sin. We surely needed something, but it wasn't the Emerald City.
My mother and I both missed that what we needed was there. What we most needed--what we all most need--was there, all along, just as in the Virgin's eyes. An understanding. An understanding of sin, but even more of Christ, and the price he paid for our redemption.
I have come to understand it is knowing this--the gospel--that makes life big. And that not knowing is what makes life anywhere the biggest small existence there can be.
copyright 2015 Linore Rose Burkard
PULSE. (Drawing ends on 2/27/16).
Linore Rose Burkard is best known for historical romance novels with Harvest House Publishers, and now writes YA/Suspense as L.R.Burkard. Linore teaches workshops for writers with Greater Harvest Workshops in Ohio, is a mother of five, and still homeschools her youngest daughter—preferably with coffee in one hand and an iPad in the other. Keep up with Linore by subscribing at either of her websites.