Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 137: Lavinia, Chapter 11

Lavinia was quiet on the drive to the church in Jenna's old blue Sentra. She loved Los Angeles on Sunday mornings because it felt nearly deserted. In other cities, like New York, the traffic never seemed to stop. Whether it was 8:00 at night or 2:00 in the morning, people were coming and going. But here on the edge of the west coast, the crowds vanished on Sunday mornings and you could drive at a reasonable pace and enjoy the palm trees that towered on either side of the road.

When Lavinia had moved here, she had been delighted to discover two roads: Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. Both ran from the center of the city all the way to Ocean Avenue and the endless Pacific. If you got lost, all you had to do was drive north or south toward one of these roads, and you would know where you were. It was predictable, and Lavinia loved it.

Of course, she had driven by the gigantic Mormon temple on Santa Monica. It stood up on a green hill behind it's gates, towering in the sunlight. She always smirked a little at the irony of the gritty streets right in front of it, complete with their Guess billboards and half naked people. What a place for a house of worship. The temple was so huge that she'd never noticed the church behind it, but it was into this parking lot that Jenna turned.

Suddenly, Lavinia felt nervous. She had been to a Mormon church, once before. Years and years before, with her grandmother, but she didn't remember anything about it. Jenna parked and they got out of the car and walked toward the nearest doors. They were a little bit early, but other single adults were already pulling in as well. Inside, the building smelled of cinnamon air freshener, floor wax, and paper. There were utilitarian chairs and a couch in the lobby, with a large picture of Jesus on the wall.

Lavinia recognized the sister missionaries as they approached them, and introduced themselves again. Jenna turned to Lavinia, "I have to sit up on the stand to give my talk, so I thought you could sit with the sisters. They'll be able to tell you what's going on, if you have any questions" and she walked down the hall. Feeling a little bit trapped and uncomfortable, Lavinia looked at the sister missionaries, who were looking at her expectantly. After a moment of awkward silence, she finally said "Well. Lead the way." and followed them into the chapel.

The chapel was a wide, open space and simply decorated. There were no pictures or stained glass windows, just simple woodwork and a clock on the wall. In fact, the only decoration in the entire room was a vase of blue hydrangeas on the pulpit and a lace tablecloth covering the communion table. They made their way to a pew about four rows back from the front of the chapel, and the sisters slid to the center of the bench. Lavinia groaned inwardly and unwillingly followed; she had been hoping for an aisle seat, near the back, so she could remain inconspicuous and leave quickly, if she wanted to.

The pews around them were filling with people who smiled and chatted with each other, or sat quietly and doodled on paper or stared at the ground. Quiet organ music filled the chapel, and people grew quiet for the beginning of the meeting.

Lavinia's mind floated back to her grandmother, Jane. She could only remember fuzzy details about her father's mother, since her father had been in the Air Force and they had moved a lot when she was young and her grandma was alive. But her grandmother had had a yellow house, she remembered that very well, and a huge backyard that was filled with living and growing things. As a child, on their rare visits, she had spent hours exploring her grandmother's carefully tended garden, dotted with fruit trees and bordered by grape vines.

The most distinct memories, oddly enough, were memories of saying goodbye--of looking through the back window, waving goodbye, and crying. Usually, in her hand, she would've been clutching a tissue tied around several lemon drop candies--something her grandma always, always had in her house. Lavinia knew, somehow, that her Grandma Jane would've understood her, and her restless loneliness. She also would've been pleased to find her, here.

She pulled her attention back to the service, which seemed to be simple and straight forward. After they passed the sacrament plate, which Lavinia quickly passed over--unsure of what to do, they moved right into the simple talks. Jenna was second. The first girl, who introduced herself as Michelle, gave a talk that, she said, was about faith. It sounded, to Lavinia, more like a personals ad intended for the men in the audience. Several times, she had to look down at her lap and smile at the transparency.

Then it was Jenna's turn. She stepped to the pulpit, opened her notebook and set it to the side, before folding her hands together and smiling out at the audience, then turning her gaze directly toward Lavinia.

"Brothers and Sisters, today I'm going to be talking about what makes our church different from other churches. And I'm going to be talking, mostly, to my friend Lavinia, who is visiting with us today....."


Denise said...

Silence in the comments section, huh? Well... I'm enjoying the story. Your writing is good- Though I have to spend some time figuring out if Grandmother Jane for the modern day Lavinia is tied to the Grandmother Jane from the earlier time... our first hint at a link, I think! Don't be frustrated at the silence- I think your faithful followers are reading along with me. Denise

Maree said...

Oooooohhhhh, giving her lots of public attention, which I think she'd HATE! I hope it's a good talk! Please write again NOW!

Veronica Lee said...

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