Our hushed whispers seemed to ring out with deafening clarity in the cold, November night air. The barely suppressed giggles slashed through the sacred midnight silence. Along the street, darkened windows stared out at us from sleeping houses with grim, unblinking, and judgmental glowers.
On the very edge of Michigan in a tiny town called Morenci, there is a beautiful brick, one-story house. It is placed on a quiet road across the street from a large field of corn. The pretty little brick house has a large, grassy lawn around it and right out front is a tall, old, peeling, white sycamore. Its trunk has split and grown in two different directions, and each trunk is too thick for a grown man to encircle with his arms.
Upon entering this house, good smells assail the nose and warmth seems to surround the heart. This is my grandparents’ home. At Thanksgiving every year, our family all comes together and gathers at this house to celebrate God’s goodness and constant loving care. It is a happy time, cheery and secure, full of good things to eat and comfortable companionship, and most of all family. It is here that my story begins.
On my mom’s side, I have three cousins who are my own age. These cousins in particular have always been my best friends, for we share a bond that we always believed made us more than cousins. My mom is their mom’s younger sister, and my dad is their dad’s younger brother; to put it simply, sisters married brothers. This made my cousins and me more like sisters than merely cousins; therefore, it was always great fun when we got to spend time together. We were a mischievous four-some, and we were constantly getting into worlds of trouble, but it was harmless trouble, and I think our parents were generally more amused by our antics than upset by them.
At the time of my story’s beginning, I was in eighth grade; Kim was in her sophomore year of high school; and Wendy and Gayle, twins, held that most envied title of seniors in high school. Simply said, it was our last year as children. In a year, I would be entering that vast, and hitherto unexplored, realm of high school, and Wendy and Gayle would be leaving forever on the great adventure called college. We suddenly realized with the dramatic flare that children have, that we might possibly “never see one another again.” So it was decided, this Thanksgiving we had to have one final adventure, an adventure that would go down in history, an adventure worthy of the occasion.
There is a certain adventure that has really become more of a tradition over the years, a tradition that can only be carried out when we go to Grandma and Grandpa Porter’s house. Down the road, two blocks from our grandparents’ house, is the Morenci Baptist church. It is a small church; the congregation is composed of no more than two hundred people. The windows are stained glass and the pastor and his family live in a tiny, yellow-brick house, just next door to the church. It is a real-life, small town church, with all the traditional country-style hospitality and potluck dinners almost every week. However, there is one feature of this church that sets it apart: the bell.
The bell is not in a tower, it is set on a rectangular-shaped mound of earth that rises about three or four feet above the level ground. The bell itself is suspended in the air and attached to a great wheel, larger than a grown man. To ring the bell, one must turn the wheel, thus causing the bell to turn with it until it is completely upside down; and then the person must release the wheel, thus allowing the bell to swing back around and down, swinging back and forth and ringing several times before finally stopping.
Every time we went up to our Grandma and Grandpa Porters’ house, it was our tradition; my cousins’ and mine, to sneak out at midnight at least once during our several days’ stay and walk down to the church and ring the bell. This Thanksgiving was to be different though. We had determined that this time we would not simply ring the bell and run away, this year, we would ring the bell twice.
………. TO BE CONTINUED ………….. NEXT WEEK!