Chapter 7

Wednesday morning, I readied Caitlin for her first day of senior kindergarten and waved when she smiled from the front seat of the bus. She liked school and I was relieved to learn that Caitlin would have Miss Simmons again; the same teacher she’d loved and trusted last year. I tucked a note into Caitlin’s bag to set up a meeting with Miss Simmons.

I fought the urge to turn into the apartment, pull the blind, and crawl back into bed. I wanted to sleep the day away. But I knew that if I didn’t go to this women’s group-thingy as I’d promised Mom, she’d nag me about it. At least if I went now, it would keep her quiet for a few weeks.

I buttoned my jacket and walked up the street toward the church where the meeting was being held. I turned into the gravel parking lot as I peered skyward in search of clouds, but found only a brilliant wash of blue. The Lighthouse Christian Assembly Church was tastefully garnished with small trees and shrubs. The front sign caught my eye. It read:

Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

I walked towards the door, which swung open as if by magic.

“Good morning. Welcome to Women’s Coffee Break.”

A woman, built like a fire hydrant, held the door open for me. I managed a hello. The woman patted my arm. “Just hang your coat there, Dearie,” she said, indicating a coat rack to my right. “Then go straight through the doors to the meeting room.”

I did as I was told. When I entered the meeting room, I saw six tables with groups of women sitting around each. The place was abuzz with conversation and laughter. At the far end, a piano stood with an overhead projector screen beside it and a table loaded with treats. I could smell coffee and started over to fill a cup. A tall, slender woman with even teeth and strong features approached.

“Welcome,” she said. She extended her hand and clasped her left hand over mine. “I’m Rebecca, the coordinator of Women’s Coffee Break. We’re so glad you could join us. Come, come meet some friends.”

She led me from table to table, introducing me to each woman. Some women had accents, some had white hair, and some had little babies sitting on their laps. I guessed there must have been over fifty women gathered, ranging in age from early twenties to retirees. What a mix.

Rebecca led me to an empty seat at the table near the window. I was a little overwhelmed by the chatty group at the table. But I hadn’t sat there long before Rebecca announced that we were to stand and sing.

Sing? I thought I’d come to hear a presentation.

I hadn’t sung since I attended church with my parents. A woman, knee-deep in her seventies, sat down on the bench in front of the piano. Rebecca put an overhead on the projector and the words to the first song filled the wall.

Jesus, Savior, pilot me, Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rocks and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass came from Thee – Jesus, Savior, pilot me!

After a brief solo by the pianist, everyone started singing together. I contented myself with listening. After the first song, the leader posted another. A wave of grief washed over me.

Give to the winds Thy fears;
Hope and be undismayed;
God hears Thy sighs and counts Thy tears,
God shall lift up Thy head.

As I struggled to compose myself the group changed to a more upbeat song. I recognized this one from my childhood church days.

Go, tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born!

All the songs were about God. What have I got myself into? After the group had sung the last song, we were asked to bow our heads in prayer. Rebecca opened with a prayer of thanks for the glorious day and the women gathered. Then she prayed a special blessing over the speaker. We were invited to sit down.

The horticulturist, a butterball of a man, talked about rootings and cuttings, and made me laugh with his jokes. During question period, I boldly asked him about a window box and he gave me some great ideas for a container garden for the upcoming winter season. After his presentation, a woman closed in prayer.

I looked up at the clock; 11:30. Wow, the time had gone fast. We were invited back next week for a speaker discussing nutrition. I nodded my approval and interest.

Rebecca placed a hand on my shoulder. “We do hope you’ll come back again next week, Dearie.”

“I’d like to, but I can’t promise.”

Once outside, I found the brilliance of the day matched my mood. Was I actually happy? The sensation left me unnerved. I had been so mired in gloom and fear these past days that feeling good felt foreign. I was looking forward to hearing how Caitlin’s first day back to school had turned out.