Going to Church in an Old Station Wagon (poem)
Going to Church in an Old Station Wagon
a story about grace
Mr. & Mrs. Crause get it together every Sunday.
Every Sunday they push and pull and guide their children
into the old Chevy station wagon.
Every Sunday they fire up the oft-broken engine
and head down a road buttressed and fortressed by oaks and maples.
The car wasn’t bought new but will never be sold.
Like a farm family’s dog, it is dusty, rough and dirty,
but trusted like a brother.
The seats are torn; no one bothered to duct-tape them up.
The stuffing that will fall out has fallen out,
and what’s there is there to stay.
It gathers shadows parked in the barn each night,
looking worse each morning.
The cats scurry when they hear it coming up the gravel drive.
Mr. Crause’s cussing at the car sometimes is louder
than the bellow and growl of the engine.
He’d ﬁx it if he had the time,
but never seems to have enough to do the job right.
Still, it works and a little cussing oils the motor well enough.
Randy Jr. doesn’t like the way it always has to be.
He sits in the middle, between the two sisters, Emily and Elizabeth.
And the two sisters don’t like that their little brother sits between them.
Randy Sr., Mr. Crause himself, doesn’t like the way it takes an hour
to get the family ready for a service
which takes thirty minutes to get to and lasts not much longer.
He just wants to stay home,
maybe go to the church up the road in his own town.
Why should he drag his wife and brood
two dozen miles into Hurleyville?
Mrs. Crause, Betsy Crause says it ought not be the way he sees it,
that the drive is worth it.
She tells him he ought be thankful they have this church,
that preachers like Pastor Jim are hard to find.
After all, he has a Bible degree
and the one here in Jarton hardly knows anything at all.
The music, she says, is glorious and wonderful
and how could he not feel the warmth.
Breakfast at eight.
Always the eggs and bacon, but even that is changing.
The white bread is now wheat
and the butter became margarine long ago.
The eggs are from the coop, the bacon came from Mr. Dunderly’s,
the butcher by the glen
and the bread and butter comes from the market in town.
Mr. Crause eats quickly. There’s always something he needs to do.
Everybody into the car at 9:15,
or at least that is how it is supposed to be.
It never is.
Emily can’t find her shoe and surely Randy Jr.
took it, but he doesn’t know where it is.
It is underneath the stairs Randy Sr. said he’d finish years ago,
but still needs a few nails and a bed of carpet.
He says he’ll finish when he the barn is fixed,
but he has the old tractors in the barn,
too big too carry and too broken to drive and in the way.
Elizabeth moans her hair isn’t right at nine and can’t ﬁx it
without the spray she saw on TV last week.
Mrs. Crause tells her no one is watching to see if her hair is set just so.
Elizabeth knows this lie and begins to cry.
Service is at ten and they are always late.
The Crause’s had to stop for gas at the Casey’s in Seaford.
The seats in the back are sometimes filled and they walk quietly,
ostentatiously toward the front.
Anyone not watching is listening to the hushed shuffling
and whispers of their neighbors.
But Mr. and Mrs. Crause proudly step through the mire of judging eyes
toward the altar of forgiveness.
They know it isn’t the sermons of man they’ve come to hear
and it isn’t the sermons of man they will hear.
The service begins as it does, with songs everybody knows,
starting with number 47 from the brown hymnal.
No one knows the songs in the green hymnal anymore,
but they keep it in the pew anyway.
Next is 113, followed by number 8. A few mumble the tunes,
but forget the words.
Then they sing “Amazing Grace.”
Everybody sings and the walls shake.
The organist smiles. The pastor smiles.
Randy Jr. fidgets but sings loudly and waves his hands in the air.
Betsy grabs his right hand and waves with him.
Randy Sr. mouths the words softly while looking at his son.
He knows it is all true.
Pastor Jim speaks a sermon and communion is had.
The collection is taken and announcements are made.
“As many of you know Mrs. Hebbleshime passed away
last Wednesday and will be sorely missed.
Mr. Jacobs asked me to let you know we need
someone to teach the junior high kids
and you should speak to him if interested.
And next week, don’t forget our fellowship dinner.
Bring anyone you want. Tickets are three dollars.
Bring a plate to pass.”
And they all drive home.
Mr. & Mrs. Crause and family all stop
for gas and a bit of lunch at the Casey’s in Seaford.