Today is the Service in the Park,
the one day a year our church meets outside.
The whole congregation sits on the hillside
like people did when Jesus told his parables.
Mommy went to church and believed the Bible
but didn’t know Jesus as her friend
until she and Daddy got divorced.
Now she gives back to Jesus by playing the piano
and leading high school kids who sing at our church.
They come over to our basement to practice a few nights every week.
I listen to them from my bedroom
and spy on them from the cracked-open door.
I like the songs, especially “El Shaddai” and “Great is the Lord”
and sometimes I sing along
but not so they can hear me.
Sometimes I wish
I could just play in the living room and watch TV
without their music.
But I know they sing for Jesus
and Mommy has to play the piano for them
so I say nothing.
They practiced a lot for the Service in the Park.
Mommy made me and Sister wear our new dresses
we hate because they itch so bad.
Mommy called the itchy part smocking.
I will never wear dresses with smocking when I grow up.
Today it’s so hot the sweat runs down my back
and gets stuck inside the smocking like a beetle
but I can’t scratch it out because we’re in church
even though we’re in the park
and I still have to be quiet and good.
If I lived inside a trash can like Oscar the Grouch
I would go way down inside where it’s cool and quiet.
Now it’s time for them to sing
and I watch Mommy go up on stage.
She looks pretty in her flowy white sundress.
As the music starts I feel the wanting
that rises up when I can’t have her
even though I can see her.
The wanting moves around inside me all the time
but sometimes it rises up for a little while
then goes back under when I push it down.
It rises up when she teaches aerobics at church
and I watch her bouncing around on the gym floor
with so many other ladies.
It rises up again when she plays tennis with her friends
and we stay at the park until it’s way past bedtime
even though it’s summer and we can stay up late.
While she plays I go across the street to the honeysuckle vines
and drink drops of sugar water from every flower
to push the wanting down
while I wait and wait to go home
where it’s finally just us three.