Home and Free

Bective Church

I knew it without the slightest doubt. Don’t ask me how, I just did. It was exactly like the time they told me of the new monthly draw at the credit union. A sense of knowing came over me, I’m going to win that car.

Rector Barrett took the antique, out-sized key from his pocket and squirmed it through the lock. The bolt clunked for the first time in almost four years. Pushing the heavy wood panelled door he let me inside. I stood in a small enclosure, the square bell tower. A long grey wooden ladder wormed its way to the above. My eyes caught the tawny rope that looped upward toward an invisible bell. It was housed in a dark hole at the top of this geometric telescope. Returning my gaze slowly down the twisted steps all the way to the bottom I stared for a long time at a strangely familiar terrazzo.

The memory of a vaguely acquainted scent flitted past my nostrils. A sense of intimate awareness went through me and hit me like a ton of bricks filling my heart with overwhelming joy. It shot me back in time to when I was a child enveloped in the warm embrace of the lady from number 10.

I knew I was home. It was the first time in my life that I ever felt it.

As a six years old boy I was running along the canal tow path. I tripped and fell on the loose gravel chips shredding both my knees. Gently picking me up she brought me back to a great big Georgian house down the road from where I lived. She guided me through the front door into a square hall. My eyes darted around taking in the magnificent scene. Thick architraves surrounded tall panelled doors. The polished mahogany stair case twinned with a stained glass window. I stared at the polished terrazzo as she led the way into the sitting room.

It took ages for her to pick the tiny sharp pebbles one by one with a tweezers from under the lacerated skin. I sat upright gripping the edges of a small lace covered table on which she had placed me. With great care she patiently poked out the numerous offenders one by one. I squirmed silently each time. A stabbing pain traversed my body with every touch but I was in heaven.

The ceiling of her living room was well above my head, much higher than at 41. Sitting in grandeur, I was framed by a large velvet draped window. It was the biggest I’d ever seen. I looked out at shapely beds cut into a manicured lawn. Tall pale irises bunched between pink and red roses. I smelled of t c p as she gently dabbed the wounds with a wad of cotton wool pinched in a tweezers. 

She was a tall, thin woman with grey hair and a kind face. I could sense she lived alone in the vastness. There was something about her, a desire for company. I wouldn’t call it loneliness for she was singularly calm.

Pressing sixpence, a fortune for me, into my tiny palm that’s when it happened. She hugged me. I’ll never forget the feeling of her gentle yet firm arms around my shoulders. A subtle, distant odour of her rich perfume filled my insides. I hadn’t ever experienced it before being handled in that caring, loving way. Never had I felt the glow of being appreciated. It was a brief glimpse of perfection of what life could be like.

Moving into the church in July 1994 I had that strange warm feeling, that knowing I was talking about. It was the first time in my life I felt this is my home and it embraced me like that affectionate woman from Parnell Road, soothing me. Immediately, it hit me like a thunderbolt. At last I found the place where I belong. I was taken aback as though suddenly handed an unexpected present.  

When somebody would refer to their home and the connection they had to that place it never before registered with me what they actually meant. ‘Why all this emotion about home,’ I would think?

I wasn’t connected to any place nor was I conscious of such a thing. Always I had the feeling of being somewhat disconnected from the world and the people in it, as though I didn’t belong here. I felt like I had come from another planet. Somehow, on my journey through space I was thrown off course and force landed on earth. My feet never made a full connection with the ground. It was as though this life was a mistake and now it needed to be endured until I was released and could continue the journey to my actual home.

Now my thoughts and actions, the feelings and emotions that go with them are completely reversed. My body feels secure as an oak tree. These feet are firmly planted in the soil. My deep roots are wrapped around the large rocks embedded in the earth. The air is thick like stew. It fills the bottom of my lungs when I take a deep breath. Rich blood coursing through my veins is pumped by a strong heart beating a steady rhythm.

There is solid ground under my feet. I am one with the tall grass waving in the breeze and the rugged faces of grey stone walls. The smooth skinned majestic beeches I love, their branches reaching out like welcoming arms. The flowing waters of the Clady River and the Boyne sooth the very marrow in my bones.

There’s a deep sense of connection to Bective. It’s not only the place that gives me that feeling but my state of mind and the awareness that I’m doing what I truely desire.  Realizing this has changed the way I see things.

I am home and free.