I love my church. Every Sunday I go there not just for the soul food I consume, honestly, but to socialize. I have this amazing circle of friends, mostly older women, all that kind who are around 70-look-50 type of thing. They are pistols. On fire. Alive and kickin’ and giving me space to laugh and be the real me.
So, there I am at church and after the glad-handing at the end of service, one of them, my pal Janeen, who usually sits down after the service to catch up with me, prances in front of me and says,
“Hey, got time for a coffee and chat, sister?”
“For you, anytime!” I shoot back.
We sit on the little brick wall next to the koi pond, just beyond where the church people are walking out to the social hour downstairs or to their cars. This is our secret spot where we often just hide out so the piranhas in church, you know the ones who are always after SOMEthing from you, peer across the veranda and zoom in. Ugh. I stay clear of piranhas and energy vampires as much as possible. But this day, here we are sitting, chatting, giggling away and one of the little kids from church sidles up to us, hands on her rather chubby hips. She’s twirling what look like her mother’s triple strand of giant fake pearls that hang from her neck over her frilly white cotton dress, with her pretty red slippers for shoes. She gives us one of those looks, like,
“Hey, I’m here. Why haven’t you noticed me yet?” We smile politely and turn away to talk to each other.
Then she inserts herself into our conversation in progress and says, “You’re pretty. Do you like my hair? It has mint in it!” and god almighty, she has this brown long curly hair, probably done with a curling iron I think to myself, like isn’t she a frigging 5 year old? She picks up the ends to show us her green streaks.
“Wow,” I say. “Gorgeous hair! What’s your name?”
Meanwhile I’m getting a bad vibe from the woman who’s her guardian, like her nanny or realllly old mom, or a grandmother. Now she’s in the conversation and is someone who makes my nervous system shake and my skin crawl. And it’s not the coffee!“That’s my daughter’s kid. Miracle’s her name” and she then starts gabbing up a storm, like non stop babble at us, telling us about her mental health crises, her poverty and how she used to rollerskate as a kid. I’m getting queasy now.
Janeen looks at me, staring into my pupils, and yanks at my arm.
“Hey, Patti, what about that book you’re writing?” Wanna take a walk and tell me?” she winks.
But before we could stand up and scoot outa there, Miss Miracle descends on us again, this time, pushing her face into mine and says,
“Hey, what’s your name?”
I say, “Patti.”
She says, “Oh Hattie, I have a friend named Addie, I’m Miracle.”
I correct her, patiently, but wanting to get the hell outa their space now, and half shout,
“No, Patti, puh with a P.”
She repeats Hattie and seems confused.
I get this idea in my head and blurt out, “What name do you think I should have?”
She takes a seat on the wall beside me, slowly pouts her lips into a thinking pose, puts her hands on her cheeks Rodin style, looks first at the ground, then sharply sends an arrow into my eyes.
“You should call yourself Princess Lollipop!”
“Thanks, Miracle, I think I will…” and hand in arm, Janeen and I walk off to find a private edge of the coy pond –way on the other side of the patio— to laugh, talk and bond. Such is the stuff of little girls and old ladies.