A three-piece suit and wavy hair

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Kianna, please don’t be late. 7, 6, 5, 4 … Four more days — and no more?

Kishia and Darnell so carefully planned our first grandbaby’s addition into their lives, timing this grand event to meet career, school and financial goals. With that regard, it’s “mission accomplished.” In more than one way, increasing the size of the Brown family was practically scripted.

Until now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kianna might not be following the script. She’s due on Sunday – four days from now. She’s in position, mom-to-be Kishia is beyond ready to be un-pregnant, and daddy Darnell needs his daughter to keep him company in that rocker.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

October 1981: Vocalist Jodie, organist Mrs. Irene Grossenheider.

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider was old even to the old people at Faith Baptist Church in Belle, Mo., when I was in high school. She taught piano to hundreds and multiple generations of children. And as the church organist, she knew only one tempo: Hers.

On the rare occasion that I was the worship service song leader, I followed her, even though I used one arm to “conduct” and keep the beat, matching my arm and hand motions to the meter of the song. Mrs. Grossenheider told me she appreciated the way I led, but I think she mostly appreciated that I was really matching my arm movement to her organ-playing.

It was her beat – possibly multiple beats, especially if the hymn was written with a 6/8 time signature. She’d speed up, she’d slow down. She was in command. My youngest sis, Kathy, and I still share a chuckle about Mrs. Grossenheider’s style. It’s not a disrespectful chuckle, but something we remember with incredible fondness. And when you added my mother to the mix, the musical dynamics really ramped up – and not in the hymn notations.

Mom is a classical-trained vocalist and director. SHE would determine the beat and meter. Mix that attention to technical detail with an elderly organist who thought that SHE was setting the beat, and what resulted was Mom practically stomping a foot, looking Mrs. Grossenheider’s way to signal, “Follow ME.” But Mrs. Grossenheider followed herself. Where there was no retard (pronounced “ruh-tard,” meaning slowing or slackening in tempo), Mrs. Grossenheider threw one in, typically in the last few measures of the last stanza.

Those memories and nostalgic laughter came rushing back recently when I found a photo of me with Mrs. Grossenheider. Sure, my three-piece suit and permed hair are worth a laugh, but often it’s what we see on the periphery that gives any scene the most context. The photo shows the attendance and hymn boards. See? Proof of what I’ve said a few times in Jackson’s Journal about Sunday night attendance dropping off dramatically from Sunday morning. The Wednesday night crowd was even smaller.

Then my eye caught the board listing the hymns. I knew that hymn 41 was “To God be the Glory.” I’ll know that forever in the same way I’ll never forget the words to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song; the same way that “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme sometimes randomly turns on in my head. I pulled my Baptist Hymnal off the shelf to see the other hymns, and it was only fitting that hymn No. 434, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” has a 6/8 time signature. I suddenly heard Mrs. Grossenheider play the final line of the chorus: “Wonderful is His name,” (slower) “We gladly serve Him,” (even slower) “His great” (verrrry slow) “love proclaim.”

I’m laughing, but please don’t misinterpret my emotion. I’m not poking fun, no more than I was making fun last Wednesday when I recounted Brother Keithley’s drawn-out prayer-starter, “Our Heavenly Father …” The hymns, the prayers, the strong if not rigid examples of faith and practice set by the elderly men and women helped keep me grounded. I am eternally grateful.

When I was 16, 17 years old, few parts of my life were predictable, but I found reliable structure inside the walls of Faith Baptist Church. Mrs. Grossenheider’s organ-playing and Bro. Keithley’s prayers were constant, consistent and predictable. I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Incidentally, the other hymns listed were #330, “Teach Me to Pray,” and #232, “I Am Praying For You.”

I had no idea why I had a picture taken with Mrs. Grossenheider until I turned the photo over to place it on the scanner. This is what’s written on the back:

“To Jodie who sang beautifully

Toleda and Terry Jett’s wedding

Oct. 25, 1981

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider, organist

Miss Kathy Jackson, pianist”

Sorry, but I have no recollection of singing or what I sang. I’m even more baffled that I sang at all, considering my sister was the pianist. She was Toleda (Backues) Jett’s classmate and her vocal skills were far superior to mine. But I was asked to sing?

Here’s our music for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting: an oldie and a more contemporary tune. “To God be the Glory” and Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei.” The latter is a 10-minute video. Even a Southern Baptist might find himself raising his hands by about the three-minute mark.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #33

I haven’t been on my “A” game this week. Gee, I can’t think of anything that would steal my focus and keep me kinda anxious.

Oh, yeah: You.

Your Grammy said last night, “I can’t wait to see her little face!” Kianna, you have already brought infinite joy to your parents and grandparents.

Now hurry up and get here. Grandpa’s got some spoiling to do.

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Filed under Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

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