The golden sun seeped out across the hills and fields that surrounded my childhood home, becoming a part of everything it touched. I woke up excited about my first time to church, the first I remember anyway. I’m not sure if I returned during the next eight years, but I was tickled to be going with my Mamaw and Papaw Blankenship that day. They were two of the kindest, most sincere people I’ve ever known. I never once saw them argue or bicker. They did everything together and were married more than 50 years when Mamaw died. My memories of them often fill my nose with freshly baked cookies and put dirt between my toes.
On my first day of church, I was about five-years-old, with a freckled face and vibrant, shiny red hair. My mom always said my hair looked like a new penny and that my eyes matched. My copper hair and abundant freckles would later become a constant target of ridicule in school.
That morning I was dressed in a ruffly, pink dress that had tiny red flowers on it. My mom curled my hair and pinned some back with a barrette that my mom or grandma had made. It was a cotton-candy-pink circle of lace with a pink pom-pom in the middle and had pink ribbons knotted with pink beads hanging down from it. I think every little girl at the time had several of these, at least my sister and I did.
Mamaw and Papaw picked me up for church. The grown-ups there all seemed so much bigger than me, especially the men. The men seemed to tower over me the way the church building seemed to stand so tall and strong above the street. As we entered a classroom, an older man shrunk himself until he was about eye level with me. He had an old man smell of a wool suit, aftershave, and coffee. He then filled my heart with honey when his deep, smooth voice said, “freckles are the kisses of the angels.” I don’t know who the man was, or if he had freckles, or if he may have had freckles as a child and knew what I would be up against, but as the freckles on my face have faded, the sweetness of his words have stuck with me.