An artist sheltered in place and Palm Sunday

The immense, heart-opening nostalgia of Palm Sunday in my mind and body. The Light of Christ Church, Palm Sunday Mass; Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Rose, Uncle Dom, Cousin Tommy, Mom, me – 50 years ago.  

A large warm, newly, asphalted parking lot, a sign of spring in Clearwater, Florida; my second home of the heart, but feeling far more like a first. A time filled with love, celebration, a cacophony of a loud Italian cadence and “Easter Pie” – my grandmother’s recipe brought from Italy which I can make now. Aunt Rose and me, both in the kitchen as Grandma made it and then passed it on to Uncle Dom to make. A recipe, now, well over 100 years old – coming from the Potenza Valley.

I love going to Mass with everyone. In the course of the afternoon meal which follows there is additional family visiting and of course daiquiris, my uncle’s recipe which I find out years later is my father’s.

The warmth of the sun, levity and laughter.

The ritual of Mass.

I think most, now, of the beauty in the sound of the church just before Mass begins. The smell of a bit of melting wax from recently lit candles and the fresh tropical spring air of Florida; doors of the church wide open. Aunt Rose loves the building, circular and newly built.

The soft shuffling of the small newsletter to the [then] tiny community of Clearwater; the sharp echoing click of the missalette’s (a word not recognized in spell check in the year 2021) ultra thin newsprint pages being turned. Low rustling sounds of people moving into the solid wooden pews. Bodies quietly connecting with the wood; taking down the kneeler for a moment of silent prayer – feeling the movement of those nearby “crossing themselves” and then pulling their bodies up from their knees, wedding rings clicking on the back of the pew as they sit back in the warm dark heavy seat. The sound of heels flat and baritone; sharp and soprano. Rustling clothing, coughs, sniffles, whispers – an occasional rattling of a rosary “being said”, and once in the greatest while, quietly knocking against the back of pew. Slower………further apart……. until………….. silence.

An echoing silence ringing against the high beams of the circular ceiling. And then the organ begins – voices sing first timidly and then louder -the deliberate entrance of the priest swaying slowly as he walks – wearing the color of a deep purple Iris. Everyone has slowly started to stand as he enters.

Mass ends –everyone with palms in hand.

A large asphalt parking lot filled with dancing palm leaves, moving in all directions, absorbing the gentle, humid morning air.  

My 8 year old self watching Aunt Rose gingerly walk ahead with intense purpose and clicking stilletos.           

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