The theme at You Are Here Stories for December is Hope & Place, and I could think of no more hopeful place for me than Friendship Community Presbyterian Church.
“Good morning, Friendship!”
“Good morning, Darryl!”
And so begins the weekly ritual of Friendship Community Church congregation members sharing praises and prayer requests, joys and concerns.
It is November 1995, and I have been attending this quirky inner-city, inter-racial Presbyterian church for a little more than a year. Tucked between the university community and Pittsburgh’s Hill District—made famous in the 1980s crime drama Hill Street Blues— it is a modest cinderblock building that more closely resembles a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall than the hundreds of Gothic, steepled church buildings that populate this post-industrial city.
The wooden pews are five deep along three of the four walls of the sanctuary; we are a congregation “in the round.” I glance at the faces of these men and women—young and old, black and white, rich and poor—who are becoming more familiar to me, week by week. This is very much not like the homogeneous all-white, suburban, formal, upper-middle-class Presbyterian congregations I grew up attending.
The prayer requests begin.
November’s theme at You Are Here Stories is “History & Place.” I wrote about a visit to a cemetery and my history with Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church.
It’s my fiftieth birthday and I’m wandering around a graveyard.
It’s not that I am feeling morbid, or even that I am attempting to come to terms with my mortality. (Although it’s hard to deny that there is something about turning 50 that pulls the whole mortality thing into sharper focus.)
My younger brother is visiting from New York City, which doesn’t happen very often, and we have decided to take a drive into the country to visit our parents’ burial plot.
This month’s theme at You Are Here Stories is “Secret Places.” So of course, I wrote about my life-long(ish) diary-keeping habit.
I am 14 years old, sitting cross-legged on my yellow bedspread behind the locked door of my bedroom. A college-ruled three-subject notebook is open in my lap, and I scribble away, thoughts coming to me faster than I can get them down on paper.
Excitement about the cute boy on the bus who actually said hello to me today. Anxiety about the oral report I’m expected to give in social studies class tomorrow morning. Heartache about being ignored in the cafeteria by a girl I used to consider my best friend.
To my beautiful mother, who would have turned 75 years old today:
Happy birthday, Mom! I miss you and I love you.
Janet Fulton Hamilton Maczuzak
October 24, 1941 – October 17, 2006
Here is my latest You Are Here Stories post, on the theme of Time & Place. I think of it as my love letter to Lake Chautauqua and the dear friends who have shared it with me over the last 30+ years.
I stand on the white planks of the dock, listening to the gentle sloshing of water against the grassy shore. The sun is setting behind me on this mid-August evening, earlier than it did last night, and the windows of the cottages on the eastern shore of Lake Chautauqua reflect its rosy glow.
Behind me, I hear the faint clink of wine glasses being refilled. The murmur of after-dinner conversation is punctuated with wild giggles from five-year-old Isaiah as his dad tickles him, doing his best to rile him up before bedtime.
As I walk back to join my friends on the shady side porch, I hear the teenagers laughing together from the kitchen. They have finished clearing the picnic table of ravaged corncobs and remnants of hamburger fixings, used paper plates and empty tortilla chip bags.
Once upon a time, I would have been the one standing at that sink, stowing leftovers, choosing dish duty as an introvert’s temporary retreat from the stimulation of too many people. But on this evening, I am content to lower myself into a cushioned deck chair and join the twilight conversation circle with my friends.