My dad was a minister and I grew up living in parsonages. Parsonage is “church-speak” for a church-owned dwelling in which a minister resides. Such dwellings are considered by governing boards of churches to be a portion of ministers’ compensation packages (aka salary). Based on individual schemas for all things church, these dwellings are also known as rectories, manses, vicarages, and presbyteries.
As stated in a previous blog, Hubby is a minister. So, I went from parsonage living to apartment living in a college town, to parsonage living. This was after swearing that I would never marry a minister or be required to ever again live in a parsonage. So much for swearing!
Living in church housing can be any or all of the following: amusing, annoying, frustrating, funny, hilarious, comical, peculiar, or weird. I actually think the description of this strange housing arrangement can be handily summed up in one word, “atypical.” More fortunate ministers are eventually in an assignment where the church doesn’t own a home and the choice of an abode is the minister’s. By good fortune that happened to Hubby.
I have a whole collection of strange parsonage-related incidents stored in my memory, but, for this time, I’ll share just one.
Fresh out of college and with a diploma that attested to his preparation for ministry, Hubby accepted a little country church. A small white house across the lot from the church served as the parsonage.
When we arrived in the country, I found that there were no neighbors close enough to give a yell; that the kitchen cupboards were painted flamingo pink; that crayon drawings covered all of the upstairs walls; that there were see-through floors (aka cracks through which the basement home of rodent-type critters could be viewed); and that my view from the kitchen window was of cows grazing only feet from the back door.
I was twenty-one, had a little one still in diapers, and was expecting another. So, one bedroom on the main level became ours, the other a nursery. Thankfully, we were not there long enough to deal with the whole house, but my Dad did arrive with a gallon of white paint one day to “redecorate” the kitchen cabinets. Goodbye, nausea producing pink!
To say that this city girl was petrified out there in the country is not an exaggeration of fact. Even with reassurances that more crime occurs in the city than in the country, I moved about my dwelling in a perpetual state of fear. Doors locked at all times. The going down of the sun was synchronized with the going down of the window shades. While I hung laundry on the clothesline, my little daughter was in her stroller only feet away from me. As I moved down the line, I moved the stroller so she would be within reach in case the boogeyman arrived. If someone knocked on the door after dark and Hubby was away, the door remained unanswered.
One terrifying memory from our short stay in that parsonage occurred on a dark night during the winter. Our second daughter had arrived and both girls were in the nursery. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a knocking sound coming from the direction of their room. Jumping out of bed while screaming at Hubby that someone was trying to break into the house, I ran the few steps across the hallway and into the nursery. Hubby groggily peeled his body from the warm bed and followed.
Arriving in the nursery, I switched on the light and saw something I don’t expect to ever see again – a walnut suspended about half an inch above the largest crack between the floorboards. As I stepped closer to the flying walnut, it began to jump up and down, the quick movements making a knocking sound against the boards. Brave Hubby, inspecting this phenomenon more closely, discovered that the jaws of a tiny little rodent were firmly clamped around the bottom of the walnut shell as a determined little critter tried to move the walnut from our level to his abode below.
I can laugh now!
Anyone who knows me and my relationship with parsonages will not be surprised to learn that the novel I wrote is about a young minister’s wife and that she lives in a parsonage. Do my experiences enter the story? Well, I’ll have to admit that shades of my past experiences do appear here and there, and that incidents involving how church people interact with the minister’s family and with each other appear on occasion.
FYI: My novel is scheduled for release in August.
Clipart from OCAL