The mariner was eleven years old. His mother had recently passed; when she did, his father went into the Methodist ministry. Mariner was not familiar with church ritual, social practices or having the stature of a preacher’s son. Just attending church was a new requisite that interfered mightily with his own social practices.
But this post is about Naomi. Father’s first appointment was a small church in a small neighborhood between a Baltimore City dump, a glass factory, a foul smelling backwater of the Baltimore harbor, a small public park, and project housing. Railroad tracks were countless, cutting through the village (be nice) at many places. The village was isolated enough that it had its own grocery stores, drug stores, cleaners, ice cream parlor, bank, movie house, Methodist church, a one-engine fire hall and a 100-book public library. Oh, and three bars, a covey of resident prostitutes, as much heroin as anyone would want, and a club of revolving visitors to the State’s prisons. The mariner grew up in the village and has close friends from there today.
A person emblazoned in his memory forever is Naomi. Naomi probably was an immigrant from Germany in her childhood but now was in her early sixties. One time, Father took the mariner to her home for Sunday dinner. The meal was veal, sauerkraut and odd tasting potatoes. Naomi had a German air about her but spoke the village dialect just fine. Naomi was a physically large woman and firmly packed, with a noticeable double chin. Her voice went with her stature: firm and virtually in imperative sentences.
Naomi was the main piston in the church. She easily could be picked out as the CEO. Naomi was in the choir, about four strong, and was, of course, the lead soprano. Well readers, this is the key memory for the mariner:
When the congregation sang a hymn or the choir sang special music, Naomi took off with notable volume and roaring. Sorry to be rude but the mariner tries to be honest. The higher note required a higher volume. It was not a musical sound nor had a tone of enrichment. I suggest “took off” as appropriate phrasing:
Think about being on deck on an aircraft carrier when fighter jets are screaming off the runway. Think about the mariner’s eleven year old virgin ears the first time he heard Naomi. It is true that mariner had a shock response at first sound.
Mariner has taken liberty. Still, we all have our idiosyncrasies. The village was a better place because of Naomi. A tour de force for sure.