Friday, March 18, 2011

Tales of a Church Nursery

This may not be the most profound blog I’ll write.  Hopefully it will make you smile.  Smiling and joy are sometimes the most profound of things.  Having been in a place where joy was scarce, I am rediscovering it.  I hope this give you at least a smile.

There was a comment to my last blog, My Roots Are Showing.  It was from an old and yet new friend.  We grew up together, sort of…  She is a several years younger than I am.  I remember her well.  I think her memories of our childhood are less.  We were Norwegian children running through the basement of Salem Gospel Tabernacle, marching in the Sunday School Parade, attending released time, navigating the world of Brooklyn, and sitting under the teaching of a tall white haired Norwegian, Pastor Dahl.

Here is what she wrote:
Joyce, as you know, our roots come from the same Norwegian Pentecostal church -- and I remember the ladies with the "Pentecostal roll" hairdo.  My earliest memory was way upstairs in the baby nursery - I must have been 3 or 4.  My mom was there with me and my baby brother and a couple other moms & their babies.  Thru the speaker roared, what sounded to me, an angry voice -- the voice of Pastor Dahl.  I asked my mom why was he angry to which my mom replied, he was not angry, he was just "excited." hmmmmm..... wasn't sure I understood how angry and excited could sound the same. 

Ahh, yes, we have similar roots.  I remember that church nursery.  It was like a crow’s nest found by navigating the staircase to the forbidden balcony.  I was never allowed to sit in the balcony as a child.  As a teen, it became the place to watch baptisms.  Nothing like a bird’s eye view of someone following Jesus.

Rather I was to sit under the careful eye of my mother.  To keep me entertained I would color, or draw.  My mother would make a doll out of her handkerchief – no woman could leave home without one.  In school, the handkerchief was mandatory.  Occasionally mine would be pinned to my blouse.  I always wondered how I was supposed to use it if it was pinned and my little hands could not manipulate the high tech safety pin that secured it in place.

In addition to the doll, she could also make the two twins swinging in the cradle.  When crayons and handkerchiefs failed, she would bring out the food – a tea biscuit to keep my mouth busy.  Occasionally I would save the tea biscuit to pretend I was having communion on the first Sunday of the month.  One time I was very spiritual and read the first chapter of Genesis instead of listening to Pastor Dahl.

As I neared the edge of adolescence, Ruth the strikingly beautiful daughter of Pastor Dahl would come from Long Island with her family.  I would beg her to let me watch her baby in the nursery.  Absent of nursery attendants, mothers would sit behind the nursery glass in the crow’s nest of the balcony.  

Resembling a hospital nursery, white wicker bassinets lined the glass from the inside.  Attached to the wall streams of ribbons were the names of the children on the cradle roll.  The ribbons streamed from a picture of Jesus blessing the children.  A reminder that Jesus loved all the little children of the world.

One of Ruth’s daughters was a beautiful baby named Renee.  I remember it because I never knew a Norwegian named Renee.  I was fascinated with the bluish tint to her eye lids.  I would use her to argue with my mother about eye shadow.  I told her that baby Renee had natural eye shadow as a baby.  I was told to leave the speaker on to hear the sermon but instead I turned it off and played house dreaming of the day I’d be a mommy of a beautiful baby.

As I read that comment yesterday, thousands of memories exploded in my heart.  I also wondered.  Could the day that she heard Pastor Dahl get “excited” be the same time he yelled at me?  Perhaps the night she was in the nursery, I was kneeling on the floor, in the pew, playing with the hymn book.  Facing the seat, I knelt hymn book open, pretending to sing from it.  I started to sing with Pentecostal gusto.  

I guess I was tired of coloring and had eaten all my tea biscuits.  As my mother shushed me, she would say, “Pastor Dahl is going to be upset with you.”  I loved Pastor Dahl, he was like God.  I tried really hard to be quiet.  But boredom overtook me once again.  As I started humming once again, Pastor Dahl got “excited.”  I was sure he was yelling at me.  Inconsolable, I was removed from the sanctuary because there was no end to my tears.


  1. LOL - yes, your blog definitely made me smile! :-)

    And yes, maybe I heard Pastor Dahl from the church nursery speaker when he "yelled" at you. I wish I had been downstairs in the sanctuary sitting next to you. I would have joined you in singing with "Pentecostal gusto" from the pew!

  2. I had to laugh at the Pentecostal roll hairdo. My Nana had that style too. I didn't know there was a name for it though; lol.

    Although I grew up on Long Island, I remember visiting Salem from time to time as a child. The upstairs place sounds familiar to me.


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