I saw the face of God once, in the summer clouds over my backyard fence. One minute it was water vapor and the next: My God, It’s God! That’s what I thought, anyway. I was a kid all those years ago and the preacher’s daughter, so naturally impressionable. And who hasn’t seen shapes in the clouds? Elephant, crocodile, Alfred Hitchcock’s puffy profile. Why not throw God in there too? But it didn’t seem like that, like some childish fantasy.
The minute before I was running home over the grass, hop-scotching dandelions that flashed under my feet. Halfway there, I changed my mind about going inside. It was the sky, the way it invited me to take a running leap and soar up past the power lines. I did the next best thing and flopped to the grass instead, sniffing a chest full of its weedy perfume. The sky was blue as a carnival sno cone, with choppy clouds like shaved ice, except for one that poured all silvery and strange, like the jar of mercury my teacher once brought to school.
I fell into a trance watching it, and then features took shape, two eyes, a nose and a mouth, swirling like mercury into endless combinations, all different and unexpectedly alive. The connection I felt was profound, like strings to my heart and a thousand other points. I lay there with my arms wide, paralyzed and mesmerized, and had the clearest thought: This must be God.
Then the swirling stopped at features I knew in an instant. They were the same eyes I see in the mirror every day, my mismatched irises, one dark and one light, but I realized with a sudden chill, something was wrong. The feelings vibrating along the strings became electric, primeval and scared. The face was mine and not mine, suddenly warped with the mouth protruding. I had to get away from it, but I couldn’t. The strings had me paralyzed. They kept me there and made me look. Just when I was sure I couldn’t stand it any longer, they fell away, into the endless canopy of the sky, and the face that was mine and not mine dissolved. When the only thing left was sno cone blue, I sat up and sobbed.
It may seem strange, especially for a preacher’s daughter, but until now—almost 50 years later—I haven’t told a single soul about that vision. Especially not my father. I was a kid in the grass. In our church, you didn’t mix the sacred and profane. But, more than anything, because it didn’t make sense to me, not before my mother’s death or the letters she sent later.
The letters. Once held so close, then tucked away. I might have left them under my bed forever if my own children hadn’t found them and come at me with a flood of questions. Looking into their faces, I had to wonder, why hadn’t I told them the story long ago? But I knew why, for the same reason my mother kept it from me all those years. It was no fairytale.
Was I ready now?
Unfolding my mother’s pages, I became the wide-eyed girl who first got them and read her words: I wasn’t always a preacher’s wife… I made mistakes along the way. I remember how it felt reading each letter and aching for the next, how they gave meaning to my vision and sent me chasing the God of sno cone blue.
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