From the Sky - Part XVI

These days there are fewer and fewer people in Walnutwood who remember my family's great celebrations. These magnificent picnics, so ingrained in the community over the years, simply stopped after my grandfather died. No one picked up the torch. Everything just evaporated. Whenever I drive by the building that used to be my family's bakery and I see the empty lot in the rear, an expanse of gravel and weeds and pools of stagnant water, I feel an ache deep in my chest. We think our neighborhoods will remain unchanged forever, but things can be turned upside-down in an instant.

Look at what's happened in Walnutwood recently. We once had three small Catholic churches, each with their own traditions and rich histories of births, deaths, weddings, First Communions, bazaars and covered dish dinners. Surely one's church could be counted on to endure!

But a few short years ago, bean-counters at the Diocese waved a calculator over the Holy spreadsheets and closed two of our churches. The buildings were demolished, leaving empty lots where God once dwelled. Decades of history dispassionately scrubbed from the face of earth. But what of the souls of those baptized and buried from these churches? Are they restless? Do their ethereal voices, masked by the sounds of rustling leaves and slowly passing traffic, whisper disapproval? I am deaf, but when I jog past Saint Rocco's and glance at the overgrown lot, for a fleeting moment I swear I can hear them. I tell myself it is the blood rushing through my head. Perhaps that is all it is. Perhaps. But Saint Rocco's and Saint Brigid's are gone forever and nearly forgotten, like the Tarentella picnics. There was outrage at first, but in fairly short order there was acceptance. What could be done, after all? You can't fight the Church. People have a remarkable capacity to forget what they want to forget and go on with their lives as if nothing has happened. I find that odd, don't you?

Of course, no one knew when Gio sang his famous serenade to the mystery woman that it signaled the end of the Tarentella picnics. From what my aunts tell me the Tarentella brothers were already thinking of the years ahead. They had grand plans for the picnic's future. But as my Aunt Rae has so often told me, a great wheel was turning and it was click-click-clicking like the money wheel under picnic's game tent. The wheel stopped on the night of the serenade, landing on the mystery woman, and the lives of the Tarentella's changed forever.

The Wheel Turns...

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