I hope you enjoyed the story of Saint Rahab’s.
In case you were wondering about fact vs. fiction (but don’t read if you haven’t finished. SPOILER ALERT):
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon does have tunnels that run from the boiler under the street, and when the church was built in the 1910’s, the congregation sold heat to the neighbors, and got it to them via the tunnels. There are no elegant rooms at the end of the tunnels, just a lot of spiderwebs, dripping concrete, and likely a few spiders, or so I’ve been told. I am too claustrophobic to try them myself.
I think church sextons and secretaries are the unsung heroes of congregations. Bill Carr (the name comes from le Carre, the great spy novelist) is a work of fiction. Trystene is an amalgam of many fine, fine admins with whom I’ve worked. Her name is my own invention, as is the Kiwitini. If anyone would like to suggest a recipe, go right ahead!
Martha, too, is an amalgam of the best friends I’ve had, and is named after a dear friend who died suddenly and too young. The real Martha really was the life of every party who lit up every room.
Toledo Vader is the name of an exit off I-5 between Portland and Seattle. Every time we would drive by it, we’d laugh. Of course he showed up in the book. He might have been the inspiration.
Rex is my dog Max, who constantly warns us about threatening crows, squirrels, and babies in strollers. He’d probably like a Prune Drop Cookie. No need to venture into that recipe making, though.
Alice and Garrett are based on real people who were members of the first church I served. The real Alice (not her name) never, ever wore pants and would be the last person you’d think would be a spy. The real Garrett (also not his name) did refer to his wife as his first wife. He would occasionally come into a meeting she was attending and ask if anyone had see the woman he was sleeping with. She would blush. They were very dear.
At that same church, we had a health clinic, not for AIDS, but for the working poor who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. The clinic kept condoms on hand, but we never had them in the church restrooms. I did return from vacation one year to find condom water balloons hanging from my ceiling, and yes, they were most unfortunately pre-lubricated. I did once leave a potpourri pot plugged in, woke up at midnight to realize it, and ventured to the large, dark church by myself to unplug it. Nothing burned down that night, but I did not run into the Church Lady and sexton.
Gladys and Bill were based on a couple in my third church. The real Bill (not his name) was never grouchy and would never have presented me with a top ten list. He was as delightful and good as they come. He did get lung cancer, and it moved quickly, and I did visit him and his wonderful wife in the hospital on Christmas Day. His death still saddens me.
Am I Claire? Parts, I suppose, but she is more petite and more serious than I. I love to swear, which may be a bit of an occupational hazard, as I do it more often than Claire. I have also been blessed to be married to a man with gorgeous blue eyes, who is my partner in every way.
When I started writing this, I thought it would be a story about church, but as I wrote it and finished it, I realized that at its heart is the story of the love a mother has for her daughter; everything else is secondary. Which is true for my life, so I dedicate this story to my own Emma (not her real name.) And I hope that if she ever runs away, she has plenty of Gladys and Bills to go to.
Stay tuned for the sequel (but don’t hold your breath.) Working title “The Oncoming Train”, in which we experience Martha and Toledo’s wedding, the consequence of unmasking the saints, and further adventures of single-parenting a teenager.
Thanks for being with me on this adventure of a serial-blog story!