While my father was in seminary he was the pastor of New York Baptist Church, which is a country church near New York, Texas. Recently I dreamed that I was going back to New York Baptist Church for some sort of reunion. My dad and I were driving there together. New York Baptist Church was on the 11,000th block of a major street in New York, Texas, which in my dream was a much larger town than it actually is. And the church building was carved out of solid rock. There was a huge rock face, and the church entrance was simply a door in the side of the rock.
Upon entering the church we discovered that there was a country dance happening. Members old and new were on the dance floor waiting for the music. Some of the older couples were from my grandparents’ generation. The men were wearing overalls and the women flower-print country dresses.
For reasons not made clear in the dream, I was responsible for the music at this dance. I had a record player and an album of old records, the titles of which I did not recognize. I felt uncomfortable being in charge of the music, but I was, so I decided to do the best I could. One of the song titles made me think it might be a good tune for dancing. I don’t remember the name of the song, but it was two words and one of them was “red.” I had a hard time seeing the track number on the album cover. My bifocals weren’t working for some reason, so the track numbers were blurry. An older man came over to me. He was wearing glasses that worked, so he was able to see the number. It was track #8.
I carefully placed the record needle in the groove before the 8th track and the music began. It was indeed a dance song, and the people paired up and began to dance. But then the song started changing. The music got faster. I noticed that some of the older couples on the floor weren’t sure how to dance to the new sound. Some of them stopped, though the younger people began dancing in a more modern fashion. Then the song became “Misirlou,” a song that has been around a long time and is most recently remembered from being in the movie Pulp Fiction. I recognized the song immediately. It was, in fact, the only song in the dream I did recognize. I also knew the people on the dance floor weren’t going to like it. And indeed, the driving guitar solo at the beginning totally shut down the dance. No one, young or old, knew how to dance to this song. I pulled the needle off the record and apologized to everyone.
“I thought it was a dance song you’d like. Let me see if I can find something else.”
But I didn’t recognize any of the records I had, so I wasn’t sure how I would find an appropriate song for this dance.
Suddenly my grandfather called from the crowd. He was there with my grandmother and was about the age I remember him from the days of my youth.
I want to hear “My sins and Jesus,” he shouted out. Other people in the crowd nodded. Apparently this was a song everyone liked, though I had never heard of it.
Now instead of a record player I was thumbing through a hymnal, looking for “My Sins and Jesus.” The hymnal was an old one, filled with aged hymns that have long been forgotten by the Church. I found “My Sins and Jesus,” and it suddenly began playing in the background. I don’t remember anything about the song or the words except that it sounded reminiscent of many older, country hymns.
The scene changed again. “My Sins and Jesus” was playing, but I was watching an old home movie. In the movie my mother was dancing to the song as a little girl. She was about 7 years old, wearing a little cotton flower print dress and standing by a wooden rail fence with a corn field on the other side of it. She was dancing to “My Sins and Jesus” with no shame and in childish innocence, a little girl prancing about in the cutest way.
I gasped and said, “That’s my mother.”
She was so cute, and I was filled with feelings of love and joy. I was delighted to see my mother at such a tender, young age. The love I felt for her was the same that I feel for my own daughters.
At the same time I experienced powerful feelings of loss and sorrow and melancholy, as I considered the world of this small church and the people in it. It was a world that seemed to be – at least for me – gone forever.
My sorrow was both for the loss of the world and for the fact that I never felt at home in that world. I played the music, but I never really danced with them.