I was counting the painted floor tiles, purposefully placing each foot heel to toe, creating a soothing rhythm as I walked. I loved the way my newly straightened feet filled the fancy new footwear, every toe snuggled into a space of it’s own. Since being freed from my corrective shoes, I looked for every opportunity to wear my patent leather Mary-Janes, so that morning in Vienna when my mother announced that we were going to visit yet another church, I knew dressing nicely would meet with her approval. For a woman who didn’t believe in organized religion, we sure did visit a lot of churches when we traveled. My mother enjoyed learning about a towns’ history through its religious structures, but I just found them boring and repetitive.
And, Vienna ‘Church number 3’ was no exception. It was cold and uninviting. The colors so muted and drab, the floor tiles almost looked tear stained, as if the angels on the ceiling had been crying for hundreds of years. I wandered down the center aisle, never too far behind the adults, their hushed voices softly bouncing off the stone walls and stained glass windows, but all I could hear was the click clack click clack of my deliberate steps.
The Austrian weather was damp and dreary, hanging over the city like a cloud of sadness, adding to the doom and gloom so much, that my steps began to feel like a funeral march as I weaved my way through the heavy wooden pews. I felt like a dwarf in the cavernous structure, the intricately painted ceiling seemed as far away as the sky.
We were on a private tour, as usual, and expect for one or two priests, I don’t think there were any other people present. I followed behind, listening with one ear to the information my mother was getting, preferring to come up with my own stories about the tombs and tapestries, sculptures and frescoes. The walls were dull and the stained glass almost colorless, enhancing my lack of interest. “Get- me -out -of -here”, echoed in my head with each click of my heel.
Close to the altar, I came upon a pew with elaborate kneeling cushions designed for the ancient Austrian nobility and I saw the opportunity to take an overdue rest, placing my knees on the padded platform. Relieved to have found a somewhat comfortable spot, I folded my hands in prayer and pleaded with God to get my mother to speed this tour up.
As I pretended to be devout, I looked down and kneeling on the ground next to me was a tiny stuffed animal fox, his ear frayed and his tail, torn, it’s stuffing gone. He too, was praying. To be rescued, maybe. “Hey little guy, are you lost?” “Or, left behind?” I wrapped my gloved hand around his coarse dirty blonde hair, his one brown plastic eye dull with sadness, as if he been been forgotten. I stroked his well worn face, “I don’t blame you for looking so sad. This isn’t a place I’d want to be lost in.”
I sat back in the pew, no longer concerned with it’s hardness, my new little friend distracting me from my surroundings, pleased I had just rescued this mouse-like creature from a medieval dungeon.
Hearing my mother’s voice coming closer, I clutched the little orphan and turned in her direction. “Look, look, mommy!” Holding him high for all to see, his only eye in clear view. “He was lost. I found him on the ground praying.” My mother reached out, lifted his scruffy face and stroked his furry head. I ran over and pointed to where I had made my discovery. “He was down there! On the floor!” I beamed, breaking the unspoken rule of quiet church voices. My mother smiled with wisdom at our new family member, “A lost soul in a church. In search of salvation.” she stated softly. “I think he came in here in search of a family. How lucky are you, Mr Fox?” My mother always liked taking in strays, be them two or four legged, so a stuffed rescue pet would be no exception. Taking me by the hand, she placed my new travel companion back in my care, knowing I would now be more willing to stay by her side, as we made our way to the next cavernous wing of Vienna’s largest church.
My Austrian travel souvenir sits on a shelf in my room, never forgotten and still loved to this day, looking just as well loved as the day he was found.
11 Response Comments
Another great Tale or Tail ! Loved it, thanks, Gary
What an absolute joy! Thank you profoundly for sharing that moment .
Beautiful story. You are a terrific writer.
Easy to read. Well-written. I’m sure your Mom is proud of you and loves the blog you write in her honor ~ Mothers love it when their daughters become the women they raise them to be…
I love this story! You a such a good writer. Your Mother was a wise woman…..”A lost soul in a church in search of salvation …… I think he came in search of a family.” Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for such a lovely story on this, my late, beautiful mother’s birthday. I miss you more than ever mom. Love you, love you, love you. Always will.
I like all things Eartha Kitt, thank you.
You tell the greatest stories of you and your mother. . Always entertaining. ..
The Minskoff Theatre Rehearsal Studio. We’d already been in rehearsals for about ten days for a Broadway bound show entitled “Timbuktu. Everyone was there. Melba Moore whom I was understudying, the fabulous Gilbert Price, George Bell and Shakespearean tragedian, “Count Blackula” himself, William Marshall. Eartha Kitt had not arrived yet and it was Eartha we were waiting to see. Waiting for this frozen icon to materialize. She’d been blacklisted or as she would later say, “white listed” for about ten years from the American stage and screen due to her outspoken stance against the Viet Nam War and her association with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This show was to be her “come back”. Geoffrey Holder was in the middle of directing a scene when he realized that his cast entire attention had shifted to the other side of the room. This tiny figure had wandered in all dressed in black, black leotards, tights and a black schemata wrapped around her head, no makeup. “Tiny figure” signed in and stood there reading notices on the “call board”. Then Geoffrey saw her and strode over on those impossibly long legs of his to where she was standing, planted a cosmopolitan kiss on both cheeks, then took her hand and walked her to the center of the room. “Darlings, darlings, gather round. This is the great Eartha Kitt. Back home where she belongs”. We closed around her then and began applauding and talking and laughing and hugging her. At first she was genuinely startled and a little bit unsure “like a deer in headlights”. Then she took both her hands and put them up to her face and begin to cry. And in that moment, she looked all of five years old and I…I was hypnotized. I remain so … to this day. Never knowing just how much of her I still carry around.
WOW…your fox story reminds me of my red and white teddy bear, he was bright red with a white tummy! He’s at my folks home inside a glass snow globe picture frame and I must have been 3 when i posed with it …your so lucky you still have your fox and I have no idea where my bear went??? Thanks for your nice story in memory of your Mum!