Memoirs of a Child
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound. And the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed
1 Corinthians, 15:52,53
Premonitions, portents, prophesies about the end of the world stand among the most terrifying moments of my childhood. The prospect of the termination of life on earth at a time when my own existence was in its startup phase seemed so terribly incongruous and unjust that the mere idea was sufficient to create in me full blown terror and depression. Trouble is, the big people to whom I looked for consolation were no less absorbed in the preoccupation and fear of the imminent end of the world. Many actually professed to look forward to the disappearance of our physically corrupt life, the end of suffering and death, anticipating a perfect hereafter, the promise of paradise with the second coming of Christ.
“It was somewhat unfair,” I thought, “for adults to wish for an end to their individual suffering by wishing for general and universal annihilation. What about those humans who were enjoying the uneven fruits of happiness and prosperity? What about little people struggling in remote parts of the world to connect to a complex web of relationships, to find families, to know themselves by living with others? Give us a chance!”
Towards the end of my stay with Miss Harper, at five years old, I had no desire to anticipate an end to my suffering through divine intervention on a cosmic level, for although I felt uncomfortable, alone and alien, I still had not been rejected by those in charge of my destiny and with a series of fortuitous events and human interventions, I was still in the protection of relatively benign humans. I consequently felt no reflex to have my bewildered existence terminated. My morning prayer, for the most part, consisted of repeated requests to God to preserve me from being eaten by the three chained rottweiler dogs which guarded the property of Miss Harper. This morning my prayers were interrupted by high pitched screams, moaning and passionately fervent entreaties to the Almighty which exploded into the early morning’s innocence.
Many peasants and their extended families who lived on Miss Harper’s property in what must have been former slave quarters some distance from the main residence, had gathered outside the compound where they were lodged, some were praying silently on their knees, some were crying hysterically. “Jesus av mercy!” “Fada be merciful!” “Lawd av mercy on a sinna saved by grace!” “Abide wid us oh Lawd!” “Protect us from dye wrath oh God!” “The whirl is comin’ to an end, an de dead in Chrise shall rise!” The loud rantings of about seven adults in turn led to the bawling of the numerous company of children which outnumbered the adult group three to one. Soon the five or so dogs at the compound let loose their contribution to the hubbub, joined finally by the three canine guards from the main house, rocking the very foundations of my fragile world.
To complicate matters there was a distinct noise coming from on high, among the broken clouds at a point in the skies which had captured the attentionof the group of people. I quite expected to see Jesus appear from among the clouds since I too was taken up in the common hysteria of that morning. I cast anxious glances towards the burial corner of the estate where there were about ten headstones commemorating the defunct members of Miss Harper’s family, fully expecting to see some results of the prophesy that the dead in Christ would rise, waiting for the trumpet to sound. There being no such evidence, I reluctantly concluded that Miss Harper’s ancestors were among the ‘non-elect’. I also worried about my own destiny and wondered if I would go to heaven if this, in fact was the end of the world.
I did not go to heaven, I went instead to a purgatory called Kingston. One of the caretakers of the property was able to allay my fears, telling me that the origin of the alarm of the weepers and wailers was a small airplane trailing an advertising banner which read: “Good Year Tyres”. In 1944, this was the first time Kellits would witness advertisement from the air and we preliterate peasants, unable to decipher the symbols in the sky, reached into our repertoire of received ideas, finding biblical resonances in the commercial message from on high.
For this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality
Illustrations by Greg Moran, Victoria, BC