One of the things I’ve always wanted to do when I went to Eureka was bum around St. Elizabeth’s. It’s right below the Crescent Hotel, and you can hear her bells at all times of day. She’s built onto a ledge on the side of the mountain, and her gardens are full of beautiful plants, benches, and gorgeous marble saints.
The problem with this wish is it never jived with my traveling partners in the past.
But this time I had all the time in the world. I got my nails done and then traipsed out of the hotel, down the stairs and onto the church grounds. The freedom was intoxicating. The mountain air was hot, but not as humid and muggy as I expected. The gardens were quiet, nothing but blooming things and bees. I went inside. No parishioners. No priest. No one. Just me, doing the thing I always wanted to do.
I sat on a bench in the back, just so happy to be there, so thankful to have time to myself. I pondered how much easier it might be on Sunday mornings to get into the right frame of mind if we Protestants worshipped in such a beautiful place. It was silent, and the candles flickered, and the pink light shone through the stained glass, and I was happy. Very happy.
When I was little we vacationed in Eureka often, even if it was just for a day trip. I always loved St. Elizabeth’s. It was my first clue that my name was, well, more than just my name. There’s argument over the meaning, some say it means “God’s Promise” and others say it means “Devoted to God.” It’s also one of the most popular names used for baby girls since the 16th century.
I don’t say all that to be all gloaty and “my name is the best name na-na-na-na.” I just always felt, from a young age, that that was my church on the side of the mountain. Hilarious isn’t it? A Church of Christ kid taking ownership over a Catholic church? Hang on with me people. Don’t stroke out.
So I sat on that bench (which is my one complaint, those benches were like the Spanish Inquisition to my buttocks) and stayed for a while. I decided to go back and sit through mass, something I’d never done before. I thought about God. I thought about my name. I thought about all my doubts. I thought about all my blessings. I thought about the last two years and what kickers they’ve been. I thought about my frizzy haired daughter, who I missed very much, who just last week looked at me and said, “Mommy, be quiet.” I suppose you could say, I took a little stock of my life.
That’s what running away by yourself can do. You get to do what you want, and take a little stock. I was able to sit in that quiet church and realize some things I’d been too busy to notice. I thought about all the women over all the centuries who sat on a bench just like mine, in a church, quiet and away from their families, who took stock of their lives.
It’s good to do what you want, every now and then. It’s good to take stock