When her mother made a pronouncement in that tone of voice, it was the end of the conversation! The WORD has been made known and all would obey. As if to underline the fact that the word had been spoken, her mother turned back towards the cupboard and gathered up silverware.
Under most circumstances, Mary Catherine would never have dreamed of questioning further. This time she felt compelled to continue, to fly into the teeth of the storm. She certainly did not want to openly defy her mother, knowing what that might bring. But she felt an urge to somehow make a statement of independence, to assert the fact that she had doubts about some of the accepted beliefs, and that she was capable of debating these ideas. Picking up ice tea glasses from the cabinet, she turned and faced her mother.
“Mother, you always enjoy watching the clogging at the county fair. That’s dancing. You told me you used to clog when you were young.”
“DON’T YOU BACKTALK ME! Clogging certainly ain’t sinful. Why we been clogging in these here mountains for as long as anyone can remember. You ain’t never heard no real man of
God in these parts say nothing against clogging. You’re trying to twist my words around, young lady. You’re trying to make me say that clogging is the same as dancing. It ain’t! DANCING is SINFUL, and that’s that!”
Mary Catherine’s knees were so shaky she had to grab the back of a chair to keep from falling. As much as she wanted to go to the ballet, she wanted also to ease her mother’s wrath yet somehow be able to assert her own ideas. Summoning the very last of her courage, she struggled on.
“Please, Mother, I’m not sassing you. It’s just, well, it’s sometimes hard to understand things. Ballet is something like clogging. It’s been done in some places as long as anyone can remember.” More bravely now, she continued, “I haven’t heard any preachers say that ballet is sinful like other kinds of dancing.”
“Well,” her mother sniffed, “I suppose they think it’s all right up there in New York, but that ain’t no great shakes as a recommendation.”
Feeling that the tension was easing a little, Mary Catherine responded in a lighter tone of voice. “No Mother, ballet isn’t from New York. It’s a kind of folk dancing, and originally came from Russia.” As soon as she said this, Mary Catherine died inside.
“RUSSIA!” Her mother’s voice went up an octave and her eyes seemed to glaze over. “You mean to tell me you want to miss a meeting at God’s house to go see some outsiders doing a dance from Russia? The only thing that ever came out of Russia is heathen, devil-worshipping
COMMUNISTS! Brother Charley Baker on TV says the heathen communists are the anti-Christ, trying to establish Satan’s kingdom right here on earth. You will not miss church to go see some Russian dance. I am shocked that you would even suggest such a thing. You march right up to your room, read your Bible, and get down on your knees and beg God’s forgiveness for such sinful thoughts!”
Mary Catherine put down her dishtowel, turned and slowly climbed the stairs. She went to her tiny room, tucked into the upper back corner of the house, picked up her well-worn Bible and sat in a chair near the small dormer window.
Opening the Bible, she glanced at the page and read:
“…when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a great shout, and Jericho’s walls fell down in its place…”
She laid the Bible in her lap and stared out the window. The familiar scene of forest and mountains seemed to blur into a montage of dancers gliding across a church while scowling spirits swirled overhead screaming SIN! Above it all she could hear her mother’s voice far away calling “Mary Catherine, Mary Catherine…”
“Mary Catherine, are you deaf, child? Come down to supper. Papa’s already at the table, waiting to say grace.”
Closing her Bible, Mary Catherine slowly rose and looked around the familiar room. It now seemed different, for suddenly she was seeing things as a different person. No older, certainly a
bit sadder, but surely much wiser. It was not just missing the ballet. There would be other performances. It was the realization that the wall of rigid thought surrounding her closed, tight-
knit world was no longer solid. Although not by design, her argument with her mother had caused the initial crack. She had stood her ground, at least for a little bit, and had tried to express her own ideas. This time she had been slapped down. There would be other times. Bit by bit, the Jericho Wall would come tumbling down.