Chapter Four

The Clover Street News

All of this took shape in the mid-to-late spring, so by the time school ended for the summer we were into our fourth or fifth issue.

We’d begun a weekly feature, too.  Mom’s suggestion.  And it was a good one.  Each issue we tried to feature a column about one of the families on Clover Street.  “Know Your Neighbors” it was called.  I didn’t know what Mom had in mind when she suggested it, so she offered to approach one of our neighbors and to write the first one herself.  Dad even doubted that people would cooperate.  But Mom said, “I know just who to start with.”

“We’ve already done ourselves,” I protested.

“Not us, Sweetheart,” she promised with a half-smile and a gleam of all-knowing.  “Just wait.  I’ll deliver.”

Two days later she sat in front of Grampa’s glowing face and typed in this:

All of Clover Street probably knows who lives in the yellow and white house at number 124.  The Reverend Mister Clayton Vanbeck and his family have been our neighbors for about three years.  Cal Vanbeck is the associate pastor at the Lakeside Free Community Church.  He is a graduate of the Rande Bible Institute, where he met his wife Letha.  With one son, Markis, who is now three, the Vanbecks have brought us the newest addition to the Clover Street neighborhood: their second son, Pavel, who was born June 1st.  Letha says Markis adores his new brother.  The Vanbecks are busy, of course, on Sundays, with Pastor Cal’s duties at Lakeside.  And their house is the site of an all-welcome Tuesday night Bible study.  Currently they’re doing the book of Job.  Among the congregation at Lakeside are three other families who live on Clover Street, and the Reverend Mister Vanbeck stresses that if all of Clover Street decided to attend, his grateful church could surely stretch at the seams to admit one and all.  Visitors to the Vanbeck house are likely to find Pastor Cal in his modest woodworking shop carving intricate patterns into fixtures he builds by himself for the altars at various churches.  Letha, who finds time to be more than a cook and bottle-washer, paints floral patterns onto cupboard doors, which she is commissioned to do on whole sets of doors, more and more by members of their congregation.  She invites her neighbors to see for themselves, and to let her know if they’re interested in the same.  They look forward to meeting all of their neighbors, whether in person or in the pages of The Clover Street News. Especially, they heartily welcome a knock at their door.

“There, Suzanne!” Mom exclaimed, right after she had typed it into Grampa.  If you can get everyone else on Clover Street to tell you as much about themselves, you’ll have enough to fill this paper for a year or more.

She was a genius.  After her interview I felt like I knew all about the Vanbecks, and none of it was braggy, like the stuff people tell you on the street.

We printed the Vanbeck story, and within days they were truly the most popular people around.  After Mom read the story to Broccoli, he asked, almost scared-like, “Does this mean we have to go to their church? — I mean I want to go, I want to go, yeah, but do we have to?”

“No, it doesn’t mean that at all,” Mom assured him.

But Dad shocked us all when he quietly asked, “And why shouldn’t we?”

Well, as it turns out, we never have gone, yet.  We’re good procrastinators.  But we’ll be going there any day now.  It has taken a little time to get over our inertia for staying home Sunday mornings.  And it has also taken time to put aside some of our presumptions about where we might go to church.

For one thing, Lakeside is not the nearest church.  And, while a lot of people on the street go to some church — there are a couple not far away — the fact that Lakeside is a “black” church may account for a perceived exclusiveness.  I believe now that the CSN interview did much to dispel that perception.  (The Vanbecks are Jamaicans or Dominican Republicans or maybe both.  And so what?  I have this big round mole on my thigh that you can’t cover with a quarter.  I’m actually fond of it, my one percent from some dark race.)  It’s only an observation I make about human nature, but for both those reasons I think we wouldn’t have thought about going there first.  And yet, it is a comfortably-blended church just as we’re a comfortably-blended neighborhood.  If you were to ask me what race does Missus Gamble “belong” to, or the Bivenses or the Hemples or the Greens, I’d have to stop and think.  It matters that little.

Altogether, of Clover Street’s forty-four households, about one quarter are something other than European-Americans, including — (I had to think for a moment) — my long-time favorite neighbors, the Ardrills.  I think they’re among the ones who go to Lakeside.  But I really believe that Pastor Vanbeck is sincere when he says we’re all welcome.  We, the McLogues, will start going there soon, as you’ll see.

The Clover Street News – Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5 – Chapter 6 – Chapter 7 – Chapter 8 – Chapter 9 – Chapter 10 – Chapter 11 – Chapter 12 – Chapter 13 – Chapter 14 – Chapter 15 – Chapter 16 – Chapter 17

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