Daredevil: Excerpts from Chapter 18

…Momma made sure Billy and I went to Sunday school at St. Johns Presbyterian Church. My first grade Sunday school teacher’s name was Miss Whitner. Momma dropped me off early at my class the first day and left me at the altar by myself. I was never in another Sunday school class where the teacher had an altar. This one was covered in velvet, which Miss Whitner told me later was dark green. I felt a flat round bowl on the altar, and Miss Whitner said later it was an offering plate made of brass, and she had two of them.

A lot of light streamed into the room, so I thought it had many windows on the outside wall. I stepped away from the altar and began to feel a semicircle of small wooden chairs arranged on a thick rug. I heard the door open and Miss Whitner said, “Hello, Peggy. I am surprised to see you here so early.”

“Hello, Miss Whitner. What color are the chairs and the rug in your classroom?”

“The rug is dark green, and the chairs are tan,” she said. “If you step off the rug you will be standing on a white tile floor.

I heard the door open again and the voices of many children streamed into the room. This first Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter, we sat in the wooden chairs and sang a song. Today we sang “Noah Built Himself an Ark.” Then Miss Whitner read us a bible story about Noah and the sighted children mentioned they could see the pictures in the book, which she held up for them. I really didn’t know what a lot of animals looked like. I had recently felt a stuffed giraffe with its long neck and an elephant with its trunk and long tusks.

Next, Miss Whitner asked two children to pass the offering plates, starting at each end of the semicircle. I didn’t have any money with me, but it bothered me that the child on my right passed the offering plate right over me to the child on my left. I would like to have passed the plate. I did hear some coins fall into the plate, but not that many, so I figured a lot of other kids didn’t have money either. Next Miss Whitner told all the kids to go to the little tables to color pictures of animals who boarded the Ark. I could not color, but Miss Whitner gave me a stuffed kangaroo to play with, and I stayed in my seat in the semicircle. The stuffed kangaroo had a baby kangaroo in its pouch. I wondered if the other kids were staring at me sitting by myself. I didn’t understand eyesight.

When the class ended, Miss Whitner and all the other kids left. She said she didn’t want to leave me by myself, but she had to go to choir and my mother would pick me up soon. While I waited, I thought I would like to do something fun. I felt my way to one side of the semicircle of chairs. I started with the first chair and pushed all the chairs together. Now they were in a semicircle with no space between them. I stood up on the first chair and began walking confidently around the semicircle. When my mother opened the door, she didn’t say anything about my walking on the chairs. She just said, “You ready to go, Peacharoo?”

A good friend of our family told me some years later that she walked by the classroom that day and saw me through the window in the door walking around on the chairs. She was amazed. She said she didn’t want to open the door because it might startle me. She said my walking around on the chairs showed my desire for independence and my daring.

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