Grandma Edie took special interest in my religious conduct because I was her namesake. She wanted me to be named Edith, and Mama compromised by making it my middle name. I never thought "Deborah Edith" had a euphonious ring, but at least it keep peace in the family. Grandma Edie felt justified that I bear her name, since she had marked me, she said, with a mole just above my upper right lip, in the same spot as hers...

"Go get the bible." It didn't matter what I was doing when Grandma Edie summoned me. When my feet could barely touch the braided rug, she sat me down in the slat-backed rocker in the living room, stretched the heavy, cracked-leather Bible open in my lap, and commanded me to read. Her favorites were Job, then Psalms, then First Corinthians. I remember that the words were often strange-Bildad the Shuhite and Eliphaz the Temanite. One day, now comfortable with the sound of these foreign names on my tongue, I broke into "A-hab, A-rab, sheik of the burning sands"--when Grandma interrupted the reading session to take a telephone call. When she came back into the room, I was still singing the song whose rhymes reminded me of what I had been reading.

"What are you doing? Stop that mess," she thundered.

"I was just playing, Grandma Edie."

"Well, you ain't got no business playing when you reading the Lord's words. Stop your wrassling."

And so I resumed reading, my index finger inching its way-word by word-across the pages. At times, even now, whole passages and snatches of verses come to me unbidden. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful..." "The waters wear the stones." "Because I was flesh, and a breath that passeth away and cometh not again." "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." "The work of our hands, establish thou it."


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