Friday, October 31, 2008

The Little Lodge

It was an unassuming little building. Single story, white washed wood siding in the middle of a small field off of a gravel road. None of the members remembered how their little lodge had come to be. It had changed a little through the years. The siding had been replaced once after a small fire. When it came into use, insulation and drywall were added to the interior. Some old pews were added when the old church down the road closed as most of its members had moved off to the bigger and better mega church with a rock and roll band style choir. The building had started out as a small barn, then progressed to a bunk house during the civil war, and latter it degenerated to storage. Old Man Peter was once young man Peter and had been a soldier during the war. He had also been devout Freemason. Although Old Man Peter was not prone to storytelling he did share with his grandchildren how important Masonry had been to him, and at his passing the old building on the back forty of the property was donated to his lodge Brothers as they had lost their old building to fire. The lodge had been meeting there ever since. They love their little lodge and had no idea that the little barn, bunk house, and storage garage would change lives.

Let’s call him Billy. He had always been a curious sort of boy. He couldn’t help but to listen a little harder when he heard a whisper, slow to peek through a window, and read mystery books with zeal. It was a Wednesday night when his mother had gone to Bible study. She had done that more and more after his father had gone. He enjoyed the freedom it afforded him and the key that he was allowed to where around his neck made him feel older than his 9 years. This particular Wednesday he had been staring out the back porch window as the television show did not hold his interest. He noticed a small gathering of cars far off in front of the little white building. He had noticed men there before, but the darkness of the fall night, the light peeking from under the door, the lack of windows made him wonder at what went on there. The strange symbol on the door…what was a Freemason anyway? Why did they meet at night and just what was going on in there. His mother had mentioned them only once in passing and it was warn that the devil was all a part of it and the group was definitely a cult.

It was too much to handle, so close to Halloween and all, the pull of the horrible rituals or gruesome sacrifice was too much. He put on his hooded sweatshirt to fight the chill, threw open the back door, and moved off across the field to see what he could see.
He could feel his heart beat in his neck, head, and ears. It made it hard to hear, yet his breathing seemed to echo in the night like a freight train. It seemed as if every step cracked a leaf that rippled like metal bending in an explosion. How could these noises not betray him to the gathering of wizards and evil men just inside just waiting for their next unwilling sacrifice to their demon god?

There were no windows on the little building, or if there were, they had been covered years ago. But the little exit door in the back had been cracked to let some cool in air in as the room would heat up quickly, packed tight with men, even during the cool of the October night. There was little fear of cowans or eavesdroppers and the tyler often joined the men inside the lodge instead of sitting in the foyer with the coats and canes. This was good news for Billy as he saddled up for his look at the secret rituals.

What terrible things might his single eye reveal as he pushed it against the crack in the door as it struggled to adjust to the light. It was a small room, tiled in black and white. A small altar sat at the center and Mr. Kelley from the grocery store was kneeling at it while a man in a fancy hat spoke to him.

The other men gathered around the altar and he recognized several of them. Father O’Malley from the Catholic church which had a small congregation in town, Mr. Myers who was a Deacon at the Baptist church where mom went, Mr. Franks his old English teacher, all very normal looking and several wearing smiles along with their Sunday best.

Just as he began to relax, realizing that the he was looking at something fairly innocent, the beast gripped him from behind, covered his mouth, and pulled him up from the ground in a single motion. He had relaxed for single moment and now he would die a horrible death at the hands of this secret cult.

It was not until she had dragged him several yards from the little building and into the grass at the edge of the little gravel parking lot that he realized it was mom who had absconded him and he was not destined for sacrifice although this particular situation presented a number of problems for him in and of itself.

“You stared at the face of the Devil you stupid child. We better get you home and pray for your soul.” She said little else until they returned home, he was ordered to bed, and to pray for salvation. He prayed all night.

As much as he tried to see the Devil his mother talked about in the eyes and smiles of the men around that altar, he found it hard to do so. They seemed genuine enough in the glimpse that he caught and there was nothing nefarious in the glimpse he managed that night. Something did begin to jump out at him though, except it was a devil of a different kind.

He began to notice that there were a lot of devils in his mother’s life. She was always worried about this person or thing “out to get her.” His mother would warn, “You can trust no one.” “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Even church, the house of his mother’s fairly wrathful God, he was cautioned, “You have to be careful, a lot of the people are phonies.” It would seem that nowhere and no one was safe from suspicion or contempt.

By the time Billy was a teen his mother’s life of worry showed around her weary eyes. Heavily wrinkled and looking older than her years, she was still quick to question Billy on everything. Where was he going, what was he up to. The questions never bothered Billy much. He was a good kid and had little to hide. There was the time he snuck behind the bleachers instead of going to wrestling practice and made out with Kathy Caldwell, simply the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He didn’t get caught, he didn’t tell his mom, and truth be told, it was all worth it. What bothered him was the way his mother asked the questions. She never believed him and always asked twice. There were times he wondered why he bothered to tell the truth when she believed him to be lying anyway. But, he knew the answer. He had to be true to himself.
It was at college that things started to come into focus. People weren’t all bad, some could be trusted, and some he down right liked. He would call his mother dutifully and report on his activities. Instead of congratulating him on his wrestling wins, his 3.5 GPA, or his pledging a Fraternity she questioned him incessantly about what he was doing when he should be studying. “Nothing Mom. No Mom, I wouldn’t do that Mom.” He had learned not to share too much though with his mother. He had really messed up one time and mentioned that his roommate was a Buddhist and he had found some of the philosophy interesting in their late night conversations. Immediately, he was warned that even listening to the Buddhist was sinful, that he had never been repentant enough, and she knew she should not have sent him to the “damn liberal school.” It would be his damnation he was warned and then he was questioned about whether he prayed enough. Billy assured her he did, he just didn’t tell her that many of his prayers were for her and that she might one day find peace.

College life was great, Fraternity life was even better. Billy felt a special connection with the members of his Fraternity. When he was learning some of their signs and symbols he was informed that the founders of the Fraternity were Freemasons and some of their rituals and symbols were borrowed from this most ancient of Fraternities. Freemasons Billy thought, and then it dawned on him. These were the harbingers of evil his mother had warned him against. His thoughts traveled back to the little lodge in the field and the smile on the men’s faces and he began to wonder.

It wasn’t hard for Billy to find information on the Craft as it was called by its members. There was much of it, and for a secret society, there was much to be gleaned via the Internet and the library. He found himself drawn to it as he studied. Words such as tolerance, men of all faiths, and brotherhood found their way directly to his heart and Billy could not deny a burning desire to know more and to be apart of this Father of the Fraternities. He found a lodge, he asked, he joined…..he didn’t tell mother.

Masonry would be a very important part of Billy’s life. The idea that men could trust one another, that people would want to be an active part of their communities, and would not always search out boogie men appealed to Billy…or Bill as his business partners called him now.
When he would take his two boys to visit grandma, he would sink a little from his mother’s comments. “Keep a close eye on them two, no telling what they might get into.” It seemed that even the most beautiful and perfect thing in Bill’s life could not wring the suspicion from his mother’s heart. He loved her though, with all his heart, and he prayed for her still.

She was by no means an old woman when the news came. She was ill and she would die. She did not trust the doctor’s and believed little of what they told her, but to Bill it was clear, his mother’s time was fleeting. He spent as much time as family, work, and little ones would allow with his now frail mother. He even snuck out a time or two while he visited and attended that little lodge in the field. It was not his home lodge, but he could not help feel a special affection for the place as it had been in first glimpse into the mysteries of Masonry.

It was on return from one of those quick visits that he sat by his mother’s bed and she said, “How could you?” He was confused. She told him that she knew he was one of them and had known for years. His interest in the “dark arts” as she called them had always confused her as she raised him to be a strong Christian. Bill looked at his little, tiny, illness ridden mother and he cried. Not for her physical condition, but for her soul. “Mother, I love you so much. I have something I need to tell you. The world is a beautiful place, evidence of God’s love is everywhere. It whistles through the trees, it sits next to you, it sings on the voices of your grandchildren. You can trust people, you can love people, you can have hope, and you can practice real charity and no harm will come from it. You have spent your whole life afraid of some dark force, when that same fear is the thing you feared so much. It closed you up and made you bitter and old even when you where young. Mom, if I had one wish it would be that you could see the world the way I do. I am not here by your bed loving you because I am suspicious, I did not put up with your questioning because of guilt, I did not pretend to ignore your intolerance because I accepted it….I did all these things because they are right and I became a Mason because I wanted to be with other men like that. You spent your whole life afraid, I want to spend my life fulfilled.”

Bill was sobbing by the time he finished and his mother cried silently as he spoke. Her eyes seemed wide though, as if seeing for the first time, “I’ve wasted so much time,” she said. “Please bring me my grand babbies.” Bill ushered in the two boys who had been playing in the field and looked like they had been playing hard. His wife peaked in through the door as well. “You boys are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. You remind me so much of your Daddy when he was your age. Your Daddy was a wonderful boy. You would do well to be just like him. He is the best man your Grandma has ever known.”

She slept that night, better than she had ever slept. Her dreams carried her back and the world was bright and filled with colors she had never noticed. She regretted things, but knew that regret was of little value. Wow, had she been loved. What a wonderful little boy she had, what wonderful times they had. She would miss them.

Then there was light.


MR. X said...


Anonymous said...

It is a pity that stories about devout fundamentalists are so often true. Your story reminded me of my own mother, but without the happy discovery at death.

My grandfather, father, and uncles were all Masons, but as they all died when I was young I never talked to them about Masonry. My mother thought it was literally the work of the devil, and was less than happy to discover that I was a Mason.

Religion, besides being the opiate of the masses, can often cause great harm. Tolerance of someone's beliefs would seem a prudent thing, especially when there is no direct, demonstrable proof of deity. None.

There, now we can discuss the elephant in the room. It is always a leap of faith.

So, why criticize someone else's choice in belief?

The G inside the square and compass can stand for many things; not the least of which is the human Genome.

The Relevant Mason said...

Nicely said.