Thoughts of Sunday School and Sunday School songs brings to mind two amusing stories.
I said in my last post that my favorite hymn was This is my Father’s world. Near the beginning there is a line which reads “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”
At five years of age, the word “sphere” was unknown to me. I learned a few years later that it referred to a ball shape (which gave me the impression of planets singing as they rolled their way around the sun). But it was not until I was in university and reading Dante that I learned about the Ptolemaic cosmology and discovered the true meaning of the phrase, “music of the spheres”.
All that was in the future though. As a five-year-old, trying to make some sense of the line, I fastened on the vague auditory similarity of “sphere” and “fairy” and decided it referred to fairy rings. So for sometime, whenever we sang that hymn, I would visualize a natural setting in which fairies danced and sang. Sometimes that still seems more appropriate than the intended meaning.
The other story concerns my sister, though she doesn’t recall it herself.
Pennies in those days were important currency for young children. They were almost the only coins we got to handle ourselves, and nine times out of ten, they were spent on penny candy. It was one of the few purchasing decisions we were given and I well remember the intense calculation as to whether to get blackballs (3 for a penny) or spend the whole coin on a single licorice twizzler or candy cane. It took immense self-discipline to save up the five pennies it would take to purchase a chocolate bar.
The other use for pennies was as Sunday School collection, a fact alluded to in the best-known children’s offertory hymn of the time. As the plate was passed around we sang it with gusto!
Hear the pennies dropping. Listen as they fall.
Every one for Jesus, he shall have them all.
Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping
Hear the pennies fall!
Every one for Jesus. He shall have them all!
Any way, the story goes that Nadine, then about three, listened in horror, clutched her pennies and protested “No, not all. He can’t have them all.”
I don’t know if the story is true or not. Like my walking backward into water story, it seems to be a free-floating meme that attaches itself to whoever is handy. In this case, exactly the same story appears in my uncle’s family memoir, Pancake Ranch, but the young protestor is my Aunt Lucille and the time is a decade earlier, in the 1930s.