How to Get Your Grandchildren Ready for Church

It’s a little easier, but not by much, if the children’s parents also spent the night before Sunday service, but for the mornings you are alone preparing anywhere from five to seven grandkids for church:

Wake up the two girls first. Give the sisters a little privacy as they pick out their toothbrushes from the bathroom collection. Invite them to the table as you finish your coffee. Remind them to bring what they need for their hair. No, not on the kitchen table. Coffee table is fine. Make sure it’s blue Ultra Sheen for extra shine.

Corral the boys. The girls are savoring perfectly toasted bread spread with real butter. They fantasize about the day they will be old enough to be offered a pour from the percolator. Shout the wrong names at all the boys until they get it together enough to sit at the table for scrambled eggs, toast and orange juice. Inspect all their haircuts. Giggle to yourself remembering the edge ups their grandfather had given them the night before: Lord, how that Tony screamed, then, with tears drying in his eyes, reassured his brother in the chair that it doesn’t hurt. It don't hurt, Andy. That Tony, oh boy, that Tony.

Style the girls’ hair and here comes their favorite part: picking out the hair ribbons that match their dresses. Clip barrettes to the ends of their ponytails, pin a bright bow to their pigtails. Inspect their knees for ash.

Cry out for the industrial-sized lotion bottle and attack those ashy knees. Pile everyone into the Lincoln after carefully wrapping their offering coins into embroidered handkerchiefs. Arrange those beautiful black children in a row on your regular pew. Sorry, Sister Campbell, my grands are visiting and they are taking your seat. Pass down to each a hard butterscotch candy and a final warning hush. The service is beginning.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

This custom doll by Jacqueline Bryant Campbell wears a dress made from the author’s daughter’s baptismal gown.

- Erica Hoskins Mullenix is a freelance writer and editor, and a contributing editor here at Dead Housekeeping. Besides personal essays detailing her life as an introverted middle kid, bewildered but kickass mother and special needs parent, she also writes short fiction. Proudly an alum of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Erica created the online writer’s community known as yeah write in April 2011. She has had essays published in Salon, The Houston Chronicle, PANK, and other print and online publications. Her fiction and other writing can be found on her personal blog. Follow Erica on Twitter @freefringes

- Jacqueline Bryant Campbell is a contributing editor at Dead Housekeeping, and you can admire and order her dolls at her shop, Jacq's Dolls.


We sit on overturned milk crates, the thick blue plastic digging into my chubby legs. It's in our blood, he always says. When I'm old enough, he will show me how to make rum. This is another thing he always says. 

He has a real shot-glass. I have the metal cap from the bottle of Don Q. 

He pours out the golden nectar: just below the rim of the glass for him, just below the edge of the bottle cap for me.  I make a move to taste my shot, but he stops me. Anyone can drink rum, but not everyone knows how to do it properly, with a toast. A proper toast should always be in Spanish. Anything else would be uncivilized.

I follow his lead and raise my little, metal bottle-cap, filled with rum, up as high as I can, and repeat the words he says with such bravado: "Salud. Dinero. Amor." Metal taps glass, we smile, and then we each drink down our shots in one swallow. The alcohol burns my throat and sends a warm rush through my body. It is not unpleasant. I know this feeling well, already. 

"Una vez mas!" he announces, reaching for the bottle to refill our glasses. This time he remains silent and waits for me. I raise my makeshift shot-glass and say, in my four-year-old voice, calling up all the bravado he has left for me, "Salud. Dinero. Amor." 

Still the only toast I ever make. English-speaking women swoon a little. It would have given him devilish joy to know this, Caribbean Casanova that he was. 

Juan Matilde Torres

Juan Matilde Torres

- Lana Nieves is a Puerto Rican writer from Brooklyn, NY.  Read her previous entry for Dead Housekeeping here.