Church and Main, Waterbury

Waiting just inside the front doorway of the church before quitting time yesterday, I felt the air pulsing with the rhythm of ordinary, urban life in all its loneliness and hunger.

"Will you take my picture," a man asked me as I set up my camera to photograph the children of the Chorister Academy of St. John's Episcopal Church on the Green in Waterbury, Connecticut. He carried everything he owned on his back or in his hand in a plastic shopping bag.

"Next time," I said.

"When's next time? Tomorrow? I'll come tomorrow." He was not flirting with me; he wanted his picture taken.

"Next week," I said.

"I'll be here. Tuesday. Five o'clock so you can take my picture." Others with apparently little to their names aside from what was in their hands came along and leaned against the fence, smoked, seemed to be waiting for someone, or closed their eyes. The reality was that nothing awaited these people, but this was the place against which they chose to lean. They must not be seen to be loitering.

The Waterbury Transit bus pulled up outside the church. "A wedding? Will I be in the way? I usually wait here." The bus driver leaned in my direction as she spoke.

"Just waiting to take a picture of the kids' choir. You're not in the way."

"Okay. Your child is in the choir?"

My daughter.

"Too bad what they are doing to the rectory over there--taking it down."


"The Lithuanian church. It's just too bad. Waterbury changes too fast. It's a shame. Change. It's too much." She told me about her daughters and granddaughters and asked me if I had any sons.

"No. Two nephews."

"Ah, that makes up," she said as another man passed and asked if there was a wedding going on in the church.

Kids' choir, I said.

"That's nice. Real nice." He smiled and meant it.

A father and mother crossed Church Street at the Civil War Monument. He pushed an orange plastic shopping cart from Home Depot; she dragged their small child into safety. A grey-haired man climbed the steps leading to one of the front doors of the church and leaned against the stone wall as if it were the softest seat he had ever known. He closed his eyes for a minute before he leaned forward, pulled a cigarette out of his breast pocket, put it between his lips, leaned forward, and coughed intermittently. He never lit it. He kept his eyes closed. The bus driver moved along to her next stop, dinner hour traffic rushed out of the city, and the air cooled as the blue of the sky grew deeper and deeper.

Finally, the children came and allowed me to arrange them on the church steps according to height and to snap their picture over over to be sure every one of their eyes was open. That people might see that these children see everything, that it's all in front of them.


  1. I really liked your description of the situation. Why is it easy to overlook people?! Why is it difficult to keep our eyes open?!

  2. I know what you mean. The thing that got to me was that all these homeless folks were so eager to know something good and happy was going on. It didn't have to have anything to do with them! What generous hearts.


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