The Reverend Enoch Clayton Brown
My name is actually my middle name. Clayton is also my dad’s middle name, my cousin’s middle name, my nephew’s middle name, my grandfather’s middle name, and my great-grandfather’s middle name. From what I understand, my great-grandfather (Moses Clayton) was referred to as “Clayt.” Enoch Clayton, my grandfather, died when I was in high school. He had been a baptist preacher, and when he died, my grandmother asked if there was anything of his that I would like.
As anyone who’s ever been in my house knows, I like old things. When she asked this question, my eye fell on his old file cabinet. It was probably made in the 50s, and is as solid as a steel safe. I use it nearly every day. I recently moved, so I had to remove everything from the drawers in order to give the movers even a hope of lifting it. Now that it’s in my new place, I started filling it back up again with my papers.
My grandfather had filled the bottom drawer with dividers to keep his documents organized. But they were not the removable kind — it would require a bit of effort to get them out. I considered tearing them out, but then I started reading the headers he had typed on them with his electric typewriter (the one I had played with as a kid in his office) and I immediately realized I wanted them to stay. I wrote with pencil the headers I needed next to his: taxes, student loan, insurance, warrantees, important documents, documentary projects, fiction projects, miscellaneous. But as I filed my papers this second time, I noticed again the headers he had typed and had to stop and wonder about the different lives we had lived, and the different things we thought about. There are too many to include them all, but a partial list of his headings includes:
Christ — Jesus
The Church — Its Commission and Ministry
Denomination — Baptist
Eternity — Heaven (with “or hell” written in pencil)
God — The Father, Son, Holy Spirit, The Trinity
Home — Love, Courtship, Marriage, The Christian Home
Baptism and The Lord’s Supper
Salvation — Repentance, Faith, Belief
Second Coming of Christ
Security of the Believer
Sin and Evil
I only heard my grandfather preach a couple of times, and I was very young, but from what I understand he was not at all a “fire-and-brimstone” type preacher, but rather more of a bible scholar whose sermons were more analysis and examination. I’m assuming that these files used to contain his typed up sermons — I’m not sure what happened to them. By the time I was old enough to have a meaningful conversation with him he had settled into a quiet man who sat stoically in an easy chair, not saying much. Maybe by that time he had used up all his words. Maybe he’d said all he needed to say. One glimpse I had into his mode of expression was when I was quite young, playing around in front of the television as he sat in his easy chair. I guess I stood up and got transfixed by something else, not moving, and was blocking his view. He said, very calmly, “you’re not a window, son.” It made perfect sense, even to a six-year old. I also remember he made the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.
I plan to leave those file folders there forever, and will never take out the crooked “Rev. E. C. Brown” name tag on the front of the cabinet. Maybe a future owner will wonder at the strange, often loaded (and completely unintentional) word pairings — his first in manual typewriter, all caps, mine second in handwritten pencil — on the file folders:
Bible Studies / Insurance
Christian Life / Warrantees
Doctrinal Studies / Fiction Projects
Faith / School
Christ Jesus / Student Loan
and (perhaps my favorite) Eternity – Heaven or Hell / Other Projects.
It’s very interesting to me to think about the conversations we might have had, and what he would have thought about The Atom Smashers, the Higgs boson, and neutrinos. And it’s very hard to say which would be more intimidating (or inspiring) for a casual passerby to come across: a file folder marked “Neutrino Oscillation” or one marked “Eternity – Heaven (or Hell)”?