CONSERVATIVE CONGREGATION IN HOUSTON WHERE BRENT SPINER’S MOTHER ATTENDS

GAIL ACTUALLY VISITED THIS SYNAGOGUE TO RESEARCH FOR HER NOVEL SILVER SKIES NOT KNOWING THAT BRENT’S MOTHER ATTENDS THIS SYNAGOGUE. GAIL IS NOT FROM TEXAS OR HOUSTON. BUT WHEN HER EX-HUSBAND GOT MILITARY ORDERS TO TRANSFER, OUT OF ABOUT 120 POSSIBLE DUTY STATIONS, HE GOT GALVESTON, TEXAS. GAIL’S FAMILY CHOSE TO LIVE IN A SOUTHEAST HOUSTON SUBURB, WHILE HER EX WAS STATIONED IN GALVESTON, AND THIS GAVE GAIL MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO GET TO KNOW BRENT SPINER’S HOMETOWN. SHE OFTEN DROVE ABOUT ONE HOUR TO VISIT THE BELLAIRE SECTION OF HOUSTON TO TAKE NOTES AND MAKE SILVER SKIES A BRENT SPINER STORY ALL THE WAY.

SILVER SKIES’S SCENE DESCRIPTIONS ARE BASED ON ACTUAL NOTES GAIL TOOK FROM VISITING THE SYNAGOGUE WHERE BRENT PROBABLY WENT TO SCHOOL AND WHERE HIS MOTHER ATTENDS, AND FROM TAKING NOTES OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE HE GREW UP. GAIL IS CERTAIN THAT JESUS CHRIST MOVED HER TO BRENT’S HOMETOWN, JUST SO SHE COULD MAKE SILVER SKIES A TRUE BRENT SPINER NOVEL.

GAIL LIVED IN THE HOUSTON AREA FOR THREE YEARS.

Gail visited a SUCCOTH SERVICE on September 20, 1994—MORNING, to take notes for her novel SILVER SKIES, because she wanted to research synagogues to make her rabbi main character believable. Who knows?

Brent’s mother may have been in the congregation! TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF BRENT’S MOTHER, GAIL WILL NOT NAME THE SYNAGOGUE. SHE VISITED SEVERAL SYNAGOGUES IN SOUTHWEST HOUSTON, AND ACTUALLY TOOK NOTES ABOUT THE SERVICE OF ONE SYNAGOGUE, WHICH JUST HAPPENED TO BE THE ONE BRENT SPINER’S MOTHER ATTENDS.

Here is a description of the service, notes Gail took for her novel SILVER SKIES. She is going to fuse this as symbolism and images for Jesus, the Eternal Bridegroom! Gail believes it is more than coincidence that she ended up visiting a synagogue where Brent’s mother attended.

Gail lost the books she bought at the synagogues about Judaism, but Brent’s a Christian now, and so is his mother. However, I don’t think Jesus would mind if Christians visited synagogues:

The building was large and the cars parked in the back. Upon entering the sanctuary through glass doors, one saw a large display with many miniature Sukkoths built by children. They all had what looked like thatched roofs made from sticks, pieces of woods and tree branches. Inside some were dolls (representing people). They were colorful, creative. Just outside the glass doors was a large thatched roof, about the size of a large patio, large enough to accommodate a swimming pool (though there was no swimming pool). It had artificial bananas, oranges, apples, pears hanging from its thatched roof. In Succoth, it’s important that you can see the sky, so all roofs are thatched loosely, not tightly.

Upon entering the sanctuary, a service was in progress. An elderly man was leaning on a podium which came to his elbows. He was saying a prayer in Hebrew, but with a chant. It sounded like a melancholy melody sung in the minor key. It gave the place a feeling of worship, as though to enter this sanctuary one came upon the presence of God. Many heads were bowed and during especially sacred moments, many men slightly bent their knees and swayed back and forth tilting slightly forward. The tallith they wore draped around both shoulders stood out as it swayed in rhythm with the chanting prayers. These tallith were bordered with gold, silver, and showy embellishments. These are the prayer shawls and along with the ark in the back behind the podium (which contains many glittering, elaborate scrolls representing the Torah) and the two candelabra with electric lights which look like the flames of candles from a distance, contribute to the feeling of worship and awe one feels upon entering the sanctuary. All men wore the kippah (the round, decorative head covering). Women wore dresses and skirts, like typical church clothes. The atmosphere was quiet, though some chanted in Hebrew along with the man up front. Everyone held a prayer book, which read from right to left, as the oriental books do.

“Page 54,” boomed a scholarly looking 30ish man from the back. At this announcement, you can hear the flutter of pages turning as everyone finds page 54. This man chants his Hebrew loudly and puts all heart into the chanting. One may assume he is a rabbi or a cantor.

The inside of the building was paneled with brown wood. To the upper right were stained glass windows. With various symbols, representing candelabra, stars of David, Hebrew letters. To the back were stacks of prayer books, and other books. The low carpet was light turquoise. The seats resembled the seats in a movie theatre, linked together, well cushioned, with a turquoise velvety covering. The backs of the seats were a light brown stained, smooth, waxed wood.

There were several seats up front, on the podium, at a right angle to the audience where cantors and rabbis and others may sit. The up front section was raised and you climbed up onto it by carpeted steps.

Of significance during this Succoth service was that toward the end of the service, many congregants went to the front right (ahead of all the seating) and retrieved lulavs and citrons from long, oblong boxes. The citrons were in a box and wrapped neatly with a hay colored fibrous plant to help keep them fresh. Upon opening the box, the citron smelled like a strong lemon. It looked like a large, yellow bumpy lemon, but it is called an etrog for the Succoth. The lulav was a long palm branch in the center held together by woven palm leaves, so that on the right side was a myrtle branch and on the left side was a willow branch. The palm leaves were woven together so neatly they looked like a type of placemat. But they were neat enough so that each branch had its own socket. A socket on the right for the myrtle, a place in the middle for the palm, and a socket on the left for the willow. There are plenty of weeping willows in Houston and the willow looks very much like a weeping willow. The etrog is held with its tip pointing down and the stem upward. All congregants did this.

Several times during the service the lulav was pointed to the front (to the east) and shaken three times. Each times the motion of shaking was followed by a drawing in–that is, the hands were stretched out, the lulav was shaken, and then pulled back; stretched out, shaken, and pulled back. The same motion was repeated three times to the right (south), over the right shoulder (west), left (north), up above you, and finally lowered below (the person is bent over a little bit; the lulav is not pointed down).

When we walked around the congregation we sang Hoshanah constantly as we held the lulav and etrog. The lulav was always held with our right hand and the etrog with our left.

Many of the cars parked in the parking lot belonged to parents of school children attending the Hebrew school in the synagogue.

After the service, a Kiddush was held and a large loaf of bread with golden shiny humps was served as well as slices of yellow cake, fruit bowls with grapes, bananas, apples, etc. Also bottles of red wine were laid out and served. A prayer was said before the Kiddush and everyone helped themselves or was served. There was also a table that served punch, separate from the main table. The Kiddush was served outside, and it was a clear, sunny day with temperature around 80. The congregants wandered out after the service. They were informed there would be another service tonight at 7 p.m. with a Kiddush afterwards and another morning service tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.

BRENT’S MOTHER, WHEN SHE LIVES ON EARTH, APPARENTLY STILL LIVES IN THE PART OF HOUSTON WHERE BRENT GREW UP, THE BELLAIRE AREA OF HOUSTON. SO THESE NOTES FOR GAIL’S NOVEL SILVER SKIES ARE AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF THE TOWN WHERE BRENT GREW UP AND WHERE HIS MOTHER STILL LIVES WHEN SHE’S ON EARTH!

BRENT TELLS GAIL THAT HIS MOTHER NOW LIVES ON CHURCH OF GAIL AND IS A CHRISTIAN. HOWEVER, JESUS IS NOT PICKY ABOUT HOW ONE WORSHIPS HIM AND I’M SURE WOULDN’T MIND IF SOME JEWISH CHRISTIANS VISITED SYNAGOGUES EVERY NOW AND THEN.

July 29, 1994. Temperature: 90s. Bellaire is not considered part of Houston. It is its own town. To the south is Meyerland, which is considered part of Houston. The homes in Meyerland are larger and more spacious than the ones I’m seeing (so far) in Bellaire. I am in the parking lot of Bellaire High School. It is a yellow brick building, looks well kept. I’m here primarily to observe the houses and general area. The homes across the street (to the south) from Bellaire High School look like lower middle class homes. Specifically, 50% of the roofs are well maintained and the other half are not (dirty and grimy). The outside walls have a wooden paneled look, looking like big shingles. The grass is St. Augustine grass. There are many big trees in this area. My car is parked under a curving big tree that has a huge trunk with small scales. The tree has medium-sized, medium green leaves.

In the sky above are cumulus clouds dotting the azure sky. There are many crape myrtle bushes with ruffly pink flowers which appear bunched together in sections on the bush. Another common tree sprawls widely at the top, which makes its trunk seem small.

When I drove through Meyerland, the homes were much bigger. They varied in size from small to very large. There were many homes with latticework decorations. Most of the homes were made of yellow or red brick and were clean and well-maintained.

Bellaire is like Cutler Ridge, Florida and Meyerland might be like Whispering Pines, Florida or even better.

Birds are chirping: several different kinds. There is a creature which makes a loud vibrating noise. It sounds like a noisy tropical insect, like someone getting a low pitched tamborine and vibrating it for a minute.

The signs here are red with white lettering (this is not true of Meyerland).

Bellaire High School: I’m next to a tennis court? It has green fake lawn on the bottom. It’s hot, humid, but you can hear beautiful birds. There’s a dog barking.

When I was in Meyerland, I saw several mothers with baby strollers, strolling their babies.

In Meyerland, there are circular endings to some corner intersections.

Coming upon another section of Bellaire on another side of Bellaire High School (western side), the homes are getting nicer. On a street a couple blocks from school, see homes with big lawns, long drive-ways. There are black rail-fences to separate the front and back yard. They look like ornamental grillwork. The lawns are huge, neat and immaculate. There are some sections of Bellaire that are quite nice and equal Meyerland. It must depend on what section you live in. There is a new house under construction here in Bellaire and it’s going to be a big one. So, apparently, how nice the homes are around here depends on how much money the owner spent on it.

A lot of the homes in Meyerland have posts (columns) in the front. It gives them a colonial look. It looks nice. Meyerland has many huge trees, so as you’re driving, the roads are well shaded. The homes use a combination of red, orange, or yellow brick. Every home looks good. This is a prime neighborhood. I see a home that looks like a mansion. It has a curved drive-way. It’s a huge home. In Meyerland, as in Bellaire, the quality of the home depends on how much the owner spent on it.

The most outstanding thing about Meyerland is the trees. They are beautiful with curving branches and soft, green leaves that float over the streets. There are dry, brittle leaves on the ground and some autumn colored leaves on the trees, but most of them are green and fresh looking. There are a large variety of trees as well.

Looking at the cars, I would say this is a rich neighborhood. Most of the cars look modern, like they were bought (at the most) several years ago. I just saw a two car garage with two cadillacs in it. Several of the homes have American flags hoisted from the front. There are some portions of Meyerland that use the chinchy grass which pricks you when you step on it, the finer grass. There is plenty of St. Augustine grass.

The Meyerland Plaza may be under construction, but J.C. Penney and the movie theatre are open.

The Meyerland homes have a lot of square footage, but the lawns are not super big.

On Braeswood Blvd. there is a nice jogging park. I see joggers on it all the time. It’s on the middle partition that exists between North and South Braeswood Blvd.

Typical Meyerland house: Made of bricks. The bricks are multicolored ranging from pink to red to black with a yellow tone over everything. There is a Bay window with pale yellow painting on the frame and lattice grillwork. There is a pale yellow wooden garage door with a narrow, gray paved driveway leading to it. The lawn is immaculate with bushes alongside the front wall of the house, lining the wall, neatly manicured. There are some yellow flowering plants towards the front. The roof is dark gray and shingled, with rectangular, flat shingles.

Another typical Meyerland/Houston home: Made of beige brick. On the front wall are three narrow, slit-like windows like three dominoes standing at attention. It’s an attractive design. Behind them are pull-down blinds.

There is a beige-gray roof which looks like snakeskin from a distance (smooth and attractive). The lawn has a Bonsai bush. Many of the lawns in the Meyerland area have a semi Japanese garden look. There are the huge sprawling trees, which are typical of this area. Well manicured bushes take on artistic shapes. In this front yard is a small palm with a trunk bent at a 45 degree angle and sprouting palm leaves at the top like an Indian chief’s headpiece. In a backyard, I see what looks like a banana tree.

There is a mix in the foliage and bushes: Some are typical of a cooler climate. Others are typical of a semi-tropical climate.

There are a lot of the bushes with the ruffly pink flowers that grow in bunches. There are lots of plants and trees similar to what grows in Alvin.

In this part of Houston, there are many double laned roads with wide partitions between them. So you have to be real careful when you drive that you turn into the correct lane or else you’ll hit on-coming traffic.

The trees in Meyerland: Most of them appear soft from a distance, maybe because the leaves are fine. It’s a soft, surreal appearance: different shades of soft medium green. There are a large variety of trees and you do see some pine trees. The pine is not the predominant tree here. There are more of other trees which are more attractive and better at giving shade. Lots of large, shade bearing trees. The pines (which are fairly abundant) are short and full.

It’s typical to see homes with silver metal criss cross latticework on their windows. Homes with a German look are common here. The German look: tall roofs, like a very steep V.

DOWNTOWN HOUSTON: As we approach downtown Houston, we see smog enveloping the buildings in the far distance. It always looks like this.

 

Copyright © 2014 Gail Chord Schuler. All Rights Reserved.