The Preacher’s Kid Returns

My sister my brother and I are right now, from three separate states, trying to put together a reception for our parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  In addition to the normal stress these things bring, we are feeling a dark ambivalence about the whole affair. It’s not the celebration itself that gives us pause. It’s where we are compelled to hold it.

We will be going back to the church of our childhood.

I think of the movie Junebug, in which our hapless protagonist, simply home for a visit, is called out to sing a hymn for everyone. The fact that we are the preacher’s kids, and expected to be involved every time we return is only part of the problem. That would be easy enough to deal with if there weren’t so many conflicted emotions going on under the surface.

We will go of course. And we will stand and sing. Church members will smile at us, tell us it’s good to see us, and wonder why the last time they saw us was seven years ago, at dad’s retirement from the pastorate there.

There are two related reasons. We were part of this family of hundreds of people who met three times a week, none of whom we knew intimately.

Dad took this church when I was one, my sister was three, and our little brother was just an infant. He stayed at that same ministry until his retirement, thirty-eight years later—something anyone familiar with fundamentalist Baptists knows is quite a feat. [Read more...]

Bible Thumping

I once saw a girl beaned in the head with a Bible.

Her attacker was a well-muscled star of our middle school football team, so his throw was hard, accurate, and had a bit of a spiral.

To be fair, the weapon wasn’t a full Bible, neither was it large. Someone in this guy’s group of cronies had procured a box of those miniature New Testaments kids are given in Sunday school, and brought them in his backpack with the intention of evangelizing—through force.

I noticed something was up that morning in the gymnasium, where the buses unloaded and students lounged in the bleachers waiting for the bell to ring so we could go to homeroom. With only one teacher—usually a distracted gym coach—on duty, it was easy to get away with mischief, and many of the students, hormonal and restless and facing another day of Algebra and cafeteria food, had mischief in their hearts. [Read more...]

The State of Things to Come

With relation to time, Walker Percy once compared the present to the tape head on a recorder. Into that receptacle, the pristine potentiality of the future is fed—a blank magnetic strip streaming across an apparatus that captures the clamor of the known world. In this way, the present is akin to the mouth of time.

For Percy’s Lancelot Lamar, musing about life from his insane asylum, the past’s consumption of the future was a horrible thought. For the process is one in which the freedom of all things is chewed, mangled, and suffocated by the crush of the one thing. Potential is transformed, and thereby corrupted, by actualization.

We are always in danger of the past’s banality—its boring predictability, its deadening muck of petty, moronic badness—swallowing up all possibility and converting it into the stale mess of exhausted routine. [Read more...]

God Help Me

Center-frayed I begin to ponder—in the way one probes an aching tooth with the tongue—whether my presence causes more pain to those I love than my absence.

It feels as if my hands and feet and jaw are pierced with hooks and strung with piano wire, and these wires pierce their hearts, so that no matter what I do or utter, I make them bleed. The more I struggle, the more I rend their flesh. There is no making things right. There is no making things whole.

Suicide is a tempting lie, and like other lies I’ve cradled in my palms—one more drink and you’ll forget; seduce her and then you will be truly known—it is a bold lie that dares me to believe it in spite of itself. [Read more...]

The Christmas I Sat Next to a Sex Offender

Last year my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas with our infant daughter. She couldn’t understand the holiday, of course, but that didn’t stop us from discussing Advent calendars, wreaths, and Jesse Trees in depth, continuing a friendly argument about Santa Claus that has been going on since our engagement.

Citing our childhood experiences as rationale, we hashed out the significance of the Incarnation in the form of felt, cardboard calendars filled with chocolate, and a fat man driven around by reindeer.

Christmas in my youth meant festive cooking and fellowship. My mom made Greek kourabiedes, baklava, and pecan pie with nuts from my grandparents’ trees. My dad roasted beef or pork, carefully basting it with the au jus so that it melted on our tongues. [Read more...]


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