My friend was waiting for me to convince her to help me run away.
As my freshman year of high school plodded on, things at home became more and more constrictive and conservative. My friends from school started to drift away as my parents pulled the reigns in at home tighter and tighter. The few friends that stuck around were the ones that were known mostly as the “outsiders” at the public school, so they were of a rebellious and non-conformist attitude anyway.
I always felt that my other friends had moved on from me, but I’ve found out recently that it wasn’t that they moved on from me, but they had felt that my parents had pushed them away and that they were no longer welcome around my family. Just this past year, I was able to reconnect with a couple of girls that I was friends with in school and when I asked them about their perspective on what was going on at my house, I was really surprised to find out that they hadn’t forgotten me but felt just as confused as I did.
During the NLQ Carnival Days, I shared a note that I had gotten from a school friend, but I also have another one that I didn’t share. Below are the two emails that I got…I think it speaks volumes as to how the “outside world” processed what was going on in our family.
“I was upset with your parents for you (because I didn’t understand) for making you give up your “wants” – basketball, friends, school. I could not understand then how they could change so much so very quickly. I thought that church ‘up on the hill’ must be a very strange place indeed. I don’t think I even knew you went to a mission somewhere – or, if I did I have forgotten.
“I remember Kerri’s birthday parties or get togethers at your house before everything changed and we had such fun. The next thing I knew, you [and Kerri] were no longer attending school but you could still play ball with us. I enjoyed that. Then I remember the day you came to tell us you were not allowed to do that anymore either. That was a very disheartening day – I could not understand (it was before we had had the opportunity to learn about oppression, to read about it and truly discuss it and emotionally, I am not sure I was truly ready to understand it). I considered myself an intelligent person and I could not wrap my head or heart around it. I also considered your dad and mom to be intelligent persons, so how could they make such a decision?
“Those were my initial thoughts. I remember then thinking perhaps Kerri would go along with your parents requests, but they had another thing coming with you – you would fight. I can only imagine how daunting a task that must have been and you eventually “gave in” in body but not in mind as is evident by your strong voice and words.
“Every time I would go for a walk and we happened by your house I would look over, wondering what was going on. Then I heard (through the rumor mill) that you would not or were not allowed to talk to me because I was “a tease”. Again, I could not understand.
“I always wondered what had happened. It was not until I read your piece that I could put it together. I think given the year we are in and the cultural advances that have been made I still couldn’t totally grasp hold of the idea that this was truly what had happened.”
A lot of people ask me how my parents could change so quickly. Or if it was a gradual leaning toward the movement and then grew. No, it was a very quick change. Even people in town noticed it. One month, we were finishing out the school year and two months later, we weren’t in public school when it started in session again. Just months later, we were in dresses and skirts only, I was made to quit all school activities that I was involved with and friends, books, music, etc. were being censored and controlled.
One of my other friends lived right down the street from me and it was even harder being kept from her as we shared a passion for basketball, we both played trumpet in the band and practiced together. We were in the same grade and often walked to and from school together. I recently got the chance to ask her what she thought was going on from her view. Here’s what she wrote me:
“I just remember mostly how confused and scared I was for you. I wanted to hide you in the barn like you requested, it just didn’t seem like a plausible alternative. Your parents loved you despite their beliefs, and they honestly wanted to take care of you. They never would have let you live in my barn, and I didn’t believe we would get away with it.
“I was struggling with my parents belief in the church as well, so I understood on some minor level your anger and frustration. When your father presented some religious material to me, and you told me that he thought I was a whore, I was furious. At that point I had not even slept with anyone. I was terrified at first that if I drove too fast when I passed your home that he wouldn’t let you hang out with me. I quickly began to realize that it didn’t matter how I behaved, I was no longer accepted as a human being with freedoms. I was now the bad influence next door, just like any other prejudice that you hear of.
“I think being isolated from your family is a very dangerous thing, because socially they are your true loyalists. I know that I made some very poor choices because I felt alone, not accepted by any group, not even my family. My parents loved me, attempted to keep an open mind, and they continue to do a wonderful job of taking care of me. YetI was dragged to church and told what a horrible human I was because I had normal and irrefutable desires to be loved and accepted by my peers.
“So I waited for you to convince me that I had to help you run away. I thought of how I would sneak food to you and get you supplies. I wondered if you would be able to finish school. Would we have to get you a GED? Would we have to get you a job? an apartment? I wondered if your father was right. Perhaps I was a bad influence making bad choices, maybe I was a whore. Maybe you were better off trying to live that life, and be safe. That’s when the fear sunk into my bones. What if I tried to help you and instead hurt you?”
It’s heartbreaking to me to realize how far reaching this movement becomes to even those that aren’t entrenched in it. It hurts not only those in the movement, but those that are outside of it. It alienates people, pushes friends and loved ones away. It isolates those inside of the movement so that there is nowhere left to turn most times when they need help. It confuses people on both sides of the fence. That’s definitely evident by the email I received from my friend.
This was just the beginning of the isolation to come.