Our lonely little legalistic world …

by Erika

During that first year of homeschooling, my sister took Driver’s Ed at the public school. I would go with her in the hopes of being able to spend some time outside the school hanging out with some of my friends. Because my sister had taken to wearing really frumpy jumpers that looked like something out of Little House on the Prairie, some of the guys had started calling her the “Virgin Mary.”

A conversation started outside after Driver’s Ed about Jesus and Mary. Someone asked how it could be possible that Jesus was born to a virgin. I made the mistake of saying, right in front of my sister, “Perhaps Mary was artificially inseminated.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I knew I’d be in big trouble at home as soon as my sister told my parents what I’d said. Everyone laughed but my sister. I didn’t realize it was as funny as everyone thought it was. My sister and I walked home in silence but the first thing she did when she walked in the door was squeal on me to my parents first about who I had been hanging out with and secondly, what I had said. If there was anything I could count on from my sister back then, it was that anything I said and did, if she was in earshot and eyesight, it would make its way back to my parents. There were times when I was watchful of what I did and said around her, but other times, I just thought, “To hell with it.” And those were the times that I just didn’t care what the consequences would be.

Sure enough, there were consequences to what I’d said about the virgin Mary. My father pulled me aside and gave me a stern lecture that lasted around a half hour. I was told how bad the company was that I was hanging out with and how blasphemous I was. My punishment was to do a 6 page essay on the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, complete with scripture verses to back it all up.

Since I was the more outspoken child of the four of us, it seemed that I got most of the attention, whether it was good or bad. Most of it seemed to be bad because nothing I did seemed to be right. It never quite measured up with what I was supposed to be doing. I began to feel like a “project” to my parents. Like I was the “challenge child.” The one that they were trying to mold to what they wanted me to be, rather than allowing me to evolve into what I was meant to be.

My sister, on the other hand, always seemed to be trying to please everyone and during that time, it usually came at my expense. I started to realize back then that if she tattled on me for every little thing, she not only got the attention she craved, but she was also pleasing my parents. Though it was angering at times, I felt more pity for her than anything. Her mind was so trapped so quickly. It was apparent that she’d lost the ability to think for herself. It was mind boggling to me to see how docile, submissive and mind-washed my parents and siblings had become in so little time. The “church” down in southern Vermont (Grace Bible Fellowship) had such a hold on all of them.

Our weekdays became days full of school work, helping with my parents’ bakery, doing things around the house and it became very lonely for me. I took to reading a lot, even though my books were censored. It felt like I could escape for a little while from the world I was being forced to live in when I opened a book. I enjoyed Tuesdays because those were the days that we drove the 15 min. away to go to the big library in the next town over. They had three floors of books and they also had music tapes. Every now and then, I was able to sneak a couple rock tapes (Elton John, Michael Jackson, etc.) to the desk and the librarians would check them out quickly for me before my mom could see what I was doing. They never asked questions but I could tell by the look on their faces that they knew they were doing me a huge favor. I would tuck them into my bag and listen to them at night on my walkman that I hid under my bed.

I would spend hours reading autobiographies, biographies, non fiction, anything I could get my hands on that would pass the censor list. Reading about the lives of other people made me feel like, even for just a little while, I wasn’t trapped in my own life. I was living vicariously through others, even people who had died years before I was born. I often felt like it was all I had as a link to the outside world. What the conservative Christian world called the “narrow way” had become the very “narrow minded way.” It was preached to us that the Christian life is often a lonely one, but I had a hard time believing that this was how God wanted us to live. To purposefully put ourselves in so small of a box. To segregate ourselves from everyone and everything.

I started reading books about the Native American culture, history and heritage. There was a small amount on my grandmother’s side and it was that miniscule amount that I latched onto in an effort to feel like a part of something outside our lonely little legalistic world. Of course, I had to make it sound like something that could be incorporated into the area of learning. It became a passion for me. I was actually surprised that I was being allowed to delve into it all, but I was frequently warned against getting into the spiritual part of the Native American culture because, after all, they were “heathens.” I started making my own moccasins, doing beadwork, I even started chopping down long, skinny trees to make a tipi of my own.

I remember my parents telling me that I needed something to keep me busy once they made me quit the basketball team and FHA. They knew that I liked needle art so my mom took me to a craft store over the state line and got me the materials to do cross stitch on a piece of linen. It was a picture of the musical staff and words to Amazing Grace, adorned with roses around it. It definitely did keep me busy, but it didn’t help to quell the lonely and empty feeling I had settling deep inside of me.

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