I was thirteen.
I remember, because I was leaving for my first overnight bus trip to the annual March for Life that evening, where we would all cheer about being “pro-woman, pro-child, pro-life!” My mother had stuffed my backpack ridiculously full of clothing and provisions, as if I were crawling on my knees to Canterbury instead of leaving the house for a little over thirty hours. I had stuffed my copy of The Two Towers into the top of the backpack; I was quietly wishing it would be possible to dump everything but that before anyone else from the confirmation class saw the fuss my mother was making about my first overnight trip, but I knew that would be impossible.
I was sitting in the living room with my hated backpack, waiting for my ride.
My parents gave each other awkward looks. They also wanted to sit in the living room, to watch television, but they didn’t want me in the room while they did. They were desperate to watch a live television news special they wouldn’t be able to see later.
I wasn’t usually allowed to watch the news. It might corrupt me, and we kept ourselves clean in our insular little homeschool group. But my parents were determined to watch the news.
Finally, my father realized he had to explain.
“Bill Clinton is going to be interviewed tonight,” he said in a hushed voice. “They think that he had an… an affair with an intern. We’re going to watch the interview.”
“Cool,” I said, nodding, because an answer seemed to be required of me and I didn’t know what to say.
“It means ‘affirmative,'” I explained quickly.
I agreed not to tell my siblings anything about what I was about to see. I sat down with my embarrassing, overstuffed backpack before leaving for the March for Life. And I got to watch Jim Lehrer interview Bill Clinton on the News Hour, about his “improper relationship” or lack thereof with Monica Lewinsky. I remember despising him, because my parents despised him, and just knowing he must be lying– as, indeed, he was.
Over the next few months, I hovered in the living room to hear the news headlines; after awhile, my mother began to shoo me away.
“It’s gone from PG-13 to R to X,” she said again and again.
I wasn’t allowed to watch the news, but I heard plenty. I heard names like Jones, Willey and Flowers; forbidden words like “genitals;” allegations I couldn’t understand about a stained dress. I learned that, contrary to what I’d thought, it wasn’t illegal to have sex out of wedlock, only to lie about it under oath. I heard my mother praising someone named New Gingrich and wishing he’d run for president.
I prayed nightly for God to spare our country a chastisement. I was certain that a chastisement like something out of the second book of Kings was coming, because our president had committed a mortal sin. Everyone I knew in the homeschool group was disgusted by the fact that the president had committed a mortal sin. He was a cad, a womanizer, likely a sexual predator, and that could not be allowed. We were pro-woman, pro-child, pro-life, and that man was the antithesis of everything we stood for. All of us conservative homeschoolers were relieved and viewed it as the answer to our prayers when a Republican was elected in the ominous Year 2000, and God returned to the White House.
I wonder what they’re all saying now.