Before There Was Me

Before There Was Me September 2, 2012

by Mari

(Editors note: Please join me in welcoming the newest member Mari of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network. Mari will be telling her story here starting with her mother. Thanks for joining us Mari!)

My mom spent her childhood in south central North Dakota and north central South Dakota. I’m not clear on the details of her childhood, but I do know that they lived on at least two different properties in North Dakota, but she attended church and graduated from high school in the little town of Pollock, South Dakota.

Pollock is a beautiful place. Not because of scenery or landscaping, but because the ideals, the mindset, and the sense of community are beautiful. It’s like going home, even for those who only visit occasionally.

Mom is the oldest of her siblings, and she was followed by a sister and a brother. They worked hard on the farm and her family struggled to make ends meet while she was growing up.

But, my grandparents had a vision for their children. They intended for their kids to not have to struggle like they did. They encouraged all three to attend college. So, after graduating from high school, my mom moved to the Fargo/Moorhead area to attend Concordia College.

The details of my dad’s life are just as sketchy as those of my mom’s life. The difference is that I got my story-telling abilities from my dad, so he’s told a few stories. These are the things I know:

  • Dad’s mother had a tough time when it came to having babies. She lost several babies prior to adopting my dad’s older brother.
  • After adopting my uncle, my grandma gave birth to my dad, his sister and his brother.
  • As I understand, my dad’s family was very poor. They moved around a lot and for several of his growing up years, they didn’t have electricity or running water.
  • Dad was close to a family that consisted of several girls (what we might call a “gaggle,” I suppose) whose names all had 3 letters (not making this up!) and two boys.
  • Dad’s family was Catholic. In keeping with Catholic tradition, his aunts and uncles had lots of babies. He tried to count his cousins once and he gave up when he got to about 53. And that’s just first cousins.
  • Dad wanted a motorcycle. Grandma said no. One day, Grandma went for a walk, slipped and fell into a creek or river, injuring her neck. (These are all the details I have of this incident — she was said to have “broken her neck” but I think that she damaged one or more vertebrae rather than having a spinal injury, as she was not permanently disabled by this injury.) When he went to see her in the hospital he again asked if he could get a motorcycle. Her response was along the lines of “Oh, go ahead. Break your neck. I can’t stop you.” Dad got his motorcycle. And he managed to not break his neck.
  • Dad and the brothers from the family I mentioned earlier moved to Fargo in their early-to-mid 20s.

And so, we have my mom and my dad, coming from two very different places, living in the same general vicinity. They both began to attend a church called “Meadow Ridge Bible Chapel” in West Fargo.

According to my dad, at the time, the church was composed mainly of single men and single women, with all the men sitting on one side of the church and all the women sitting on the other. Dad told me that one day, two guys — one named Frank and the other also named Frank — visited the church and saw the woeful lack of couples. And Frank and Frank waxed frank and took the dudes aside and said, “Guys…. um…. You know…. if you like…. maybe…. talked to those good-looking girls over there…. Like maybe sit with them? Ask them out? You know the routine….” (Of course, I’m taking a bit — quite a bit — of poetic license on this one because I obviously wasn’t there to get an exact quote.)

And this is how the marrying and giving in marriage began in that church. As I understand, my dad’s childhood neighbor kid and his wife were the first couple to marry.

And as for my parents…. Well, apparently, at one point, my dad’s parents visited him and they saw my mom and one of them asked my dad why he didn’t marry her.

So, being the hopeless romantic that he is, my dad asked my mom out to a movie and on the movie date, proposed to her. Dad says he caught her in a week moment. She said yes. (?!?!?) This is either the epitome of faith or the epitome of stupidity — I’m not sure which. Or maybe it’s just the effects of a lonely old maid — being 26 at the time — being suddenly overcome by the happy hormones of potential romance. Intoxicated by the joy of for once, being wanted.

They intended to be married immediately, but mom’s sister was out of the country and she wouldn’t hear of them getting married without her. After a very short engagement, they were married on October 1, 1977 — the second of many weddings to come at that small chapel.

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Mari is the middle of 5 kids — and the only girl — in a male-dominent, semi-quiverfull, rather patriarchal homeschooling family. She was raised in a patriarchal church and most of her social network as a child consisted of children of patriarchal or quiverfull families. This is the story of how she was sucked into the patriarchal/quiverfull belief system, and how she was lovingly (and in some cases, not so lovingly!) escorted out. Read her blog at:

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce



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