I chose this cairn to represent my years as a child and teen because I grew up in the country and woods. As a young girl I remember seeking solace in the quiet of the forest. I had a secret spot in the bare place at the bottom of a grove of pine treens in the middle of the pasture. I could look out and see my pony or any other creature, but no one could see me … or so I thought. I never tested that hypothesis.
I grew up in a family of five; two parents of the male/female variety, three children. I am the oldest and the only girl/woman child. There was a fourth child, third son (actually the first son) born between me and my next brother who died at six weeks of age. His kidneys were malformed. In 1962/63, this was a death sentence.
We lived in Kansas for the first six years of my life and I attended kindergarten there. I was hit by a car at the end of my kindergarten year and spent six weeks in the hospital. Later that summer we moved back east and lived with my paternal grandparents in Springfield, Massachusetts for a time while my father found a job. While in Kansas he had been going to graduate school and then working as a fellow for the Meninger Foundation. In early fall of 1967 he began working for the State of Vermont Mental Health Department and we moved to what would become my hometown, Calais, Vermont.
I don’t know what the population of Calais was when we moved there, but when I left for college in 1979 I believe the population was around 800+/-. It’s about 1200 now … I think. Regular boom town. It was a place where you waved at everyone when they drove by and everyone waved back. Or stopped to chat. I remember the Wise potato chip truck got lost one day and gave my brothers and I free chips because we gave him good directions.
My family was agnostic. We didn’t go to church. I think my father is an atheist. My mother aligns herself with deists … at best. I think my brothers just don’t think about God all that much. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think about God. I’ve always read all the stories about Him in the Bible and in other cultures too. I’ve always found mythology fascinating.
When I was in fourth grade I came across a book of Greek myths and read it over and over again. I was particularly caught by how similar some of the Greek stories were to some of the Hebrew Bible stories. In the back of the book were some Norse myths … and some of them were the same as well. The story lines were the same, just the names and a few details were different. At the same time I began to read some Native American stories. Books like Black Elk Speaks. And I began to see similar threads running through their stories as well. So I began to see God revealed in all different cultures.
Now, I had a paternal great-uncle and aunt who came to town once a year to run a bible camp for a week. We would see them, usually to have strawberry shortcake together. They must have seen something in me. I don’t know. But for years they sent me a Guideposts subscription. I don’t think they ever sent my brothers anything. Just me. I never thought of it before, but when I write it out like that it sounds weird, but it wasn’t at the time. It’s just what they did. I loved getting Guideposts and would read it cover to cover … which sounds schmaltzy now. But I liked it then. My parents just rolled their eyes.
Every so often I’d be visiting my grandparents and I’d go to church with them. It felt like visiting a foreign country. My maternal grandparents were high Episcopalians and my paternal grandmother was Methodist. Once or twice I even went to church with my cousins who were Catholic. I almost made the mistake of taking communion with them. What did I know? It was snacks as far as I was concerned. And damn slim ones at that.
At some point I learned enough to teach myself the Lord’s Prayer and so I learned that while walking to and from the bus stop in seventh grade. But I taught myself “trespasses” and I think now everyone uses “debts” … so I usually get into trouble there. Or maybe it’s vice versa.
In any case, my parents always taught me that I’d be free to make up my own mind about church and God once I grew up. I always wondered what I would have to base that on if I never went to church, but … oh well. They weren’t going, so I guess I wasn’t either. Besides Sunday mornings we had our most fun as a family having pancake breakfasts and sitting around talking and laughing. I wasn’t about to give that up to sit in a pew and listen to some
lecture … er … I mean, sermon.
To be honest, that’s one of the things I still struggle with most as a Jesus-follower. Sunday mornings are the best time as a family. In our current culture, I think it’s kinda stupid to make that the gathering time for a faith community. It rips families apart and takes away from their own little cultures. Why not build on that? Have a different gathering time … Saturday night? Sunday evening? Sunday afternoon? Friday evening? I really don’t know what is so sacred about Sunday morning. But that’s for another post.