Well, my amazing maxi skirts got here from JC Penney! Here is one of them! It is very long and swishy and comfortable. And yet, astonishingly, it does not look like a sack.
Apparently there is a butt inside of this skirt. Therefore, it is not appropriate for house church. Oh, well.
THESE are the new black sandals, which are very comfortable, and also have little gun-metal-colored sparkly jewels on them.
Sparkles are wonderful.
Moving on to less sparkly things, I believe we are now somewhere in the wilderness of 2003-2006. Everything sort of starts to run together at this point.
We did living room church for 2 years? 3? People came and went. It’s all kind of a blur. There were the Doris, a widow lady and her children who were Pentecostal and who did Bill Gothard’s ATI cult homeschool program. (The Doris’ son got caught looking at library porn and he was sent to a Bill Gothard reprogramming center.) The Noris, whose dad believed he had cured himself of cancer by eating tangerine peels. The Oris, who eventually got divorced because Mr. Ori wanted to put their girls in public school. The Oins, who all had really big noses and who used to discipline their children by throwing them against the wall. Eventually they left our church because they believed you should only use unleavened bread for Communion. The Gloins, who never said a word and just stood and stared (there were twelve of them). The Dwalins, who believed girls should never go to college. The Balins, who believed girls should never go to college. The Bifurs, who believed makeup was a sin, and who skinned and gutted deer in their garage. The Bofurs, who buried eggs in their basement and dug them up to eat later. (Their aunt went to jail for having sex with students.) The Bomburs, who lived in an abandoned property behind a gas station and all smelled like stale popcorn. The Gimlis, who were always pretending to be sick. The Balrogs, who were just all around nuts.
A homeless lady named Rosie also came a few times (this was after we’d moved to the Seventh Day Adventist church building). The church bought her a moped and paid for a motel for her for a few days. Dad also brought her home for Easter dinner that year, which did not make Mom very happy. Rosie got a job at McDonalds and then she stopped coming. I think this was a good thing the church did.
We never saw the Orcs again. They stopped calling us and dropped out of our lives. We heard later that Katherine, the oldest daughter, had developed Crohn’s disease from years of the Hallelujah Diet. It gradually became not a sin to wear sweatpants again, and even to wear them out of the house sometimes. Jeans were still wrong, though.
All Saturday and from early Sunday morning until zero hour would be spent cleaning the house for church. We cleared out our living room and put up folding chairs, Dad preached many long sermons, everybody brought healthy, tasteless food and usually they would stay all day and eat lunch and dinner and stay into the night. Sunday was really exhausting for everybody. I was the pianist because I could play the piano, and I taught myself how to sightread and how to play congregational style and I got to be pretty decent.
The church was named Fellowship of the Ring Baptist. (Not really, but that was the basic idea.) Dad had it in his mind that we were pilgrims who were going where no man had gone before. He was very idealistic about the church and used to work all Friday night and Saturday and Saturday night getting his sermons ready every week. Every Sunday we sang all the verses of the pilgrim song, “He Who Would Valiant Be” by John Bunyan. We sang all the verses of every hymn because this was more righteous.
I spent a lot of time during church services watching one or the other of the little sisters in the basement. First Baby O, then Baby P, then Baby Q, depending on who was the toddler at the time. I would read them stories and keep them very quiet because, strangely enough, it is impossible to have an orderly family integrated church service when there are toddlers in the room.
Patrick Balrog creeped on me every Sunday for years. This is the older Balrog son who lives in their garage now. I hated to be around him because when we were 12 or 13 he tried to feel me up. He would always corner me and talk and ask to carry my violin case. Mom always made me play chess with him and “just be nice to poor Patrick.” I used to be scared I would have to marry him because there was no one else.
By the same token I was really awful to his sister Anna Balrog. She really didn’t want to leave her friends at Máhanaxar Baptist Church (she was one of the cool kids) and come to our house church, and everybody thought of her as “the bad kid” while I was “the good kid.” I liked being the good kid and I used to lecture Anna in a very smug self-righteous way about how she needed to listen and obey her parents and how house church was the best way. (It was hard because I was secretly trying to convince myself, too.) Of course she hated me because I acted like a prig.
I expended huge amounts of energy trying to bring my thinking into line with my parents’. I thought maybe if I prayed all the time I wouldn’t be so sad and lonely and I would be content with wherever God had put me. Some days it worked better than others, but most of the time I was really sad and mixed up and guilty about being sad and mixed up. It was hard because the game plan kept changing. Mom would say some things were OK, then a few months later they were wrong, or vice versa. I thought God must be like that too, which really does a number on you.
Mom said to me once, “I know you. You’ve always had this bad streak, deep down inside you. If I let you, you’d go right off the deep end.”
I eventually came to believe that everything about me was bad. All the thoughts I had about wanting to be a normal person were straight from the devil. The only way I could be good was to surrender everything about myself that was not like Mom, and believe that whatever Mom thought at any given time was right. Maybe God would love me if I was exactly like Mom. But I couldn’t ever quite do it. So I was afraid God would always be angry at me. I did try hard though.
Love me, love me, say that you love me. Fool me, fool me, go on and fool me. That song still went around in my head sometimes.
To be continued.