Pissed off at God. What a joke that was. Like He had time for that, but I couldn’t help myself. What else could I do? The world I found myself in was all wrong – all violence, heartbreak and sadness.
I guess it was natural I turned to Him for answers. I was born and brought
up Protestant, United Church of Christ, a union of the Church of Christ and the
Reform Church. Looking back over my life, having a background of faith
has been my greatest strength. As a child, I always believed I had two
extended families, my aunts, uncles and cousins and the other members of the
church. All our family reunions and holiday gatherings were on the church
grounds. On those occasions, we got together and ate huge meals, and I
romped with my cousins while the old folks played music. You can picture
it. Even if you’ve never lived it, you can see it in your mind – life
in rural America in the fifties.
- In contrast to many of her generation, Carol Jean truly had a Father Knows
Best childhood. Reared to believe in a just and loving God, in her world,
her immediate family extended to the members of her church.
Once, six or seven years old dressing for Sunday services, I got it into my
head I wanted to wear my everyday shoes to church. They were in sad shape,
worn and the toes scuffed, but so white, soft and comfortable, I couldn’t
resist. I put on my best dress, white socks, fixed my hair just so and
put a pink ribbon in. I thought if I looked particularly nice that morning,
Mother wouldn’t notice the shoes.
I walked into the kitchen carrying my little purse, and Mother
looked me over. Her
eyes got as far as the offending shoes, and she frowned then extended her arm
and pointed toward my bedroom. I got the message. I wanted to protest,
plead my case, but she just stood there hand on hip, pointing. I knew “comfortable” wouldn’t
be a good enough argument. I’d have to think of something more
persuasive, like a rare form of childhood arthritis. Silence in the kitchen. I
thought I’d give it another minute. Maybe the phone would ring
or a bird would fly in the window, Mother’s attention would be diverted,
and she’d forget. Then I heard the tap, tap, tapping of her right
toe on the linoleum, and I knew I’d better go change.
Mom was the disciplinarian
in the family. She was such a kind person
and gentle spirit; I know the little punishment she dealt hurt her far more
than us kids. Occasionally, when she gave me a swat on the butt, I’d
run into my bedroom, stand in front of the mirror and pinch my rear end until
it turned rosy red. Then, I’d lay on my bed with my pants down
so when Mom came in to talk about what happened, she’d feel bad. When
I was a little girl, I used to do silly things like that.
Mom was the cook in
the family, too, and we ate mid western. Meat and
potatoes, and if we had dessert, pudding or Jell-O. Sundays after church,
we feasted on ham or roast beef. I remember always having enough to eat,
but if we wanted seconds, usually only potatoes or vegetables remained. One
of my earliest fantasies was growing up to be sixteen-years-old and driving
our old Chrysler to the Dutch Pantry restaurant outside town, buy an entire
roast beef and take it out in the country and eat the whole thing. I
guess a child not getting everything she wants is a good thing.