I spent 1st through 3rd grade in a private Christian School. Bible stories were read daily along with corny childish prayers about hamsters that were sick and wanting new bikes for birthdays. I thought God and Santa Clause were pretty much the same person…..see’s you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, condemns you to a fiery hell if you don’t do your math homework.
I remember my teacher, Ms. Gillespie. She wore thick rimmed glasses, an oily Dorothy Hammil haircut, green polyester skirls with tan hose and shoes that looked odd compared to her pale arms and face. This was a woman of God with no concern for her appearance as it was a sin to attract male attention. She told us about her neighbor who was kind and generous, but was not a Christian; therefore this neighbor of hers who had never hurt a person in her life was destined to be an overdone tater tot sizzling in the depths of Satan’s lair for all of eternity. I raised my hand, “Ms. Gillespie, what about those little children starving in Africa that don’t know they need to say their prayers for their sick hamsters because they don’t know God?” Ms. Gillespie shook her head in disappointment and lined us up for lunch. We had tater tots.
Nancy was in my class. She was a thief. The kids knew it, the teachers knew it, but Nancy would swear she didn’t take the pencil, the chalk, the little bouncy ball from the toy box even if it was found in her clammy little hand. Nancy was adopted. Her parents were older. I wondered if she took things because her parents were so old they didn’t allow her any modern toys like Barbie, sit-n-spin, that little plastic lemon thing on a rope that wrapped around your ankle when you skipped over it. Maybe they only let her play with wooden toys her dad made. I didn’t know and I’m sure I spent too much time wondering about it during phonics lesson.
Stealing was especially a bad thing to do in a Christian school. This is why we felt we had to help Nancy. Okay, not so much help, but tempt her. A couple of us kids would bring in a dollar or Luden’s cough drops, the candy disguised as medicine. We would place the booty on the very edge of our desk closest to Nancy, pretend to be engrossed in our work, watch her writher in pain as she ached to take her prize. Carefully, she would get up, graze the side of the desk with her gray blue pinafore all the girls were required to wear and like a true professional, she would take those Luden’s cough drops ever so gracefully as to not cause suspicion. Of course we would wait just long enough for her to think she had gotten away with her crime, then we would scream in horror, little tears developing in our innocent eyes, “my Luden’s cough drops my dad bought me this morning for my sore throat……they’re gone!” The teacher would always go to Nancy. It was entertaining for us and as good Christian children we were also helping to save Nancy from a life of crime. We were all being groomed in our Christian school to love those who believe the way you do, give generously and take it away and lie when it benefits you. We were bred to be the next generation of Republicans.
My sister also went to this school. She was in the pre-school program. I don’t recall my parents preaching fire and damnation, but one night something horrible happened. The night started off as usual. We went to my father’s restaurant for dinner. He was there most every night, so if we wanted to see him we had to go there too. I was eating my steak dinner, which always made me sick, and was told by my mother holding her glass of wine in between shoving fistfuls of buttery bread into her mouth, to take my sister to the restroom. I slid out of the booth, took my sister by the hand and led her to the lady’s room. In the restroom were two stalls that more resembled closets with the doors all the way to the floor so you couldn’t see under them. I figured I may as well go too since we were there. This was a big mistake. I was being influenced by the dark side and had no idea my mortal soul was being possessed at this very moment. As I was “going”, I asked my sister if she was okay. A lady responded, uh oh! I came out of the stall. My sister was nowhere to be found. Now this was my father’s restaurant in a very small town, my sister was more likely to be abducted by unicorn aliens than be kidnapped. I ran back to the table. There she was, pointing at me. My sister and mother are looking at me as if I am brimming over with evil. My mother grabbed my upper arm forcefully and rushed me to the front door passed all the patrons. She took me out behind the restaurant parking lot where it was dark but I could still see her glaring eyes on me and the spittle coming out of her mouth as she was yelling “How could you? Can’t you do anything right? I ask one thing from you, one thing!!!”. She pushed my small frame against the building so hard that the air escaped from my lips in a huff and tells me, Satan has made me do this horrible thing.
Hold on, wait a minute…what? I play back in my mind what had just happened. No, no, I definitely do not remember having a conversation with Satan in the last five minutes. In my mother’s eyes I was a selfish girl who was disobedient and did not allow my sister to use the bathroom and because of my actions, my sister had wet her pants. I really had no idea this would be the result of me simply using the restroom, now the family had to leave the restaurant because my sister smelled like pee and it was all my fault.
My parents were furious with me. I cried all the way home as they discussed their disappointment in me between themselves in the front seat. When we got home, I was told to stand in the family room. I stared down at the golden orange carpet. I felt like I was about to be beheaded. My sister and mother took their places just a few feet away and stood as an audience to witness my punishment. I was told to pull down my panties and tights all the way to my ankles, lift my Christian school pinafore dress and assume the familiar position. Bent over, even at 7 years old, I am embarrassed more than afraid of the pain about to come. It feels like I stand there for an eternity in this position as my father slowly removed his belt. I felt the sting of the belt, three strikes, all eyes upon me. I’m humiliated. I am a bad child and still don’t understand why. I dress myself, head up to my room confused and unable to sit down, just me and my Luden’s cough drops.
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