Sleeping on the Steps

 

I am becoming more involved with Kid’s Club on Sunday mornings. Kid’s Club was our name for Sunday School. There were a few vans that would drive around Everett, Lake Stevens, and Marysville. It seemed weird that parents would send their children away with almost perfect strangers, in an unmarked van, to a place that they weren’t attending themselves, but we had a lot of kids to pick up. Samantha was the person who got me interested in helping with Kid’s Club. Her and I were game leaders in two of the vans. Every Saturday night, her and I would get together to make the games to play the next day. This was the only structured art in my life since there was very rarely art projects at school. I really loved planning and constructing these games. It was a great distraction. To be honest, the kids never wanted to play games or sing songs in the morning. Who does? They have just been pulled out of bed early on the weekend. They don’t want a peppy Christian teenager forcing them to sing songs or play games. The van leaders would sit on the floor in order to be able to jump out quickly and get children from their homes. At the time, I never thought about how dangerous or illegal riding without my seat belt could be. The drivers never said much to the kids while we were leading games and songs, but I felt the pressure to perform. There were meetings one Saturday a month and we were judged on how well we were involved with the kids in the van. I was usually rated the worst. I did not like forcing the kids to do anything. This would mean a stern lecture, but since all the pastor’s kids were involved in the performances at Kid’s Club, they didn’t have many options for van leader. But I had dreams. I wanted to make the van ride a good experience for the kids. I would get in trouble for talking to them about their lives, instead of sticking to the routine of games and songs. I was supposed to be giving a good example of Jesus by playing a game and singing a song. I rather enjoyed learning about their lives. The games were just fun for art projects.

Kid’s Club was not connected with an adult church service. They would fill the auditorium with kids, and put on a “show”. There was a puppet show, songs, games, and a message. It was fun for the kids. During this time, I could hide. It was a large group, and I didn’t have any responsibilities during the show. I knew that the pastors didn’t want me to “minister” to any children, for fear I would get a big head. So I just watched. I also realized that since I was part of the “leadership” that I could not participate in any of the games, or receive any prizes. As long as I stayed out of the spotlight, I was okay with not playing or prizes. The worst part for me was to see Sister not be able to participate because her parents were a member of the church. I think that member’s children should play just as much as non members. But they pushed her and Brother aside to make way for “new kids”. The pastors figured that we were already reaping so many benefits from the church, that we didn’t deserve to have fun also.

When Kid’s Club was finished, I would ride in the van to drive kids home. Then the van would go back to the church and our family would wait there for early evening service to begin. Sometimes we went to lunch. From week to week, we never knew how late a service would go. Some Sundays I would be up before 7 am, and wouldn’t get home until after midnight. I learned to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the sunrise. This was the only time of day that was my own. The church was in Everett at this time. The services are attended by adults, who are members, and their children. There are rarely guests. The only ones separated are the babies in the back room so that their crying won’t interrupt. ┬áThese services also involve music and sometimes a skit followed by a service. I never figured out a pattern to good nights and bad nights. I would do my best to feel if there was pressure in the air, but the pastors were good at hiding it until the moment of explosion. I could tell instantly by the look on either of the pastor’s faces whether they were upset or in a good mood. When they were upset, this meant a long night. You better hope you had a good lunch and dinner, because there would be no eating for a while. Some nights, if it would get too intense, the pastors would ask the children to leave. We would wait on the steps, but could still hear the yelling. Most of the kids would fall asleep on the steps, but I never could. I would stay awake until it was time to go home. The kids would always start off playing games together or talking, we were afraid of making too much noise or they would hear us and come out to yell at us to be quiet.

One night, we were kicked out to the steps. It was a warm summer night and we decided to play on the lawn of the church. We could hear the yelling but that was normal. Suddenly, the doors to the church burst open and a female member came running out screaming and holding the side of her head. I could see there was blood coming from her ear and trickling through her fingers down her hand. It was Sue. Sue woman was a woman who had babysat Brother and I before Sister was born. I was friends with her daughter and Brother was friends with her son. Sue ran past us all, and her left shoe fell off. She was a small woman, probably as tall as me. We were all stunned when Sue ran right past us and out into the middle of the street. Cars stopped for her as she clutched her bleeding head yelling “help me, help me!” Her husband, who is over six feet, came walking quickly out of the church. He went to the middle of the street and picked her up, kicking and screaming, and carried her back in to the church. Cars continued on their way, I picked up her shoe and put it on the church step. I wondered first of all what happened, and second of all why no one helped her. After they went back inside, everyone else came out quickly. I knew what was happening. They were all afraid that the cops were going to be called. This was a big fear in the church. That someone would call the cops and kids would be taken away. We all had to clear out. I had already started gathering Sister and Brother. Mom and Dad were quiet on the drive home. I had so many questions, but was afraid to ask. I knew that probably Sue and her family were going to Pastor M or Pastor W’s house to finish their meeting. I felt sorry for them. After that night, we never saw Sue or her family again. I missed Sue’s daughter, she was good company while sitting on the steps.

~E

 

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I’m Not Finished Yet

I want to yell until there is silence

Cry until there’s no more tears

Run ’til there’s no more earth

Away from and toward my own rebirth.

Longing for a fresh new day

New life, new air

We’ve lost our way.

Keep looking toward the sun

Run

Run

Run.

To create the art

That’s buried deep

It’s all that you have left

Until the Deep

Sleep.

Do I make any sense?

Do you understand?

It doesn’t matter

I’ll say it again.

I’ll say it forever

Until there is silence.

And all is one.

~E

all-is-one-with-the-universe-earth-holistic-planet-cosmos-symbol

Three legged one eyed cattle dog

Being told that I wanted to have sex with my Dad made me question my every motive and thought. The thought of what they had told me made me sick. But they had to be right, because they heard from God, and their voice was so loud that it echoed in my mind. Maybe I was trying to seduce Dad every time that I went to work with him. I can’t believe that I didn’t know this about myself. I wanted to avoid the subject at any cost. As much as it hurt me, I stayed away from Dad. It was hard because some days he would work at the barn while us kids were home. I would stay away from the barn. He would come in the house for lunch and I would have it made but I wouldn’t bring it to him. I would not allow myself to get close to Dad. I felt like my heart was breaking, I was grieving the loss of my childhood joy and innocence. I could never, ever be close to Dad again. I knew this, and it killed me.

This summer Ted was working for Dad. He would work in the barn with Dad and some other guys. The guys who worked for Dad had to come to the house to use the bathroom. Ted would come in to use the bathroom. On his way in and out he would take time to say hi to me and look at me in a way I can only describe as creepy. I was not sure how to handle this behavior. I knew I had to handle it on my own since telling someone about it hadn’t worked. I decided that I would play outside a lot. Brother and I rode our bikes up and down our road two to three times a day. It was about a six mile round trip to the neighborhood store for penny candy. We would ride that a few times a day while Samantha watched Sister. It was a good way to pass the time. There was a three legged one eyed cattle dog along the route. He was named Herb. Herb liked to bark and chase us, so I always packed a bottle of water to squirt at him. I would rather have faced that dog three times a day than face Ted once. Brother and I had to be home during lunchtime so we could make Dad lunch. We would go outside while the guys ate in the kitchen. Brother and I would swing on the rope swing or climb trees. Ted would go out with us and watch me climbing and swinging. I did my best to ignore, but I felt my privacy invaded. I wondered “did Dad ever notice Ted missing from lunch or taking frequent lunch breaks?” It was so obvious to me. I hoped that Ted would do something stupid and Dad would have to fire him. Ted did a lot of stupid things, but Dad couldn’t fire him since he was a Pastor W child. I felt trapped.

I established a few ways of escape in my mind. Like trips to the grocery store with Mom. I could never talk to her about Dad or Ted, but when we went to the store I could pretend we were normal, or that we had different lives. I saw girls my age at the store and wondered what their lives were like. I would imagine their life, and then I would imagine a different life for myself.

Another escape would be to find a hiding place where I could write. There was a place on the front porch of the old house on our property where if I sat down, no one could see me. Sitting in this place, I had a view of the whole valley. I would draw the hills and the trees, and I could write poems about nature and beauty. In this place, I would never get wet when it rained or sunburned in the sun. I never shared my drawings or poems. I don’t know what happened to them. They were just a tool for that time in my life, and they served their purpose.

~E