Kids say the darndest things, but at the tender age of four, my words may have served me with a one-way ticket to Hell.
“Jesus f*cking Christ!” I exclaimed after mom put the kibosh on my demands for a chocolate bar at the checkout line.
To her horror, two nuns in full habit were within earshot.
I bet they couldn’t believe such foul language could come from such an adorable pig-tailed preschooler.
Mom was shocked, but not surprised.
To be fair, I was only echoing a familiar sentiment I heard on multiple occasions from my dad – a handsome James-Dean-type who was kicked out of Catholic school in the ninth grade for riding a motorcycle across the soccer field.
Although she wasn’t religious herself, Mom decided I better start going to church.
She enlisted the help of her devout Catholic mother in law, Nana Mary, who dutifully took me to my first service.
We sat in a pew near the back, just a row down from a group of nuns.
From the towering Virgin Mary statue and distraught-looking man nailed to a cross, to the priest who seemed to be speaking in tongues, I felt a little fearful, restless and totally out of place. That was until he started speaking my language.
“Nana, I’m so hungry, I whispered. “Why does he keep talking about cheeses?”
I don’t recall ever returning to church with my grandmother for another Sunday service, but my spiritual journey wouldn’t end there.
Back in the early 80s, divorce was a lot different than it was today – you didn’t really hear much about shared custody.
Dad took my baby brother, Clayton, and I just once every second Sunday under supervised visits.
Deemed mentally ill and unfit for work, there was no child support or rest for my poor mom – a twenty-something year old cashier who never expected to become a single parent.
Money was tight and mom was physically, mentally and spiritually depleted.
One Sunday morning mom’s prayers were answered, and they came in the form of two ‘pleasant enough’ looking women sporting long skirts and tight buns at the top of their heads.
Word in the hood was they were prowling our low-income townhouse complex for kids. They knocked on the door asking if they could whisk us away in their rusty blue van for a religious experience.
Mom practically pushed us out the front door.
“I just needed a few hours to myself,” mom would later admit.
Heck, I don’t blame her. I would have done the same.
To this day, I can’t recall what religion we were thrown into, but I do remember the free jelly donuts and a catchy cult-like song that still gets stuck in my head 30 years later.
“I love Jesus, he’s the one that pleases. I love Jesus all the time I hate the Devil, he’s not on the level, I hate the Devil all the time.”
Rinse and repeat.
To be continued….
Like what you just read? This is just a teaser from my unpublished book of personal essays: ‘What if they think we’re geeks?’
From the editor of the award-winning ‘blogazine’ Valley Mom, What if They Think We’re Geeks is a total must-read cringe-fest that celebrates the trials and triumphs of a socially awkward sober socialite with a wonky eye and an unfortunate side part.
Essay themes range from mental illness and puberty to failure, friendship and the shit show of parenting. Stay tuned.