I found a measure of freedom "visiting at a friend’s house," where there weren’t so many watchful eyes around. If there were, they rarely knew what to watch for. So, in the middle years I managed to taste some of the joys of climbing trees, exploring dry riverbeds, and wandering miles on end through open fields. My favorite place was the beach, where one could wander endlessly, climbing over rocky points, exploring caves, and marveling at all kinds of sea creatures. There was also the added thrill of occasionally getting caught in some distant cove when the tide came in… but one only had to swim out and around to be saved. As wonderful as these times were, they were still stolen moments, and added to my growing burden of guilty pleasures.
Then one day a neighbor invited me to come to a surf club meeting. They met at someone’s house (a schoolteacher, so my parents approved) during the week, where they sat around and talked. Then on weekends they car-pooled to surf at local beaches (which my parents would only approve if I did not participate in the surfing). I could hardly wait.
The house was packed with so many people when I arrived that every inch of living room floor space was taken, and kids were spilling out down hallways and into the dining room. All of these were surf enthusiasts? The furniture was taken by adults. A particular figure seated in the middle of the couch looked like a priest. Not that I had ever seen one outside of movies, but he had on a backwards collar and a black suit. Not long into his speech, I discovered he was a missionary from Africa.
Africa! One of my all-time favorite places, since one of my heroes was Tarzan. He told some interesting stories about his experiences, which I enjoyed very much, even though they had nothing to do with surfing. Then something very strange happened. They passed around grape juice and soda crackers so that we could all "commune" together. Whatever that was. While we were holding our little snacks (they were so little!) the missionary took out the Bible and read two warnings. The gist of it was that anyone who was not worthy to eat and drink these little specialties, would be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ – my father only said that when he was angry or extremely emotional: usually before a complete blow-up was about to occur. My inner warning signals began to go off. Besides that, I was having an increasingly difficult time carrying the burden of my own sins around. Adding murder to them would probably kill me. So, even though I would have enjoyed communing with these nice people, I quietly set my little snack aside.
Which somebody named "Crazy Ed" took notice of.
When everything was over, he cornered me at the front door and asked if I would like to go into one of the back rooms and talk for a while. Not really. I began looking around for that teacher. Our eyes connected above a sea of heads, and in a few moments, she was beside us. Whew! I was about to whisper into her ear that this guy was way past high school age and he had just invited me into –
"I see you’ve met Crazy Ed!" Her eyes sparkled like he was Santa Clause. "We call him crazy because he will do anything to--"
"You got any empty rooms back there, Barb?" He used her first name (how inappropriate was that?). "This girl has never met Jesus."
"Sure. You can use my room."
Oh, God. I started to shake. I was petrified, and my feet felt like they were rooted in cement. But the teacher put an arm around me and propelled me down the hall to the master bedroom. At that point, I wasn’t about to let go of her, because there was no way I was going in there by myself. My parents would hit the roof if they found out, and probably put me on restriction until I was thirty. I was not allowed to date until next year (when I would turn sixteen), or ever be alone with any boy – much less, a MAN with curly blonde hair that was too long… and a tan that looked like he lived at the beach...
"Why are you stopping?"
Because, Lilly, this is a blog, not a biography. It’s getting too long.
"What did you even start it for then?"
I don’t know. All this delving into character suddenly made me want to understand my own, I guess. More often than not, who I really am eludes me. Especially with all of you crowding around. Every once in a while I have to remind myself.
"But you can’t stop in the middle. Tell her, Professor."
"If D. Ann Graham stops in the middle of anything, she will inevitably return to finish it later. I suggest we all meet back here on Monday to hear the conclusion."
"Oh, drat – it’s a weekend, already."
What’s happening on the farm today: The arctic freeze has passed, and there is a pleasant dripping off the eves of my study. It shouldn’t be long now before the water pipe at the horse trough unfreezes. Tomorrow will be a wonderful day…
Habit status: Day 9 round 2 (interrupted but still consistent)