Apple pie and avoidance

Summer time means riding bikes, picking apples, and avoiding the abusers as much as I can. Mom and Dad are working every day. Samantha stays with us, but I am getting more and more babysitting-like responsibilities. I love hanging out with Samantha, she is teaching me to bake. Mom and Dad gave me the responsibility of planning the family menu. Each week, I will sit down and write out seven dinners for the week. Then I will go through the pantry and make the shopping list. One night a week Mom and I get to go to the store together. It is the only time that her and I get to have alone. These shopping trips are the highlight of my life. I feel comforted sitting in the car with Mom driving. I knew there were certain things I should not talk to her about. Like how I get in trouble at school, or a lesson that I was in. I wanted to keep these times happy and they always were.

This summer, Dad told me I could grow a small garden outside. I am so excited. He is helping me plan the garden. Next he will take me to buy seeds and starter plants. I choose strawberries. Dad chooses tomatoes. I choose sunflowers. Dad chooses squash.  We head off to the do-it center in town. Dad always needs some sort of hardware, and they also sell plants and seeds. I have many childhood memories of going to hardware stores with Dad. I get to go to work with Dad sometimes in the summertime. I love it so much, and I love watching my dad work. He creates beauty in restoration of homes and boats. He takes an old piece of furniture, or a house that needs work, and he restores it to better than it’s original beauty. The houses that he works on are beautiful, and he makes them one of a kind with his details. My time with Dad is special. I notice a difference in his voice when it was just him and I. He is more gentle with me, a soft calm voice while explaining his process. I want to be like Dad. To create beauty with passion.

The summer started off great. I was enjoying cooking, cleaning, and gardening. We had all this great property to explore. I would pick apples and blackberries, then come home and make some pies. Samantha showed me how to make snicker doodle cookies, and dinners for the family. Brother and I would ride our bikes to the store for ten cent candy. During the weekend, we had family time on Saturdays. Sundays I would ride along in the church van to pick up kids. We would have Children’s Church, then regular church. That didn’t seem to be so bad. Samantha also rode in a van on Sundays. She would help me to plan games and songs for my van.

The church did fundraisers a few times through the year. I did not like the fundraisers. It meant that I had to stand outside of stores and go knocking on doors asking people to buy things. We sold candy, calendars, coupon books, shirts, hats, and so many other items I don’t remember. This summer the church is having a carnival. It sounds like fun to me! At the public events, I usually don’t get in trouble. There are so many people around, and everyone is happy. I realize now as an adult that this was because they were trying to “recruit” members. The kids were always coached by the pastors right before the event happened. We needed to be on our best behavior. We are representing the church and, ultimately, Jesus. I would get scared thinking that if I did not properly represent, that someone may miss out on eternity in Heaven.

The day of the carnival has arrived, I have brought a friend who is my neighbor and not part of the church. I am proud to show that I have brought someone, as we are encouraged to have guests. Though having friends outside of the church is really difficult. How do you start up a conversation with someone you don’t know when the only places you go is the grocery store and church? I longed to have a friend. I was wearing the cutest outfit I knew because I wanted to seem normal to the neighbor girl. I was wearing a jean tank top that had a floral canvas type material inlaid in places, and jean pants. I had a great time at the carnival with my friend. Mom and Dad were walking us to the car when Pastor W and his wife came up and asked to talk to us. Everyone else got in the car while Mom, Dad and I stayed out. I was instantly nervous. Pastor W asked if we could come to their house after dropping everyone off, they needed to talk to us. I felt my stomach drop. Whatever I had done, it must have been really bad. The whole drive home, I was trying to act normal with my friend, but I was so nervous I could hardly stand it. The drive to Pastor W’s house, we were all silent. It was ominous. We got there, and the boys were all running around (of course with their shirts off) while the girls were cleaning the kitchen. It was the first time that we had been to the W family’s new house, and it was a pretty nice house. Much better than the one they lived in in Everett. I wondered what had changed? Neither one of the parent’s had jobs. How did they afford this? Brother and Sister were told to play downstairs while Mom and Dad stayed upstairs with me. The W family had a huge movie collection. It was Pastor W’s pride. He believed that we could learn many lessons from movies. The movie they chose for me tonight was “The Accused”. This is a movie starring Jodi Foster. They didn’t let me watch the whole movie, just the scene where Jodi gets raped in the bathroom of a bar. The pastor told me that the outfit I had worn to the carnival was inappropriate and I was asking to get this type of attention by wearing things like that. “Do you want to be raped?” He asked. “No!” I say. Why would I want that? How do I avoid that? Why didn’t Mom and Dad tell me that my outfit was so bad? I am feeling awful about going around wearing that. Everyone at the carnival must have thought that I was an awful person walking around wanting to be raped. Pastor W is really mad, but he tells me it is because he is concerned for me. He doesn’t want me to get in trouble. He is really painting a black picture and yelling at me, he wants me to understand. This is traumatizing. The yelling goes on for hours, and Pastor says he is tired, but the conversation isn’t done. Pastor and his wife go to their bedroom to sit on their bed. Mom, Dad, and I follow. Mom and Dad are on one side of the bed and I am on the other. Pastor says that since I dressed that way, that I must be wanting to have sex with someone. He asks me “who do you want to have sex with?” “No one” I say. He asks again, and each time I say “no one”. Because I really don’t and I am scared. Finally, I realize he is not going to stop. I start naming boys. Starting with the ones that are my age, and most of them are his sons. I am afraid the boys are listening on the other side of the door, but I don’t know what else to do. Every time I say a name, he says “no, try again”. I name every man in the church. I am crying. I am getting more desperate for the right answer. I have named everyone and he has said “no, try again”. I say “I don’t know” and I throw my hands in the air. Then Pastor points. My memory is in slow motion. He points to my Dad. He says “you want to have sex with him!” I think in my head “No I don’t!” This is where the memory stops. I blacked out. I don’t know what was said after that point. Where my memory picks up is when we are back in the car and Dad is driving home. Once again, we are silent.

This was the turning point in my relationship with Dad. I felt like he never trusted me again. I also felt like Mom didn’t trust me with him. But this was a two way street. By losing their trust, I also slowly stopped trusting them. No more trips to the hardware store with Dad, no more going to work with Dad. I longed to be close with him again, to sit on his lap and read the sports and comics in the paper. I longed to feel that trust, the mutual trust. It was lost. In that one single night, I lost our entire relationship. Because I wore that stupid tank top.

~E

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