Before we joined the cult, I loved celebrating the holidays. Each year would bring many opportunities to get together with family. Brother and I could play with our cousins. The parties were always loud and fun. There would be love and laughter radiating from the house. We had a few years of family parties after we joined the cult, but after a while we stopped getting together with family.

The whole season from Halloween to the new year I longed to be with family. I would sit and imagine parties and being together again. However, my feelings were conflicted. If we did get a chance to see our family, then we had to have a meeting with one of the pastors. They would ask us what we talked to the family about, then they would tell us if we had said anything wrong. Usually I got in trouble for not “sharing my feelings” with the family. I was supposed to tell them what they were doing wrong in their lives, and how they weren’t following the Lord. I did not like the pressure of seeing family. I would be distracted the whole time, thinking about what I was supposed to be saying or doing. In a way, not seeing the family was easier. It was easier because I wasn’t getting in trouble from the pastors or feeling awkward at family parties. It was hard not to see the family. My heart longed to spend time with them, but my heart was turning cold.

Each Christmas, there would be a play. Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol was acted out by the pastors’ kids and anyone else who was right with the Lord at that time. I longed to be part of the play, because that is how you knew you were doing something right. I was also very nervous to be in front of people. This year, Dad was playing Bob Cratchit and Brother was playing Tiny Tim. Mom was not in the play, and Sister was too young. I would be helping backstage, with costumes and scene set up. Since he was Pastor W’s son, Ted would be a director backstage, as well as having a small part in the play. It was very fun to help backstage, but I had to do my best to avoid Ted. There were times where I would be placed in a dark corner backstage, and he would always find me. He would not do much, but it was still a violation. I couldn’t move or I would not be able to do my job. I didn’t want to draw attention to what he was doing. I had already told on him once, and no one had believed me. So I just stayed. Physically, I was standing there, emotionally, I was running away. I would detach myself so I wasn’t feeling afraid, mad, and violated. The moment would pass and the show continues as if nothing happened. The church did the play three days in a row right before Christmas. I thought it was a pretty good production, but I hadn’t seen another play; maybe just once with Grandpa to the Nutcracker when I was younger.

We had a small Christmas at home. It wasn’t a big family party, but it was our own day and I was grateful for that. It was a day with just our family at home. We didn’t have to talk to anyone from the church and it felt like a day off. Christmas was happy and relaxed. Even though I had been through some pretty tough lessons this year, Mom and Dad still got me presents. Dad liked to take us on adventures, so we went to Snoqualmie Pass to sled in the snow. For one day, we felt normal. This type of quiet Christmas was becoming our new normal. It was fun, and for one day, we were happy.


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