When I was a teenager, I moved around a lot. And one of the families
that I lived with was Pentacostal. The father was a Pentacostal
minister, and his 2 daughters were my best friends at the time.
Sister B., the wife and mother, let me live there for a few months,
in her home, as she was often taking in stray children. Elder W
(I'll try not to slander him) was quiet and aloof, and didn't say
Living there involved a lot of church-going. Tuesday was Bible study
night. Friday was Youth night. Sunday was church almost all day,
and then a big dinner at someone's house, usually the W's. There
were usually a half dozen single moms there, with thier kids, joining
us. That's partly where I first learned to cook soul food... greens
and grits and ham hocks and fried chicken and collards and real
macaroni and cheese, in the kitchen with Sister B. and the girls.
I was intrigued by the whole situation at church, because of my
more somber latin-mass Catholic background. I was amazed by the
singing, wailing, testifying and speaking in tongues. The music
moved me, but I saw it as a sort of powerful magic that took people
over, instead of a real spiritual experience taking place.
I was the only white girl, and they had to teach me how to clap
on the "right" beat, before I was allowed in the choir. But, I loved
the choir, and the swaying back and forth and the clapping and the
swell of sound we produced behind the soloist, who was frequently
my best friend or her sister.
Elder W. had to go to a huge Pentacostal revival/convention in Memphis
while I was living there, and the whole family went. We went in
a RV. I loved that long trip down and back, in the back of it with
my two friends, and we sang all the way there and back. At the convention,
I was part of a HUGE revival in a convention center, unlike anything
I'd ever seen. I remember an old lady had a heart attack during
I was also amazed by the wealth of the other ministers families.
The W's were well off, for sure, but the number of furs and diamond
rings I saw in Memphis was astonishing.
I lived with the W's for a while during my senior year of highschool,
and it was a happy safe time... I liked being with my girls, having
sisters :) Even now, I have flashes of sensual memories from that
house... the smell of cocoa butter lotion, and baby powder, and
the coconut in hair pomade. The memory of macaroni and cheese makes
my stomach growl. Certain songs pop into my head... Jesus is
the Balm of Gilliad... I still clap on the right beat. I never
joined the church officially, or did I? I can't remember. I think
at one point I thought I was going to but I'm not sure if I did.
It was more of a ritual, than anything, and the pressure of everyone
around me certainly played a role.
I had a job after school, working at a fast food joint. That allowed
me to have my own spending money, and I did my share of chores at
the house to pay them for letting me live there.
One day after work, I was walking to the bus, or maybe I was just
walking nowhere, I don't remember. A big white caddy drove up alongside
me. I knew who it was - it was Elder W. He rolled down the window
and said he'd give me a ride. I hopped in and we drove off. I had
never been in his car before... I'd never seen a car with leather
interiors like that, or a little built in TV or tinted windows...
we drove in silence and I just checked out the car...
But then I looked out the window. We weren't going in the right
direction. We had left the main road. And *clunk clunk* down went
the door locks, and suddenly I had a fat pudgy hand between my legs.
I sunk my finger nails into his hand and snarled "If you don't
move your hand, I swear I will testify on Sunday and tell your entire
congregation about you."
He unlocked the doors immediately and withdrew the hand. I jumped
out. I never went "home"... I left everything I had there (Again.
My life is scattered amongst so many homes) and never went back.
Never called. Never explained. I dodged the girls because I could
never tell them why I left. He was a holy man.
Many many years later, as an adult, I read in the paper that Sister
B. had died. Died young, from the diabeties that tired her out so
often. I wanted to go to the funeral or the wake, because she had
been good to me. But I was scared.
Not long after, I was in a department store, and I saw a familar
face... I soon recognized it was D., one of the fatherless children
who used to be at Sunday dinner with his mother every week. All
grown up now. He was fervent with the "Holy Ghost", bouncing off
the walls and testifying behind his register to me. I was amused,
a little sad... as I listened to his answer to my "How are you?"
but then I heard him say
And I got the Most Wonderful News recently! You aren't going to
believe it! Elder W is my FATHER! Isn't that incredible!?!"
I almost threw up. I wondered how many other single women in that
church he had fathered children with.
I couldn't speak. So I left.
I still have the bible they gave me, to remind me.