The Stories Of My Life

The Stories Of My Life

The Chronicle of my (Not So) Religious Upbringing
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Gold edged pages tucked between laminated blue, a red ribbon draped across our latest adventure. Beside it, another blue, this one with bright images cutting through the hitherto uninterrupted span of cyan. Beyond that, green, with a golden bee drifting up the side. Then red, then white, all stowed between the warm brown of ancient wood. My childhood world, tucked away on a corner shelf.

I cannot recall when I came to know religion. I have yet to reach the point where I can say with peace and honesty that I understand it. It has always been present. What “it” is though, is another matter entirely.

In the early years, it was just another story. The Children’s Bible, the Children’s Torah, the Tao of Pooh, Treasury of Fairytales, they were all one in the same come bed time each night. They all existed together, separate but the same. My eyes were alight with the tales of great whales, rising from death-like sleep, forbidden apples, roses, lions, deals with dark beings, saviors, and magic. They were all ideas, and they all fit together, the puzzle pieces of my world.

Though I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when wonder turned to resentment, I can guess at it’s origin, in the sweltering presbyterian church of my grandparents, where dreaded Sunday mornings were wasted several times a year during dutiful family gatherings and involuntary visits when our parents gleefully dumped my younger brother and I into the arms of our waiting grandparents and would-be religious guides.

All the visits have more or less blended together into one uncomfortable blob, but there is one moment—of particular boredom, of pricking sweat, and the itching of frilly sleeves shoved up my soft six-year-old skin—which brews to the surface. It was easter. For my younger brother and I, easter was a day for bunny rabbits and chocolates. I knew the story of Jesus and some part of me must have understood he was vaguely connected to the holiday by this point, but all I remember thinking about was how much I wanted to leave that creaking church, with it’s endless lumpy-seated pews and judgmental retiree stares. I hated coming into the church, hiding behind my mother’s skirts as stampedes of white-haired people congratulated my grandparents on their lovely family, boring down on me with too-straight smiles and too-wide eyes, their skin emitting a smell something like lavender and baby powder and something else that made my little nose wrinkle.

“Stand up,” my father snapped at me when the hymns began. And up I would go, carefully placing my folded paper masterpiece at the edge of my seat before returning to my post behind my mom’s leg, my blond head just peeping over the top of the pew as I stared at my toes, wriggling between the gaps in my little white sandals.

Then there were the later years, after I began to feel the judgement of my grandparents on me, no longer deflected completely by my parents. When I resented the church not only for the uncomfortable hours stolen, but also for the hate I felt for a God I wasn't sure I believed in, a god who, if he, she, it, existed, took my aunt from me despite her faith, her strength, her kindness.

I do, despite the hazy shift from fantasy to reality, remember the moment when I was sure I would never fall into the easy classification of christian that my non-church going parents still so easily slipped into.

It was another easter. I was fourteen. I wore a green dress that my mom made me and curled my hair. I always tried to pretend it was something to look forward to. I liked dressing up. My brother had mis-buttoned his shirt, and while my mom fixed it in the shadow of the car in the church parking lot he sprinkled soft chocolate across the pale blue fabric as he chewed his way through at least half a dozen Hershey’s easter eggs.

My grandfather made some passive aggressive comment that we all pretended not to hear as we trudged across the uneven lot to the inconsequential little merit island church. I shook hands with people I didn't know, pretended to smile and took my seat quietly.

At the start of the service, I stood as directed and turned to those around me, shaking hands and murmuring “peace be with you” “peace be with you” “peace be with you” with my plaster and paint smile. I stood for the hymns I did not know and stared at the grains of wood in the great center cross. My eyes pricked and my sweat welled and in the middle of the third hymn I felt the sudden urge to scream and cry and run from the building, tearing down the gaudy pastel decorations as I went. I did not belong here. I was not this girl. If the thing this place was made for existed it did not deserve my devotion.

Why would I ever believe something that required my subjugation, my devotion, my time, my mind, my fear, my life? Why would I ever love something that could take my aunt from me and force me to return, again and again, to this white-washed place with brain-washed people who had been singing the same songs I didn't know since long before I was even the whisper of an idea on this earth?

After that I refused to go to church. My parents, who in the privacy of our own home were sympathetic, tried to sway me “for the sake of my grandparents.”

I stubbornly heard that they could love me as I was or not at all.

Though now, looking back, I see my attitude was rash, hateful, hurtful, I do not regret it. I was not wrong. I was raised by stories of all ideas, and of none. I had never been given a way of thinking and told it was the truth. On the rare occasions when I asked for clarification between reality and fairytale, my mother told me it was up to me to decide.

I remember one occasion shortly after that easter spent in the green dress, when the world had become very dark and muddled, I asked my mother with tears dripping black tracks down my cheeks and knees pulled up with a pink pillow against my chest, “Which religion is real? Which god is real?”

And she brushed my messy hair back and said, “None of them. And all of them. It doesn’t really matter. What counts is the message. And at the bottom of all the stories, all the enchantresses and gods and prophets and ideologies is just,” she shrugged, “Be Good. And you are good. So the rest is for you to decide for yourself.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve been angry. Confused maybe, but in the best sense. I have accepted the truth that I do not know, and will never know, the “truth”. Instead I explore, I ponder, I learn. I soak in every story, every opinion, every idea, and collect those that build upon that foundation handed to me. Be Good, Be Good, Be Good.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6dCxo7t_aE
Cover Image Credit: Marian College

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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The Notre Dame Cathedral–Such A Loss Of History And Beauty, But What A Gift It Was To Experience It

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After the massive fire that devastated large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 850-year-old cathedral's spire fell. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to share in the nation's sorrow but gave hope for the future. This includes the rebuilding of the cathedral together and making it more beautiful than ever. "The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched," Macron said.

Tyler Reid

Among many others, Tyler Reid is saddened for Paris and the church. Although, she counts herself blessed to have seen it such a short time before it was destroyed. Reid, who was lucky enough to visit the amazing structure this past spring break, remarked:

My trip was filled with so many wonderful sites. Although, because Notre Dame carries the title of most-visited monument in Europe, my expectations were high. When I first walked up, there isn't one specific feeling I got; instead, it was more of a million thoughts running though my head. Once inside, looking at the massive stained glass windows combined with all the details in every crevice, it was hard for me to imagine people actually building this without the technology we have today. This hand crafted masterpiece really is so influential considering people still went there to worship, even after so much time has past and so many other cathedrals had been built. This proves how special the Notre Dame Cathedral really is. Due to my experience here, hearing about the fire hurt my heart, especially thinking about how some of the irreplaceable artworks and all of this history may be gone. This place truly influenced people, including me, and for it to be gone is a true tragedy.

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