Other than being busy, this portion of my story has been slow in coming because it's been difficult trying to capture all of 'what I felt' and 'why I felt it' from events that happened 35 years ago. I have to keep reminding myself - and therefore remind you - that I'm only trying to relate my religious journey. There's no way I can capture the totality of my experience. Instead I just have to do the best I can to tell you what I remember.
For 7th grade, instead of the small rural 6 room/6 class public school I'd attended all my life with the same 20 or so kids (where the principal was also the 6th grade teacher, his wife was the 2nd grade teacher, and each year we put on a Christmas/religious-themed Operetta), I rode the bus into town to attend the junior high. It was scary. I had a locker; I'd never worked a combination lock before (or a key lock, either). I had to find classrooms; 7 of them, by door number, and 7 different teachers. I'd rarely seen so many kids in one place. And remember - this was a small town of only 10,000 people, but to me might as well have been New York City.
By the middle of that school year, my father's arthritis no longer permitted him to maintain our 10 acres or to work a paying job anymore, so we moved into a trailer and lived on his army retirement pay. I will point out that my mother would not pitch in to work the farm (beyond keeping house, as she'd always done) nor did she get a job to add to the family funds. There was a lot of unspoken trauma and drama related to the move.
So now I lived in town. I took this change the same way I'd well-learned how to take everything else I couldn't control: shut up, smile, and stay out of the way. Be happy and go play. Despite everything I knew getting turned upside down, shook out, and sold off at garage sales. Despite going from a relatively good sized 3 bedroom house and 10 acres to a cramped 3 bedroom trailer on a lot only about 20 feet wider than it was.
Making friends at school was as hard as it ever had been - and as hard as it would be throughout my life. But I did make a few. One was a girl who lived right down the hill from the trailer park. She turned out to be the junior high principal's daughter and we became best friends. Her family was Southern Baptist, but that fact only effected me in that her mother was an overly-strict bitch who was always calling my friend in to do chores or such like, still spanked my friend at the age of 13 for disobedience or back-talk, and my friend could never play on Sundays because she had church then went to her grandmother's house.
Another friend went to one of those types of churches.... well, I don't remember anymore which denomination exactly it was, but the one Sunday I accompanied her the congregation was loud, unruly, and did a lot of shaking and spoke in tongues. Very different from the mild, unemotional services I'd attended a few years earlier. It was strange. I didn't go back.
I wish I could adequately relate how ignorant I was. I wasn't allowed to watch much TV and usually preferred being outside playing anyway. I could name a lot of the NFL and college football teams and their mascots, and baseball teams, because I watched sports with my father on the weekends, but I didn't know who, for example, David or Shawn Cassidy were. Or the Beatles. Or the Monkeys. We watched Lawrence Welk. And Hee-Haw. And Bonanza. When I was home during the summers, I sometimes watched the daytime talk shows and soap operas with my mother and grandmother.
We moved several more times during my teen years. In 8th grade, I was at a bigger, meaner school in a suburb of Little Rock. That was a huge shock to my system. For 9th grade, a another school in a different city. Then for 10th and 11th grade, we moved back out to the country, to a 5 acre lot in a town with a population of 2,000, with the entire K-12 on one campus.
Now that I've set the stage, next time I'll fill in some details and try to stick to the main topic.