When I was in the fifth grade, my dad found religion. We started going to Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Washington, with Pastor Ken Blue. There was a deaf ministry with sign language interpreters so my mom could know what was being said. We went Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.
Pastor Blue was a hell fire and brimstone Southern Baptist preacher. Tithing was a favorite topic, as was “spare the rod spoil the child”. It was the only period in my life when I as beaten with a belt across my bare bottom. I was 10 and had started wearing a bra at the age of 9. It was not right for my bottom to be bared and whipped.
My dad was the mechanic for the fleet of school buses that went out and picked up kids for Sunday school. He also did a puppet show for kid’s church. He was around a lot of children. A lot of little girls.
I was at an age where I started to pass him up intellectually. He was very threatened by me. Pretty much, he didn’t like women period. At least not intelligent women. My mom and I were both smarter than he was. He didn’t like us. He didn’t have much interaction with me except, of course, when we were alone together. When he had control.
Sometimes there would be Sunday outings after church. The buses would take the kids to the park for a picnic. There’d be hot dogs, chips, punch.
On one such outing, I went along with my dad. Lonely little girls were attracted to my father, who actively sought and encouraged their attention and affection. I remember one little girl, perhaps 5 or 6, sitting on his lap for hours, her arm around his neck while my father rubbed and caressed her shoulders, back and ran his fingers through her hair. They were kissing and nuzzling one another. I watched my father from afar as he told various passersby, “This is my other daughter.”
That day, I died inside.
“Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” -Mitch Albom