Thursday, January 5, 2012

Church Girl Meets Bad Boy

Note:  This is Chapter 3 in a series called Telling My Story.

Most of us have contrasts and contradictions in our personalities and I am no exception.  Nevertheless, the contrasts between my parents personalities and life-styles was enough to cause your eyes to roll back in your head, if not create flat out schizophrenia. Maybe it did, and I simply haven't told myself yet.

From my father I learned an air of self-assurance and the ability to perform in public.  Later on I realized that my introspective side, the desire to have time alone with no noise and no distractions, came from my quiet and very shy mother.  She was a quintessential "church girl" in her youth, faithfully attending services three times a week with her family - Sunday morning and evening as well as midweek Bible studies.  Her family was strictly religious, abstaining from anything their church considered worldly, which was pretty much everything except food and water.  They were basically like Mennonites without the bonnets and buggies.

Then, when she was fifteen, she went to visit a friend one Saturday afternoon, and there she met my father.  He was 17 and happened to be a cousin of the friend's and was stopping by to stir things up a little.  He was a bad boy, with a bit of a reputation, from a wild and woolly family.  He rode a motorcycle and had a killer smile that could weaken knees.  Mom's knees were immediately afflicted.

Mom was the top student in her high school, and was already scheduled to become the valedictorian of her class by the first semester of her senior year.  But by then, much to her mother's chagrin, she had been dating my dad for a year and a half and he persuaded her to quit school just before Christmas and marry him.  

At seventeen and nineteen, with only the bride and groom's respective mothers present as witnesses they were married by mom's pastor at her little white clapboard church.  Time proved that it was not a "shotgun wedding", as no doubt some suspected at the time, but neither was it a match made in heaven.

He drank, she was a tee-total-er.  He smoked, she hated the smell.  He liked to party, she liked to read quietly.  He liked to run around, she was a homebody.  He was funny, witty, and a raconteur.  Everybody liked him. She was a loner who had almost no sense of humor, and as is generally the case when that happens, she had no clue as to how solemn she seemed to others.  While he came across as the life of the party, she unwittingly came across as a party-pooper.

He was, and always would be, the love of her life, but she didn't know how to handle the life he lived, and she could hardly believe what she had gotten herself into.  While she was faithful, loyal, and worked hard to make the marriage work, he was faithless and disloyal in the most heartbreaking ways.

My dad's family lived in a house built, oddly enough, between two public institutions:  there was a neighborhood tavern on one side of them, and a local church on the other.  My grandmother used to say she lived "half-way between heaven and hell."  Mom must have felt much the same way.

As the years went by, even the way they each earned a living was illustrative of their personalities and their life-style choices.  Dad worked in the oil field (or the oil patch as it was called) while mom became a nurse.  Dad, although meticulous about his personal grooming off the job, came home from the rig covered in mud and even slick black oil, while mom went to work in spotless while uniforms with white shoes, and a stiffly starched white cap.

If black represented sin and white represented purity, they were surely a study in contrasts:  he was the worldly hedonist, she was the pious church-goer.  As my father's drinking got worse, mom's introversion deepened; now the pain and humiliation of being married to an alcoholic was added to the private terror of never knowing when he would quit his job and go on a binge, or be fired for showing up with a hangover.

We moved a lot, because once the well was brought in we were off to the next field; thus, we (my sister and I) were always the "new kids in school" .  There was no possibility of putting down any roots. 
Once, when I was in fourth grade and had been at that school about a month, another girl came up to me and said, "Marsha, you sure do make friends fast."

I replied, "Well, if I don't make friends fast, I wouldn't have any friends."  I attended that school for three months until we moved once again.

So while I was learning to perform well publicly, I was also learning to be sad and lonely privately.  I learned to say goodbye without ever expecting to be in contact with those being left behind.  We did not exchanges addresses (I didn't know where I would be next.)

A deep and unsuspected pattern was being formed; the ability to walk away and not look back.  But with each new school, soon followed by each broken friendship with sad goodbyes, I was learning to live without any real connections. 

It was not a healthy lesson and it was learned too young to know how deeply it would impact my life.

Question:  Did you grow up in one place or move around?  How do you think it impacted your life?


  1. I always admired people who coped so well even in the face of moving constantly. I don't think I would have done so well. We still live in the same town where my husband and I were born, and in fact live in my granparents' house (which we bought) which is a pasture away from my parents and two pastures away from one of my sisters.

  2. It sounds like a difficult childhood for you. Coping with chalk and cheese parents and an itinerant lifestyle.
    Apart from moving from England to Down Under I stayed in The same house during the rest of my childhood. Then the moving started from country to country. I'm glad I had a stable childhood in place and family. I think it made me feel confident and grounded. But my life fell apart as a teenager.

  3. I've always been amazed by people who were able to move from school to school and do well. I stayed in the same place all my life, and am still only 15 minutes from my childhood home. I think I would have had a hard time making friends if I moved as often as you did.
    Your story is very interesting.

  4. Isn't it amazing how opposites attract? I hear the stories constantly and I am always interested in the compromises they make in order for the marriages to stay in tact.

    No, I grew up in the same house in the same little town but my dad was an alcoholic and my mother eventually joined him so my childhood was very unstable. I used the same techniques you used to survive and could walk away and not look back.....

    Thank goodness God has a plan for each of us.....

  5. Good morning to each of the above:
    I think I'll start from the last comment from Nancy and work my way back up to the first one.

    Nancy, YES! Thank goodness God has a plan for each of us - and the next chapter will begin to tell about the unfolding of that plan - how I sometimes cooperated with God and at other times messed it up completely. Don't we all?

    Mari - We are each unique in His sight, and we each have an "interesting story" - isn't it amazing that God himself is interested in each of us?

    Diane - I have not heard that expression "chalk and cheese" for years, but I always liked it! And it sure fit the bill here. I am sorry your life was difficult as a teenager, that is such a tough time, at best. Good to hear from you, as always.

    Shelley - That kind of family stability is almost beyond my comprehension. What a blessing! I so enjoy your blog and am always glad when you comment here.

    Blessings to each of you ... Marsha

  6. As your story unfolds, so do each of our stories as we read this. I stayed in basically the same home, one move a short distance away, for all of my growing up years. I found other reasons to go my own way anyway for lots of those years. :) We all have a book full of chapters making up our stories, and it's the later chapters that seem to make sense of the earlier ones.

    I'm so enjoying these writings!

  7. We moved only twice in my childhood, but that did not give me a handle on security. I was a very shy and insecure girl. Thank you for your honesty and your very interesting story!

  8. Sonja - You are right - it is the later chapters that seem to make sense of the early ones.

    Saleslady371 - Stability doesn't always work out to security, does it. Loved your post today about your mom. Hope she is doing well.

  9. Oh Marsha, I'm drawn in to your story! I am so glad you are writing it down for us.

    The contrasts between your dad and mom seem wide. But often opposites do attract. I know my husband and I are that way but we've come to appreciate those differences and enjoy one another immensely.

    I can only imagine though how difficult it must have been to move so much and leave the friends you made. Early on in my life, we moved several times. But once I was in second grade, we stayed put and I graduated from high school in the same town with my same friends. Many of them are still my friends even though I live across the country from them now.

  10. Debbie - Yes, that opposites attract thing, can either be a blessing or ... not. :) Glad for you it is a blessing.