Friday, October 29, 2010


Freewriting today . . . same old exercise makes me work.

Rick Bragg, The Prince of Frogtown, p. 199

“We rode a bus halfway across the country, on faith.”

Carol and me, we were friends for as long as I can remember, even though Carol was a Seventh-Day Adventist. I was supposed to be some sort of Pentecostal but I almost never went to church, not even on Christmas Day or Easter Sunday. Grandma hated it that Mama and Daddy stopped going to church because Grandma was such a holy roller. Grandma said there was only one thing worse than those poinsettia and lily Christians—that’s those Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter—and that was those that never went at all. “You can’t even call yourself Christian,” she would say to me with a harumpf. Guess I could have gone to church with Grandma but I didn’t bother. Besides, Carol couldn’t play on Saturday and we needed all day Sunday to catch up. We cut out paper dolls and collected bugs in jars and made daisy-chain necklaces. When we got older we spent the whole day looking at teen idol magazines. Once I spent a whole week with Carol at vacation bible school. They showed me pictures of Jesus with the lambs and Jesus smiling at little children. We sang a song—yes, Jesus Loves Me, the bible tells me so. But the food was awful at the vacation bible school—some sort of mushy beans and carrot sticks and green Kool-Aid in a little Dixie Cup. And the church basement smelled bad like Grandma’s basement if a whole bunch of cats had peed there. The smell gave me a headache, I couldn’t eat the food, and I was beginning to think that no, Jesus didn’t really love me. When Miss Hooper, the bible school teacher asked me if I might want to join them in the church, I just looked at the floor and said, “No, ma’am, my Mama and Daddy wouldn’t allow that.” I had no idea if Mama and Daddy even cared, but I couldn’t see myself being Seventh-Day Adventist. Carol and I stayed friends even though I didn’t join her church. By the time we were starting high school even Carol was getting sick of the church thing. She was giving her mama lip about going to church school and she kept getting punished for it. But Carol said she was feeling rebellious and she admitted to me that she wasn’t even sure she believed in Jesus any more. My mama and daddy were bugging me too, but not over the Jesus question, that’s for sure. Mama and Daddy didn’t understand me at all. They didn’t understand that I wanted to see the world, that I was tired of the small town ways and the people who lived there. Carol wanted to go to Chicago because her cousin Minnie moved to Chicago. Minnie had been sending Carol letters telling her that in Chicago people were free to think and feel what they wanted, that kids our age were so much more grown up, so sophisticated in Chicago. We believed that we could become the people we wanted to be in Chicago. But Carol and I both knew that our parents would never let two 15-year-old girls go to Chicago on our own. So one morning in May we pretended we were leaving for school. We took a few things and money we had been saving and we hitched a ride to the bus station. We bought two one-way tickets to Chicago. We didn’t believe in Jesus, we believed in Chicago. We rode a bus halfway across the country, on faith.

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