The Summer I was 12 years old was a big one for me. It was the end of an era in many ways. I wasn’t a child anymore physically, though mentally I was far from an adult. This is the Summer I decided I was done with Christianity. I was done with heavy handed adults telling me I was going to hell if I didn’t do what theysaid, not necessarily what the Bible said. There is a difference and I was smart enough to pick up on that early on.
“You’re going,” my Grandmother said sternly in her no nonsense tone. She was a rotund woman who always smelled of baby powder and Far and Away perfume and she was terrifying to me with her wrinkled arms crossed under her extremely large bust. She didn’t tap her foot or do anything more overt than glare, but I knew she was disappointed. Her disappointment cut me open to the core and I could feel all of my good feelings bleed out and disappear into the carpeting. I could hear it leak into the basement and disappear into the dirt. I could feel it slide down the hill to float away in the stream near our house as she continued to glare.
“But, I don’t know anyone. Why do I have to go to church camp? I’m not old enough to stay in the dorms. I don’t know this preacher and his kids and they don’t know me. I don’t want to go!” I whined as much as I could without crossing that line where she would be spitting mad and I would be doing some horrible chore as punishment. “Dad said I didn’t have to go if I don’t want to!”
“I don’t care. We already paid for it and you’re going. The end. Our church paid for you to go, so you are going to go and behave yourself,” her voice rose steadily until she was shouting.
“I didn’t ask the stupid church to pay for me to go! I told you I didn’t want to go.”
“This is a good opportunity for you to meet some really devoted children. Then you can see what is wrong with all of those books you read. You’re going to come back here with a changed attitude. I swear, if I could send you to the Amish for the summer I would. They’d fix your attitude!” My grandmother storms out of the room as fast as she can with a bad knee in one of the largest snits I’ve ever seen her in.
“Jesus, fucking, Christ,” I mutter to myself as I throw random clothing into my old, blue suitcase. It’s seen a lot of use and is scuffed and dented. I’m not sure if the unusual blue color is how this old thing started out, but it’s all I have.
The next morning my Grandmother drives me over an hour from our home to the camp. I am not fond of camping, so I’m delighted to see real buildings with real electricity. We arrive at the front gate and I scramble out of the car as fast as I can. We’d fought about this whole thing again this morning and my Grandmother’s mouth is set so that her lips are so thin they are almost non-existent. She won mainly because I think she may have murdered me if I had managed to find a way to stay home. My Dad was at work and I couldn’t find a way to badger him into making her see reason before he left. She drives off in a spray of gravel and I’m left to figure out where I am supposed to go. I don’t know anyone. I don’t know where I am supposed to be staying. I don’t want to be here.
“Joy,” I mumble to myself and drag my suitcase toward the only building that looks like it might house an office. 3 hours later I’m sorted out. I’ve missed lunch and no one seems to care and I’ve been herded in with other children for the evening sermon. After 2 hours of hellfire and brimstone I am in tears. I’ve already been convinced I am the worst kind of horrible person by my usual church and this is worse. I hate it. I want to leave. I want to repent. I want to never see a cross again. I’m conflicted because this is all I’ve known, but my mind keeps slinking back to a book I’ve found recently. A book on a different way. A book about a religion that doesn’t fear death and doesn’t have a hell and doesn’t tell me I am a terrible person.
Dinner is small and I go to bed hungry. I’m on the floor sharing a cabin with a preacher’s 3 indoctrinated daughters. They’re perfect and skinny and blonde and I know my Grandmother would love them to pieces. They are polite and proper and they have matching plaid nightgowns. They’re simpering about how wonderful the sermon their father gave was and I briefly wonder if it would be considered a crime to smother them in their sleep so I won’t have to hear this bullshit in the morning.
We have crafts in the morning. We make tiny crosses so we can carry them around with us. Just what I wanted. A constant reminder of gory death. I sigh as I paint Popsicle sticks and daydream briefly about using it on a vampire hunt. The other children are loud and obnoxious and …stupid. They argue about the Bible as if they know what they are talking about even though it is clear they are parroting crap from their parents or sermons they’ve heard before I got here. There are 3 sermons a day. We play games in between where I’m picked on by miscreants for not talking, for being fat, for being slow, for not wanting to talk about the Bible.
Seething hatred overwhelms me by the second day and hunger gnaws at me. I don’t talk beyond the barest polite minimum. I go to the sermons. I listen I cry.
By day 3 I nearly weep for joy when I find the tiny bookstore on the holy campus of from hell. I snag a book, I’ll never forget it. It was a book about a boy who was horribly abused by his parents and how he found solace through god. I am morbidly transfixed. I can’t put it down. I don’t have any money and I start reading it for real in the shop. I find a small corner and crawl into it with the book because I just want to read and be left alone. I’d finally found something, an anchor, in this madness. Reading. And escape.
“You know, that’s stealing,” a gruff male voice startled me. I looked up to see an angry, red face on a large, out of shape body.
“What is?” I asked stupidly.
“You didn’t buy that and you’re using it,” he points at the book and I shrug turning back to read the rest of the page I’m on. Then I just kept going. I was all out of giving a fuck.
Dinner is small again. After dinner that night, at the sermon I go the altar and weep there. I sit there in front of everyone hating them all. I hate the snickering children. I hate the condescending adults looking on some horrified at my emotional display, some assuming I am repenting as I should for…what I don’t know. And I resolve. I’m not staying here for 3 weeks. I ask God to forgive me for whatever I’ve done that is wrong, but I can’t stay here.
That night I think and think. I can’t come up with anything other than packing my suitcase and walking home. Then it strikes me. I smile to myself in the dark.
It takes me all day to spot him. An entire day of walking around avoiding horrible, obnoxious children that I despise. All fucking day.
The wasp flitters here and there on the side of the building. I approach and hesitate for a moment. I’m allergic to bees. If I get stung they are going to have to call my parents. I might die today if they don’t get me to the hospital in time, but it seems a small price to pay not to have to stay here anymore. Not to have to endure this shit. I close my eyes and put my right palm on the wasp. As I squish him and feel him sing his stinger into my skin an odd jubilation rushes over me. I’m so happy I have to focus on the pain to work up some tears as I rush to the office. I cry. I wail. I tell them I’m allergic. They don’t believe me until the swelling starts because there is nothing in my file about that. By the time my breath begins to become ragged and hitch my Grandmother is there, her face a thundercloud. I blink at her innocently. The trip to the hospital was fast and silent.
I’m pretty sure she knows.
Looking back I’m still happy I did this. This was the turning point. The definite push. This is when I embraced paganism. After this I went home and dove headfirst into Wicca, witchcraft, and embraced my natural abilities to the fullest. Looking back I see a bit of Loki and The Madness Path in my decisions, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.