I say I was raised Catholic. If I were honest, I would say I was raised nothing. I wasn’t really raised at all. I got older, I grew up. Until I was 11, I had no religion. I wasn’t taken to church; I didn’t have church brought to me. I guess you could say that church was just something that happened to me once in a while. Like going to the ice cream shoppe.
In elementary school, my mom gave permission for me to go with a group to the Methodist Church sometimes (once a week? Once a month? I’m not quite sure) to talk to us about God and Jesus and being saved. Then we all walked back to school. That was back before everyone worried about bad things happening to children every time they left the school; before everyone had to have a background check to talk to children who weren’t their own. Sometimes, Mom and my sister and I would go to the Congregational Church on the corner. I don’t remember Dad ever going. Occasionally, we got to go with friends to their church. I learned later theirs was a Mormon church – all but unheard of in rural Michigan. During the summer we sometimes got on the Baptist church bus with some friends and went to Vacation Bible School. I remember the music – and the preacher standing on his head eating marshmallows because we got 100 kids to come on Friday!
I had faith. Faith in the things that I knew. I knew my mom would be there when I got up in the morning and when I got home from school every night. I knew the limb on the tree where I hung upside down to read wasn’t going to break. Faith that when I went down the hill to Grama’s house, she’d let me in and have something to say to make me feel better. I also had that kind of “small-town” faith. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know what I mean. The belief that everyone there is good – new people are new people until they’ve been there two generations (or someone “sponsors” them), and nothing bad will happen. Nobody ever moved away. The most excitement we ever had was when “those Navy people” moved into the big, blue house on the corner. I was in first grade. Through everything, their little first grade girl remains my friend.
And then, one spring – my dad didn’t live with us anymore. Mom and Dad were getting a divorce. My mom went to work. My faith took a break. I mean, Mom wasn’t there when I got up in the morning or when I got home from school. My Grama moved away-all the way to Florida – you know, the other side of the world! And to top it off, my family was the center of all the excitement. It was years and years and years before I completely understood why. I may not yet. I may not ever. But we were the center of the gossip. Until we left. Then, we were forgotten.
By that time, I had religion; I was Catholic. The problem now was that I had no faith. In anything. I was 13.