This is for Debbie Kim~ she knows why

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

SURVIVING NANNY~Hell Fire & Dalmatians~part 1

Nanny had appointed herself in charge of all things religious. She handled our spiritual training with no humor and believed our blood would be on her hands if we weren't brought to Jesus. This she was not about to allow. As if Jesus himself kept a score card on each of His followers. Could explain, why as a very young child, I always envisioned Him in a referee uniform. Jesus, his long beard and hair, feet in worn sandals, in a ref uniform. Given a guitar he would have favored a member of ZZTop.

I think Mama and Daddy attended a Methodist church when I was a baby. Somehow, church fell by the wayside and Nanny snatched up my soul shaping like a gold coin found on a asphalt parking lot. She had tended to my older brother's spiritual training and he grew to be a fine young man. Her intention was to mold me in much the same way.
Now let me explain. Nanny was a Free Will Baptist, of the strictest order. Southern and Primitives were far too loose and liberal for her. I learned early on it was faster and easier to list actions which were not a sin, than to list those that were. Basically, if you weren't praying, singing a hymn, sitting in church or witnessing, or reading the Bible (only King James version) you were sinning. Oh, and foot washing! That was not a sin, but I was too young to participate. Guess they were right about that. I had no idea why folks waited to come to church to wash their feet. Seemed to me it would be just as easy to wash your own feet when taking your Sunday bath. There was much about church I didn't understand, but had no one to ask. Maybe if I ever received the Spirit, the answers would come to me.
Anyway Nanny's list if sins was 'bout as long as a laundry list. According to her I stayed steeped in sin and always felt dirty.
This made my 4 year old life even more confusing. There was Nanny, telling me how bad I was in the eyes of God, then Papaw. My Papaw. He made me feel I shone with goodness. Told me I had the sweetest heart of any child he ever knew. Praised me for my thoughtfulness and kindness. Thus began a very schizoid existence for me.

So concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, profane and divine were very twisted in my young mind. A loving God? never mentioned. God was to be greatly feared. I pictured Him on a throne, like Santa, who only worked the Christmas season. Santa brought gifts to good children. I was always surprised Christmas morning to find gifts, seeing how Nanny reminded me almost daily what a bad girl I was. God worked full time, all the time. And could read my thoughts and see my heart. Nanny said I couldn't hide my ugly from Him. Funny thing was, I never felt mean or ugly until I had to spend time around her. She brought the Devil in close. Some times I wondered if she might be the Devil, dressed up like a grandmother. I never asked this out loud but I did often wonder. The was a song on the radio, "Devil with the Blue Dress On." Nanny had a couple of blue church dresses. Made one wonder.
God asked I be perfect, expected me to at least aim for perfection. Had I been allowed to play cards (also a sin) I would have certainly felt the deck stacked against me. These notions formed how I saw myself and the world around me.

My dear brother, with whom I am very close, is amazed at my memory of these times. He remembers very little, while sometimes I feel I remember far too much.

One Sunday sitting on the second pew, far right, (while not marked, everyone knew that was Nanny's spot) we had gotten through all the preliminary activities and Preacher was ready to preach. I may have been four, no older. Nanny had pulled me out of the nursery long ago; convinced I could sit through a full sermon. I tried to listen to Preacher, but most of the time I had no idea what he was talking about. When I got too squirmy, Nanny would allow me to look through a hymnal. I already knew the alphabet and the sounds each letter made. I also knew many of the old hymns by heart, like What a Friend We Have In Jesus. Having the lyrics memorized, I was able to find each word, study it, then spell it. In this way I taught myself to read. Also, coming from a hymnal, I learned of suffixes and prefixes. I came to love words and reading. To this good day I feel this to be my most worthwhile activity during my church going years.

I had ample opportunity to enjoy studying the song hymnal as Preacher could drone on forever. I hated and feared when he became filled with the Holy Ghost. First and foremost, I was afraid of ghosts. Secondly, this meant he was gonna preach even longer than usual. The Holy Ghost usually led to Preacher crying, sweating, pacing and pounding on the pulpit. All of which frightened me. I found the sheer emotionality of his crying and shouting outbursts to be overwhelming. At these times I prayed for Preacher to hurry and wind down. Mostly, I wanted Mama.

Well, back to this particular Sunday. Preacher was on a roll. I figured the Holy Ghost would strike most any time. I prayed his preaching to be louder than my growling stomach. I sure was getting hungry and my belly was rolling. I picked up a hymnal in an effort to take my mind off my empty stomach. Amazing Grace! one of my favorites! I had moved up to learning how to use the table of contents.
Preacher was talking about how we were made in God's image, how that made us special above all other living things. I continued reading the song book. I wasn't sure what a wretch was but I learned to spell it and I could ask Mama. She would know.
About the same time I was memorizing the word wretch, Preacher said the most horrible thing I had ever heard!!! Man was different and held dominion over all animals. The main difference being He had blessed Man with an eternal soul so we could go to heaven. Animals had no soul.
Then he went on to say there would be no animals in heaven!!! Heaven was reserved for those made in His own image and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
WHAT??!!!! Preacher was wrong!!! Of course animals had souls!!!! All he had to do was look into my Chico's black eyes! Why, I could see my Cocker's soul!! He just didn't know my Chico!!
I loved my black Cocker Spaniel more than anything in the world, except Mama, Daddy and Papaw. I had to love Jesus cuz I didn't want to burn in the fiery pit. I should love Nanny, but the truth was I didn't. And as she always said, "the truth was welcomed in heaven." No sense telling Jesus I loved her when he could see in my heart. I worked hard at liking her, and most days that was a chore.
I could hardly keep my seat!!! Preacher had my full attention now. I wanted to stand and call him LIAR!! at the top of my lungs!!! How could he say such?!
I worried about my Chico and where she would go after her death. I already understood animals died. One of my little dime store turtles had gotten out of his plastic bowl with the palm tree and we found him days later in the kitchen. All crusty and dried out and very dead.
Daddy said he went to turtle heaven, with real waterfalls and palm trees and all kinds of turtle friends. While I was sad my turtle was dead, I figured he was happier there than in his cheap Woolworths plastic bowl. Did Daddy lie to me? Did he believe in turtle heaven? I wanted to believe Daddy instead of Preacher. He was a good turtle. If animals can't go to heaven, then they must go to hell. My four year old reasoning could only come to that conclusion.
The thought of Chico going to hell was more than I could bear. I wanted Preacher to shut up so I could go home and ask Papaw. Papaw read his beat up Bible every day. He never preached at me the way Nanny did. Never told me I was a bad girl and God didn't like bad girls.
I would just have to get home and talk to Papaw. He would know.

I didn't hear another word of the sermon. Too busy worrying about Chico and the soul Preacher claimed she didn't have.
And what about horses? I loved horses most of all. Well, I didn't own a horse, but Daddy took me to the pony place almost every Sunday after lunch. There I could ride my favorite pony around and around the dirt track for as long as Daddy had quarters. Sometimes, after we were out of quarters, the pony man would let Daddy and me inside the pen, under the shade of the giant pines, and we could pet the ponies. I loved this as much as riding them. They smelled so good!! The smell would stay on my hands until we got home. I remember cupping my hands over my nose and inhaling deeply the whole drive home. Then Nanny would meet us at the front door, fussing at me to get in the tub and wash that filthy animal smell off of me. Nanny thought a lot of things I loved to be filthy. This added to my doubt as to my ever making it to heaven. God didn't like filth either and according to Nanny, I was always filthy.
I just knew horses had to be in heaven! In my opinion, they were one of God's most divine creatures. It couldn't be heaven without horses.

Finally, like a toy wound too tight and wearing down, Preacher, still crying, started begging all the sinners to come forward and get saved. "Just as I Am" began playing in the background. We were on the home stretch now. Soon he would pray the last prayer and meet the congregation in the vestibule. Then I could get home and ask Papaw about animals in heaven! I knew better than to ask Nanny. She always agreed with Preacher. My Papaw liked to think for himself and he knew everything when it came to animals.

Soon enough we were in the vestibule, in line to shake Preachers hand. It was customary to thank him for the wonderful words or something similar to that. Nanny stuck me in front of her, I suspect to make sure I said the right and appropriate farewell each Sunday. Normally I would shake his soft, fat hand and say, "Thank you, Preacher."
On this particular Sunday I intended to say just that. Instead, without thought or warning, I opened my mouth and out flew the words, "Well Preacher, if there's no animals in heaven, I reckon I'll have to work on going to hell."
The second this utterance hit the air, I wanted to catch those words, like fireflies on a summer's night, and tuck them deeply away in an amber jar, lid twisted tight. I couldn't. The words flew about my head, invisible, out of reach but not out of earshot. Preacher, like many adults in the vestibule, laughed nervously; unsure of the proper response to my outburst.
Nanny however, did not laugh. I looked up. She had blanched paper white; her blue eyes swimming behind her thick glasses, eyes glazed over with the most horrid look on her face!!
She shoved me forward, past Preacher and all of her church friends. She made a straight bee line for the door, slung the doors wide and continued to push me toward the curb. Thank goodness Daddy was waiting for us! Better to get my butt whipped at home than on the curb of the church house.
She slung the back door of the Rambler station wagon open and I scrambled in, careful to tuck my tail tight lest she get the first lick in.
She took her seat up front next to Daddy. Before he could even shift the old wagon into DRIVE and pull away from the curb~ she started. The color of her face began to change. Her pasty white countenance soon mutated into a crimson red. The red didn't stop at her face either, but
melted downward, filling her neck. Even her ears were bright red!
When she finished the whole agonizing tale, Daddy slammed one palm onto the steering wheel and was laughing to beat the band! This seemed to infuriate Nanny even more! She began to swell up like a toad. I was certain she was gonna explode all over the windshield, blinding Daddy until he was unable to drive, then smack straight into a tree and we'd all die. Nanny would go to heaven, of course. The jury was still out on Daddy. I, most assuredly, would land in hell. Mama would be left a widow, without a mother or child. All because of me!
As this fantasy played out in my head, I heard choking. Nanny had not exploded, no. Daddy had laughed so hard he had gotten choked. Now he was almost as red as Nanny! I adjusted my fantasy to the immediate situation. Daddy choking to death while driving, running smack into a tree, we all die. Same outcome, still all my fault.
I waited, holding my own breath. Finally Daddy took one huge gulp of air and the choking stopped. Only then was I able to exhale.
Whew!! Nanny didn't explode. Daddy didn't choke to death. Rather, we made it home just fine.
Daddy pulled up and parked in front of our house. He walked around the car to help Nanny out.
He was still chuckling. "Sadie, you just got to make some allowances. She's just a child. You know she didn't understand what she was saying. And you know yourself how she is about animals, a plumb fool. She' not turned like Gary, not this one. She's gonna speak her mind and don't you go messing with that part of her. Ain't nothing hurt here but your pride and I 'spect
you'll live through it."

Nanny stormed into the house proclaiming to no one in particular she was taking to her bed.
Would not be down for Sunday dinner. A bad case of nerves had come over her.

Her nerves would have been fine if she could have worn me out. That's what she intended to do.
By Daddy telling her not to mess with that part of me, well, that was his way of letting her know he would not stand still for her spanking me. She had Gary afraid to say BOO to a goose. He didn't want that for me.

Mama helped me out of my good Sunday dress. I told her I would be getting a spanking but I guessed I deserved it. I shouldn't have upset Nanny so. She promised she would talk to Nanny and I would never be spanked for speaking my mind.
I could hear Daddy and Papaw rattling plates downstairs, laughing. Papaw's voice~ "I woulda loved to have seen Sadie's face at the church house this morning." Then Daddy~" yeah, she was fit to be tied when I picked them up. Red as a beet!" My Papaw~ "she is one more mess, that girl. Afraid she's gonna give ole Sade a run for her money."
Suddenly my hunger returned and Mama's roast smelled so good my mouth watered. It was my turn to say grace but I sure didn't feel like talking to God. He had to be plenty put out with me, just like Nanny.
I wished Nanny could see how hard I tried to be good. How I wanted her to tell me just once I was a GOOD girl. But at four, I was beginning to understand she could only see all my nasty bad. Everyone else in the family saw good in me, but never her. And why was her voice the easiest to believe?

I figured I was a lost cause. My only hope was for God to love me like Papaw did, understand I was just a little girl, like Mama did, have Daddy's sense of humor, and be far more forgiving than Nanny.


debianne June 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM  


Sharon Brumfield June 4, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

Girl I loved this.
I too was raised in the Baptist church....and Hell,fire and brimstone was more common than the love of God. I became a Christian at 5 and I learned to act the way a Christian should act....but on the inside there was always this disconnect from God. How could you love a Father God who was just out to catch you when you did wrong?
He loved me so He died for me...that is about as far as the whole love issue got.
Oh how I remember the sweet hymns...kind of sad that we don't really sing them anymore. The first pastor I remember had had his fair share of Dinner on the grounds...if you know what I mean. And the truth be told....I thought he was a little gross. I remember the spit forming in the corners of his mouth when he really got rolling. :)
I knew my parents loved the Lord...served Him....but I was just afraid of Him.
I could go on and on here....but since it is not my post :)...I'll just say that I was in my late 20's before all the knowledge I had
about God became something that allowed me to know my Daddy God. That little girl had to be released from what she had learned.And although I still go to Him often as that little girl....this grown up woman loves Him for who He is.
Thanks for sharing.....I have a feeling that we probably have some very similar memories.
And BTW....guess that preacher didn't reach the book of Revelation and learn about Jesus coming back on His white horse with the family of God behind Him.:) I think that must mean there will be a whole section of heaven just for the stables. ;)

Sharon Brumfield June 4, 2010 at 11:12 AM  

P.S...thanks for making the print larger. My granny eyes thank you!

dinkleberries June 9, 2010 at 9:02 AM  

Me, I'm with you, no animals in heaven? I'd rather go to hell!!
Good news! The Bible does teach that animals have a soul. When animals are so amazing and bring us so much pleasure, how could it be heaven without them?
I also have told my mother that I literally would much rather spend eternity in hell than in heaven if it was the way she was portraying it. Only I was a teenager at the time, you were only 4!! Awesome!!


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Wife, mom, sister, friend, seeker, mystic


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