I had lunch with M. today, also a minister’s kid and I was telling her all about the book–fair warning, really, it’s all I talk about. If you don’t want to hear about it, if you see me coming, you should just run away.–and we were discussing growing up pastors’ kids. She’s Church of Christ, so there were some different dynamics at play.
But one thing she got at that I really want to be sure gets in the book very clearly is not just the fishbowl sense for kids, but how it fucks with you to often be put in a position to bear witness to your minister parent’s failings. If your lawyer dad fucks up (or is perceived to have fucked up), even if he gets fired, the whole family doesn’t go to the meeting where that happens.
We were sheltered from a lot of that, but I can remember at every place we lived, starting from the time I was about… I don’t know, however old you are in eighth grade… there was always someone willing to unsolicited tell me the ways the church thought my dad was fucking up and what they intended to do about it.
And you didn’t know if it was bullshit or not or, if you knew it was bullshit, what, if anything, you should do about it. One church we were at, the secretary’s kids spread a rumor all over school that my dad was having an affair with the organist, whose family was and still is dear friends with our family and I wanted to beat the shit out of the secretary’s kids, but I didn’t want my parents or the organist to catch wind of this rumor, because the organist’s daughter was and is one of my dearest, oldest friends and I didn’t want them to stop socializing.
Or at another church, one of the board members told me that my dad had pissed everyone on the Board off and the only reason he still had a job was because they made him go to every church member who was mad at him, to their house, and apologize. This isn’t even how the Methodist Church works. The Board can’t fire a minister. They can ask for him to be reassigned, but they can’t fire him. And people have to work. And I was with my Dad most evenings, so when he was going to people’s houses apologizing must have been in the middle of the night or something. I mean, it was obviously a lie, but a lie designed, I guess, to impress on me her ability to make my dad grovel. I guess. I don’t know what the point was. But I felt like it was to tell me how powerful she was and how close she had come to ruining my father’s life. I don’t know if she understood that she was, by extension, telling a story about ruining my life, but damn, it made me sick to my stomach. But I didn’t say anything to my dad.
Who does that kind of fucked up shit, you know?
Anyway, I want to kind of really get at that.
But I am not yet starting chapter six. Instead, I got back to working on the quilt and tonight I’m going to force myself to watch some junk TV.
I don’t know how it works for other people who write books, but this feels like a good process to me. Outline (shocking!), kind of quickly write a very, very rough draft (which may, in a way, just be a step up from outlining) to get a feel for the emotional shape of the book, and then go back in and fill in gaps and straighten out continuity and that will be the second draft. And then the third draft will be for hard polishing, really getting at word choice and stuff, I think.
I’m just not sure at what point I want to ask people to read it. Even at lunch, when I asked M. if she’d be willing, I was thinking that it would be appropriate after the second draft. But then, I thought, “What if there are major problems, things people just don’t get, or things that just aren’t working?” Maybe I want to know that before the second draft.
So, I don’t know. I’m mulling that over.
But I’m glad to have the sewing machine rethreaded and running again, let me tell you!