Back on Track

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!

5 thoughts on “Back on Track

  1. Seriously. I didn’t deal with this until I was in college but even as a near adult and an adult I don’t want to hear my parent’s co-workers/bosses critique of that parent’s performance good or bad. And I just don’t understand how anyone could think that’s a good idea to do…especially to someone who’s not an adult or a near adult.

  2. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this, but I grew up two doors down from the Baptist parsonage in my hometown. The preachers kids ran around with us and the other kids in the neighborhood, so I saw some of the effects (subtle ones) that being a PK had on people.

    One in particular really rebelled against it all – to the point where he ended up in the hospital after a drug/drink induced car accident where his face was so mangled a plastic surgeon was called in. A few years later he got a girl pregnant and that pretty much ran his parents out of town – well, that and the rumours that the pastor was having an affair with one of the women in town to whom he was giving divorce counseling.

    They never talked about it with me, but you could sense that they felt like they were living in the fishbowl you mentioned.

    When I was in college, a new pastor arrived. His wife was basically a spoiled brat. When they married, he wasn’t a pastor – but felt the call and went to seminary in the early stages of their marriage. You could almost sense the resentment of his wife for his choice of vocation. For example, my mom told me this story: One Sunday, the wife came to church wearing a nice yellow suit accompanied by a matching hat. My mother complimented her on the outfit and the pastors wife replied “Thank you. When I go shopping, and I look at clothes I ask myself ‘Would a preacher’s wife wear that?'” – she went on to say that if she felt the answer was “no” she immediately took it to the register for purchase.

  3. Thanks, ellen. I’m doing it in part because every time I’ve tried to write the other way, where I just do it on my own, I’ve failed miserable. I figure if I get even a rough draft out of this, It will be an amazing thing and a great learning process.

    Plus I’m curious about how people write, how they figure out how to write, and I can’t find anything that really tells me much about what they think of it, unless they are trying to tell others what to do.

    I don’t need advice, you know. I need to hear other people’s processes.

  4. The only two vocations where it’s acceptable to expose someone’s child to whatever ridicule/censure you deem necessary to dispense: politics and religion.

    And while it’s not uncommon for children of politicians to themselves become politicians, I don’t see tons of minister’s kids becoming ministers. I think it’s because ostensibly, you *knew* to expect that when you got into politics. You don’t necessarily know that getting into ministry is basically the exact same thing.

    PS: “Was raised” Church of Christ. No longer considers herself as such for obvious reasons. ;)

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