These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.


Note: As I’ve been thinking through some of my various critiques of fundamentalism, I’ve felt conflicted. There are so many positive memories, experiences, and interactions mixed in with the negative ones, that it can sometimes be difficult to accurately portray one side of recollection without the other sides. The following isn’t meant to be overly emotional or nostalgic, but rather, to provide another side of what I remember as a very conflicted yet full upbringing.

Dad used to tell my sister and me bedtime stories about Mr. Hippogronomous. Now just what Mr. Hippogronomous was, was never fully described, but I always imagined him as half hippo, half lumberjack. Dad would tell us long, adventurous stories of Mr. Hippogronomous surviving in the deep, dark forest, joined, conveniently enough, by two little girls.

Mom used to say she had no imagination for inventing stories, but she would read, oh, would she read. Over the years, so many books, so many nights. My sister and I would fall asleep to the words of Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Elsie Dinsmore (who all three of us solidly agreed was prudish and obnoxious), Jane Eyre (my favorite), and many more.

Dad taught us how to swim, letting us hold onto his shoulders in the pool first, then slowly letting go, all the while singing the song he used especially for the occasion: “Let’s swim together. Let’s be friends. Let’s swim together, and be friends forever. Just swimmin’ along…”

When the men’s Bible studies were going on, my sister and I would have a few of our friends over, presumably to “study” together, and help cook and prepare the meal for the men. This would often turn into listening to “scandalous” music like Kelly Clarkson, or watching movies like Jaws, and pretending we weren’t scared while screaming at the detached limbs.

Mom would bake bread in the afternoons, while listening to the radio or classical music CDs. She would alternate between baking plain, whole wheat bread and cinnamon swirl bread. She would pull out a gargantuan cutting board, coat it with oil till the oil dripped off the sides, and patiently explain to me how to knead, fold, and roll the dough. The kitchen smelled of cinnamon, wood grain, and dusty recipe books.

Barefoot and dressed in overalls, my sister and I would explore the nearby pasture and forest, picking wildflowers (or more often, thistles), and alternately pretending we were princesses or peasants. The horses grazing nearby would alternate in our imaginations from noble steeds to dastardly monsters.

In middle school humanities class, we had end-of-semester creative projects on which we spent countless hours, leading to a final presentation. The year we were focused on the Middle Ages, I wrote a novella, cutting leather to bind it by hand. Someone else put together an authentic medieval feast. Another student carved and built a crossbow. Two other students went together to build a functioning and deadly trebuchet. We were convinced we were lords and ladies from the pages of King Arthur and Robin Hood.

Memories can be complicated. There is no grief which may not also be matched with joy and love. Nothing new is under the sun. Everything is new under the sun. I suppose it’s one of the things that brings humanity together the most.


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