My parents weren’t super religious, but for a short period, we attended church together as a family. My mom made sure that I wore a pretty dress, typically one she’d sown, and fixed my hair so that I looked especially “girly.” She often made matching dresses for my niece and me. My parents cared for my niece for several years, and she was like a little sister to me. It was almost like a kinship adoption, except no paperwork to formally bind such an arrangement. I carried a small, white patent leather purse to match my white patent Mary Janes. The color of my shoes always matched the season, white during the spring and summer months and black in the fall and winter. Additionally, my mom made me wear tights, usually white, with my dress. I hated them. I felt uncool compared to all the other girls. I eventually convinced my mom to allow me to wear pantyhose and small heels. It was the 70’s after all and quite fashionable for a kid my age at the time.
When I was a young child, we attended a small Methodist church in Shady Grove, a little suburb in Bossier City, Louisiana, where I grew up. My mom signed me into childcare so she and dad could attend “big service.” It was a traumatic event each and every Sunday. I was the kid who screamed and clung desperately to her mom. I don’t recall exactly how old I was at that time, but I’m guessing I was in kindergarten or first grade. Little did I know then that I was demonstrating so many of the symptoms related to insecure attachment, a condition that is commonly experienced by adopted children due to multiple disruptions in attachment. It was particularly bad in elementary school, as I experienced stomachaches and panic daily. I was painfully shy and felt like my whole world tumbled upside down as soon as my mom “abandoned” me again. Occasionally, I’d sit in big service with my parents at church when the daycare workers couldn’t manage the screaming. I have not so fond memories of sitting on creaky old pews, my feet dangling uncomfortably over the edge of a hard wooden seat. I’m certain that after a while the drama of leaving me in childcare became too exasperating for my mom. The sermon was incredibly boring, and I couldn’t help but fidget through the whole thing. I remember a few times being taken outside for a spanking because I just couldn’t sit still, as if that would fix me. After such a torturous experience, we’d sometimes go out to lunch at the Officer’s Club on Barksdale Air Force Base. My dad was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force. He eventually retired at Barksdale. I loved visiting the Officer’s Club. It was like a palace. The dining room was formal and elegant. The tables were dressed in starched white linens and servers dressed in black. My parents enjoyed going to the Club to have a cocktail. I enjoyed the biscuits and sausage gravy.
My parents eventually stopped going to church. They still, however, made sure I went every Sunday. Imagine that. By then, they sent me to a different church, Bellaire Baptist, right off Barksdale Boulevard. Sometimes, I’d attend the big service, with our next door neighbors. All I can remember about that is the pastor “screaming” from the pulpit. I wondered why a person would yell in such a way and found big service to be excruciatingly boring. Most of the time, I went to Sunday school class with my peers. Mom still made sure that I was dressed up, certainly no jeans, pants or shorts. I loved having my hair set in those spongy pink rollers the night before so that it was curly the next day. On Sunday mornings, a little red church bus came to our house to pick me up. Bellaire Baptist had a bus service that transported kids around our community to and from church. I’d sit in our front living room and peer out the window waiting for the bus to arrive. The driver, J.D. Harris, a very sweet man, opened the bus doors and greeted each kid with a big smile. I knew most of the kids who were picked up because we all went to the same school, Sun City Elementary. I got to church for three years on that little red church bus, my Bible and devotional in hand. I was the kid in Sunday school class who read my weekly devotional and memorized every memory scripture faithfully. I’m certain that no other kid cared about memorizing her Bible scripture.
When I got to high school, I quit going to church. In college, I sometimes attended, but it was spotty. Mom eventually went back to the Catholic church after my dad died. I’d go to mass with her every once in awhile. I never quite understood the whole standing up, kneeling, sitting, communion part of the service, but I do know that going to mass together encouraged her a great deal.
So the little red church bus ran for many years. Who knows what happened to it and whether the church upgraded to a fancier more modern bus. How convenient it was for parents to send their kids to church. I honestly don’t know of another church that ever ran such a service. Maybe it was a southern thing.