A is for alcohol, a strictly forbidden sin.
I partook of this sin when twenty years old, at the bachelorette party of a Bible school classmate: Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, straight from the bottle.
B is for Bible, our guidebook to life.
The beginning of all rules and the final authority on punishment.
C is for culottes, the long split-skirt garment I hated.
I could choose from culottes or a skirt; no pants allowed because they were considered “men’s clothing” by our pastor. The culottes gradually got shorter until they were long shorts, right at my knees; as I grew taller, long culottes became harder to find. I was grateful Mom didn’t know how to sew; they would have been ankle length forever.
D is for demons, waiting for me to open a spiritual door so they could enter in.
Using Ouija boards, reading horoscopes, or having a possessed relative that died could all leave you with an unwanted tenant.
E is for eyesight; if it wasn’t perfect you were out of luck; no doctors allowed, just faith healers.
I was out of luck.
F is for forgiveness, which there always was and is.
The greatest thing I’ve learned.
G is for garage sales, from which all my clothes, toys, and books came.
Exciting for kids; awful for teenagers.
H is for homeschooling, from Kindergarten until I took the GED test at seventeen.
The only papers I ever wrote were a couple of book reports in elementary school, on special Christian kids books made for the curriculum.
I is for ignorance, which flourishes when children teach themselves from history textbooks that talk more about missionaries than anything else.
Does anyone need a refresher on David Brainerd or John Wesley? Let me know.
J is for the jealousy I felt for the beautiful, popular girls at church camp.
Oh, to be a confident girl with short hair, pierced ears, and Girbaud jeans that were not culottes from a garage sale.
K is for kiss, a beautiful and forbidden first kiss that was supposed to be saved for marriage.
I was eighteen years old, in the laundry room at Bible school. Lips soft and unsure, his first kiss too.
L is for library, the Great Escape.
My saving grace.
M is for marriage, the only acceptable way to leave your parents.
I turned twenty a few days after I left without permission or blessing. This was called rebellious and running away.
N is for never, as in never being taken to a medical doctor.
When I say never, I mean never.
O is for olive oil—the pastor’s oily thumb pressed into my forehead anointing me.
The greasy spot stayed there all day, a glistening reminder of my sinful nature, needing prayer.
P is for peer pressure, which I never had, having no peers.
I never tried cigarettes or drugs because I was never offered any. A Sheltering Success Story!
Q is for questions that I was afraid to ask.
R is for rod of correction, applied liberally to my bottom.
The Bible says that the rod will drive out the foolishness bound in the heart of children. I think it missed a spot.
S is for sexual education—in my family, only a bare minimum.
Girls were told because we needed to expect our periods. Boys had to glean knowledge from God-knows-where.
T is for terror, felt regularly at the thought of missing the Rapture.
As a family, we watched a series of movies about Christians left behind in the Tribulation who had to hide, starve, and eventually get beheaded. In one particularly traumatizing moment, a small boy clutched a red balloon in his hand as the guillotine was released. His weeping mother (next in line) watched the balloon release to Heaven. Good times.
U is for underneath, which women were to men.
V is for the veils women wore in church.
Lacy veils pinned to female heads with bobby pins—I thought they were beautiful but they must have felt like a strong hand pushing down.
W is for white as snow, which we were, washed with the blood of Jesus.
I wondered why we weren’t red as rubies instead.
X is for X’s in red pencil, beside all my math problems—also featuring x—from fifth grade on.
I couldn’t understand the explanations from my dad or my math books.
Y is for yearning—for something, something undefined and unknown.
But all children are, aren’t they?
Z is for being zapped up to Heaven to the sound of a trumpet played by an angel.
I expected this to happen at any moment, often begging God to wait until after an upcoming birthday party. If my parents couldn’t be found immediately, I panicked, thinking I’d missed the trumpet call, and hid to plan how I’d avoid the Mark of the Beast and the guillotine. I ran through all my sins in my head, wondering which I’d forgotten to ask forgiveness for. When my mom came in from gardening, my terror left. I knew she was righteous and would answer the trumpet call. I’ve only ever doubted myself.
Now you know my ABC’s.
Sarah Broussard Weaver lives in Portland, Oregon, where she writes essays and sometimes poetry and sometimes things that could be either. She recently graduated from University of Portland with a BA in English, and is now considering her options. Her work has been published in Hippocampus, The Nervous Breakdown, The Establishment, and Literary Orphans, among other journals. Find her at sbweaver.com or tweet her @sarahbweaver.