My sister Jessie had a flushed, splotchy pink face and dried tears on her eyes in the Sacrament meeting of our Mormon church as I watched her scribble her best likenesses of Simba and Pocahontas in the hymnals found in front of our pew. The church was packed and cold as custom while we sat in our usual bench located right next to one of the doors to make a break for it once Mom grabbed her purse and scriptures consisting of old testament/new testament/book of Mormon and whispered “Come on, s’go!” But until then we waited. My hair is probably never going to move again even after I get this strangling, ridiculous beaded ponytail out of it. Most times I get scissors to finally cut it off because it’s so wound up and double knotted it hurts. It’s feels worse taking it out than it does choking my hair in place, leaving me with a permanent splotchy-red face lift for church. Mom doesn’t like it when I cut my hair, I don’t care, at least maybe she wouldn’t get so angry at it and use it against me before church. I know I have the scratches on my forehead this morning, I have to close my eyes when she brushes it back so I don’t get the bristles of our community Goody brush in my eyes. Jessie doesn’t know better. She’s three years younger than me, she just puts her hands over her face and cries and bawls. She’s the loudest and most dramatic, but she doesn’t try cut her hair off like me. I tried to cut bangs to have less hair for her frustrated death-grip and Mom got so mad! Besides she still adds the bangs to my annoyingly high blonde ponytail. She hides the scissors but I know she keeps them on top of the large buffet Dad made her above her sewing kit. She doesn’t think I can get way up there but I pull the highchair from the kitchen over to stand on then stack books and then climb the shelves to the tip top, then I put back the highchair so she doesn’t figure me out. She doesn’t care about anybody’s hair unless it’s Sunday.
We stand up for our favorite part, hymns. I look over at Amy, my older sister and break into a painful smile that hurts with my tightened cheeks. We play our hymnals are librettos and have a competition of who can sing the strongest bass-baritone and highest soprano. The cool thing about Mom is she doesn’t care unless she’s in A Mood. She doesn’t know what it means to be embarrassed or ashamed, thank Heavens. One less thing. After we are done with our ghastly scales of operatic impressions we wait for the other good part: Sacrament. Prayers are said and a group of young men known as priesthood holders head to the front for the passing of communion. Our stomachs are growling as the young man assigned to our area eyes us warily in his approach. We each grab handfuls of the bread, not regarding the strategically cut half-inch pieces prepared for the entire congregation along with the little paper shot glasses of water. Mom does nothing this time to hinder or stop us, which is a good thing because we only have a jar of mayonnaise and some stale ground granola at home. Besides we don’t have any spoons. Amy says Mom sold the food stamps for money but I don’t know why we don’t have more food if she got real money for it. Mom skipped the Sacrament bread and water again. She said it’s because she’s been smoking her cigarettes this week, which is a very bad thing. At least she’s not a liar, which would probably be worse than being a smoker.
We then move to the worst part- folks bearing their testimony. Boring to the max! They always begin with “Hello, my name is Whatever, and I know this church is true…” Then they go on and on and on forever until there’s nothing more to say then they keep going. This is the part that we usually get up and leave early, not on account of Mom getting bored, but her getting angry with us. Jessie starts lifting up her poofy dress because the insides are itching her skinny legs, Amy starts smacking her gum and failing at her many attempts to blow bubbles. “Be REVERENT,” Mom hisses. She goes through her purse with exaggerated loudness, shoving the contents this way and that, the people in the surrounding pews are staring. They stare most of the time anyway because the way Amy dresses. You are SUPPOSED to wear a dress, you HAVE to wear a dress if you’re a girl, and she doesn’t. All of the Mormon girls flick their eyes over her in disgust, even the old ladies who smell like our attic. Mostly Amy wears black pants and a black shirt like she’s a boy going to an unknown person’s funeral. Mom doesn’t like it but Amy just disappears like my older half-siblings before church if Mom tries to force her in a dress. She finally gives us her nasty gum that doesn’t make bubbles as a last ditch attempt at calming us down, the gum Amy’s been chewing. Then after she’s had enough she gathers us up loud enough to make Mr. or Mrs. Whatever pause from their long-winded spiel to stare before she says “Get up! S’go!!”
Today marks one year since I quit smoking. I am twenty-eight. I started smoking cigarettes when I entered high school but was truly addicted to Nicotine at the much younger age of six when I first was introduced to Nicorette gum from my Mother at church. Though I personally am no longer Mormon if I ever truly was, I have nothing bad to say about their church. I believe all the badmouthing of other denominations than one’s own is counter productive and harmful to the real church, the body of Jesus Christ. As for my mother, dear reader, Beloved, please hold her up in prayer, that if she doesn’t know the Lord now that she may turn to Him and find peace and comfort in Him. I pray God will heal you of any pain you are suffering now, I pray He will provide you with strength and courage to overcome any addictions or afflictions you may have and that He will guide you as you mature into the person that He designed you to be. God bless!