Cultish memories and better truth

I know my title starts with memories and then goes to truth, but I’m feeling the need to add some stuff to previous cultish posts.

So in my first post, I described the relationship I had with the other kids in the group as: “kids who are quasi-brothers and sisters and who were often my best friends, often my worst enemies, sometimes the object of a crush, bullies, half-brothers, close friends, cronies and competitors.”

That’s insufficient. The other kids were also: often victims of my wrath and bullying behavior, regular skeptics of my near-constant exaggerations, people I almost never did enough to get close to, and despite my introversion and insistently isolated life- they were my best friends. There will never be anyone else who can truly understand the life that I lived in the cult once called The Process and which I always knew as the Foundation Faith of God.

My dad, bless his good heart, had the perception that we were all close due to our shared, fairly unique experience. When I reflect on this assumption, I have to ask why my relationship with my pseudo-siblings isn’t actually that way. I can’t help but conclude that this is because of me.

Why was I such an introvert? It’s not that I didn’t have friends. I lifted weights and did martial arts-type stuff with the twins. They were a couple years my senior and their diligence and drive inspired me, notwithstanding the extreme opinions they often voiced. I played strategy games a lot with X, who I called Tim at the time. We were good friends. He always won, despite my vows that one day I would beat him.

We played Risk, Axis and Allies, Conquest of the Empire, Shogun and more. He won every time. I played chess with him and my brother and lost every time. Tim was my first roommate in the first apartment I ever rented.

Why did I lose every time I played those games? I just could never be bothered to think far enough ahead. This was a sign of the mental laziness I allowed to become a habit for so long in my life. Plus, I don’t think I ever believed I had it in me to learn the game well enough to beat them- they had such a head start!

I was friends/enemies with Mark. We did more crime, more awful things and had more fun than I probably had with anyone else. Hey, we liked a lot of the same music at the time.

Hard to believe I actually liked Paula Abdul’s music.

When I was sixteen, I spent time at a pond with rabid swans and two of the nicest young women you could ever know. We had regularly Sunday morning picnics and listened to the music from The Mission. Even today, when I hear some of the notes from that oboe, the image of those mornings flashes vividly in my heart. We talked about things that were important to a group of teenagers who have known each other their whole lives. I actually shared things that were close to my heart- all with a dose of my typical drama and exaggeration.

Looking back, I can’t understand how anybody ever enjoyed my company. I was caught up in books, the fancies that distract teenage boys, and a truly silly but long-term and long-distance crush. I was my world. It’s hard for me to remember any redeeming qualities beyond my totally inappropriate sense of humor.

It was only about when I turned fifteen or sixteen that I finally began getting an idea of who I was. At the time at least.

That completes the additions.

Earliest memories. I either remember this first one or it is one that my mother told me about and I fabricated it. I was probably only two, because I was in a crib. I must have had a nightmare, because I was crying. The image I either remember or fabricated is my mother, Magdalen (not her original given name, nor her only cult-chosen name), standing in a doorway, light from the hallway a bright halo surrounding her.

My next memory is when I was three, I think. I am awoken in the middle of the night by a grinning goofball wearing jockey and horse-covered pajamas. The room is the sleeping room for the kids, in the house in Manhattan. All the kids sleep in the same room. The goofball is Mark. It turns out he has just arrived from the Toronto branch.

I have a vague recollection of him wanting to introduce his mother to me. The next day, I believe, was Sunday and he couldn’t find her in the big Celebration (the Sunday service) room.

I remember trying to do a roll over the top rung on a ten foot high jungle gym. Other kids did it (this was preschool in NYC somewhere). I failed, fell, and woke to find at least one front tooth on the blacktop in front of me. A hazy recollection of a lot wide open faces surrounding me accompanies this image.

When I was five, my birthday ‘cake’ was a glass of very very sweet iced coffee. I never drank coffee again. Ever. Mormonism was my destiny apparently.

I recall my oldest brother organizing a boxing match. I fought, but couldn’t have been older than five. I beat my opponent.

When I was somewhere between three and six, I routinely finished off the adults’ wine after they had some kind of an evening ritual. Amounting to well over ten people’s unfinished wine, I must have gotten tipsy, but don’t remember it. Have never been drunk since. It has never held an appeal for me and the idea terrified me when I was younger and still drank alcohol.

We lived in the woods for two weeks at some point; I must have been five or six. I think we didn’t have anywhere else to live. I remember the two or three adults watching over the twenty or so kids quietly discussing going to a nearby YMCA to get some showers. I met a stomach-skin eating tree during that jaunt.

We lived somewhere else with a cherry tree. I believed I was the best climber of my generation of cult-orphans because I could reach the top of the tree. I was five or six.

I watched a fellow slam a screwdriver handle on my friend’s head as ‘discipline.’ It bled profusely. Five or six years old.

I don’t remember ever wondering about family, parents, or siblings. I do remember worrying about what we were going to eat. Often it was something called scrapple. Here’s a web definition: “Scrapple (Pennsylvania Dutch) is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and flour, often buckwheat flour and spices. It is similar to pon haus, which uses only the broth from cooked meat.”

It was also unpleasant.

I remember being in a lot of different places, but I don’t remember the moves, although I remember one car trip that took me to DC and other places.

I remember being back in NYC when I was a little older and seeing the Statue of Liberty.

Other hazy memories exist, but they are so indistinct! A hay loft. A place in Virginia with horses. Watching some fellow I don’t have any other memory of very efficiently working a screwdriver on a house or barn door.

And I remember living in a house on the outskirts of Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I was probably about six. That’s where things clarify. This brings us to the food prank. I’ll get into that later. It was hilarious and terrifying.

And finally, a correction. It turns out that my mother’s first husband joined the cult when she did. But he couldn’t take the neuroses of MaryAnne De Grimston (she had other names too) and he left.

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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