In 1990 a twister circled around our little town of Alpharetta, GA population who gives a shit. The Atlanta suburb had recently appeared on the map as an up and coming suburbanite location. At that time it was still rich in farmland, evangelical churches, and quaint homes. It wasn’t the expansive market of prefab homes, hip mega churches, and gated communities with imitation mansions viewed on MTV’s “Cribs.” That night my mother had my little sisters and me in the hallway of our cedar ranch while she went around anointing door frames with Jesus oil. She spoke in tongues (which sounded like Spanish, “Oh mamma si.”) rebuking the satanic tornado from our home. “I rebuke you Satan in the name of Jesus.” Enunciating the J in Jesus, as she passed by wiping our foreheads with grease.
During her second wave of pregnancies she gave up chemicals for holy roller- mental spells. She ordered bottles of snake oil from Robert Tilton or Jimmy Swaggert or one the good ole’ boys from the born again club, and rice sacks of faith from Jimmy and Tammy Faye Baker. She was clean for a while and she held onto to the word as tightly as she did her signed prescriptions for benzodiazepines. (Except for the time when she folded two blues pills in a piece of Kraft American and fed it to the neighbors Labrador retriever one night. She was over his barking and took matters in her own hands.)
Her religious life was shocking in slow motion like carving yourself to the nerve with a butter knife. I was fifteen and accustomed to her more carefree and doped up ways. We went from rocking out to Heart and Rod Stewart to listening to cassette tapes of different ministries. She drove me absolutely insane with all of that nonsense, but it did keep her illegal drug-free for a while. And she was head strong about honing my love for the lord too. “Girl you better listen to the lord. Spare the rod and spoil the child.” She didn’t allow me to hang out with a Mormon girl from my school because she said, “ Mormonism is a cult.” and she asked every one of my friends as they walked through the door, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?” as she squinted through her smeared eyeliner. She gave us fantastic stuff to think about while we were huffing Scotch guard in my bedroom.
She knew about all the cults and how to avoid them. She preferred that I befriend kids of tongue speakers and faith healers. She introduced me to a preacher’s son at a church of god house of worship we were visiting. I did it with him on his parent’s couch, and kitchen counter while they were at church one day. He turned out to be the most sexually charged and knowledgeable 18-year-old boy I’d ever met. He taught me the basics and then some. I wasn’t his first Tennessee walker that’s for sure.
She didn’t trust kids of parents with no or any other religion, and although Catholics are Christian, she didn’t like them either because of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost mix-up. However, one time she did let me bring a Catholic girl with us on a trip to the kitschy mountain town of Gatlinburg TN, home of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and fudge shops.
I met a tightly curled blonde with knock-knees and awkward long legs. She had surprised brown eyes, a horse’s smile and an irritating dry laugh. We met working at the local chain grocery store, Big Star. It was brand new and hired a bunch of high school kids to run the registers. They were the first food store in our area to open with a hot deli. We met in the break room over chicken wings and diet cokes. She was an advanced placement student but somehow we ended up in American government together. She sat behind me in class twirling my hair with a number 2 desperately wanting to be considered somewhat cool. She was the worm between the pages, unseen until she needed to chew her way out. She was a good-girl cracking. Her parents started fighting and she wanted a taste of something different. She tried reading my rebellious language of defected merchandise. She was one of those people who wanted it to be worse than it was, or maybe to her the situation was that bad. I liked her because she constantly fed my ego and because she started drinking vodka and smoking camels. We eventually got together on weekends and I introduced her to LSD.
My mother drove a massive cream station wagon with wood paneling down the sides. The seats were luxurious benches, a pimps dream, with smooth beige pleather and room enough for three on each row. The fabric in the ceiling hung down like a cicada’s nest and the electric windows squealed when rolled up and down. My mother called it her, “Land Yacht.” I called it, “Extremely embarrassing and difficult for a learners license holder to drive.”
We piled into the front with my mom. I sat in the middle. We dosed on acid 30 minutes into the car ride. “Amanda, do you want a piece of gum?” as I passed her a tiny hit and a square of Bubble Yum. When the drugs set in we were listening to Marilyn Hickey, an evangelical female speaker and watching the raindrops roll the sides of the windshield. I asked my mom, “Can we play our music for a little while?” She agreed so we changed out her cassette for Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” She was familiar with the lyrics, “Hey hey mama said the way you move, Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove.” My mom said, “Shannon, turn that off, Led Zeppelin is going to make you think of hard throbbing penises and hot smoking doobies.” Amanda and I lost it, uncontrollable hysteria ensued, little did my mom know we didn’t need rock and roll as she predicted.