In which the trauma is a matter of opinion

My mother's in town, and we had dinner last night. I was eager to tell her all about the updates I'd learned about the great, great cult she brought me to as a child. Well, I also wanted to have dinner with her--it's been a while since I've seen her. The Keelhauler and I met her at the restaurant.

"Do you remember that time we went to the Circle?" I said, as the bread arrived at the table.

"Ugh," she replied, "Do I. We all ended up traumatized by it."

It turns out she already knew all about the great updates, including that the two Mothers who ran it (and taught a doctrine that banned, among other things, homosexuality) turned out to be in a lesbian relationship together. Oops! Forgot to mention that, congregation--so sorry about that condemnation, etc. My sister-in-law had done some Googling and given my mother the whole scoop ages ago. I'm always the last to find out these important news flashes about Massachusetts cults I may have visited.

At any rate, I have to wonder about my mother's statement. "We were all traumatized by it," she said, meaning me, my parents, and my brother. It struck me as perhaps disingenuous at best. After all, my parents paid money to let our family stay at this place for a week or so. You'd think that after a couple of hours of forced confessions and public humiliation, they might have wised up, demanded a refund, and high-tailed it back to civilization. That they did not, and claim now to have been traumatized, does not gybe exactly 100% with my memory of events.

My parents were members of what was called a "Light Group"--a group of Christian adults, related to the Circle, who'd get together for the sport of calling each other out on perceived sins. Good times! They went to Light Group regularly, for years after we'd visited the Circle, accumulating a series of hyper-vigilant friends fond of criticizing each other. They were mean and bitter and given to telling my brother and me, when we had the misfortune of encountering them, how to behave. These people had no idea how to interpret the behavior of children and, accustomed to having my every motive distrusted, I grew increasingly defensive and resentful of being misunderstood. Part of the glory of the group was that no one was afforded an opportunity to defend oneself. Doing so was considered "rebellious"--the worst possible sin, as it offended both God and the person who was speaking for him, pointing out your flaws.

Maybe the trauma of the Circle took a couple of years to kick in, in my parents' case. I'm not sure, and it is one of those situations where there is no point in discussing it with my mother, because no good can come of it. Instead, I am going to start a new online diary called BITTER GALL and talk nonstop about the boring details of my crazy religious upbringing. Hooray! Visit it today!

At any rate, following dinner, my mother came along to band practice with me. For a couple of years now, she has been bugging me to send her the lyrics to the songs I've written, and I've ignored her. "But I want WORDS..." she says, in a piteous tone that irritates me and fuels my determination not to send her any. She'll just misinterpret them. I'd rather have her think they're too scandalous to print, which is extremely far from the truth, but also exactly what she believes.

After the rehearsal, she walked up and picked up the notebook I use to write down lyrics from where I'd set it on a monitor. I grabbed it back from her, and she got indignant. "Why can't I see it?" she said, "Is it NAUGHTY?"

"Naughty." Yes: my notebook of ribald yarns, revealed at last!

I was incapable of a reply, but suddenly felt like I was back in the sewing room at the Circle, accused of something heinous because my motives had been misinterpreted.

I do not think my mother was traumatized by the Circle as much as she was inspired. That is my interpretation of the situation.

Star of the day. . .Molly Brown
posted @ 6:21 p.m. on February 04, 2009 before | after


She lay awake all night,