... and our little family was at the beach that day, not right on the beach at that moment, but in the park-like picnic area set back from the water and its sandy fringe. There were two slightly older girls at the table nearest to ours. Periodically, they would briefly break into some sort of dance step, just a few steps. I suppose it was the jitterbug. I regarded them curiously, for this was new stuff to me. Apparently, as I was watching them, my saintly mother was intently studying me, for at the very instant that I began to emulate these exotic creatures by audaciously daring to move my feet — just a little, mind you — my mother was right on me, like salt on potato chips: "Just remember who you are and who you belong to." (Translation for those who require one: "Remember that you are a Christian and you belong to Jesus.")
You see, we were Pentecostals, and, in those days at least, the devout were greatly influenced by the holiness movement. Heeding the words of the apostle Paul, we were supposed to be "in the world but not of the world." We were not to derive enjoyment from worldly pleasures. We weren't to smoke, even then when it was a more common and socially acceptable habit. We didn't drink, didn't gamble, didn't go to movies, didn't play cards, didn't go to amusement parks, didn't watch tv on Sunday, and didn't dance. And who knows what else we didn't do? At that age, kids believe what they are taught — it's called indoctrinaton — and since we all spend more time in the world than in the church, my beliefs began to cause me some confusion and discomfort.
I didn't quite know how to deport myself through most of my high school years. How could I be in the world but not of it? I would have to be careful of making the wrong kinds of friends, of overhearing the wrong kinds of jokes, of being in the company of people who might use the wrong kinds of language. I was forced to live my life on the fringes, relegated to hang about the periphery, constrained to be careful about becoming too involved with the wrong crowd . Difficult, painful and lonely times indeed.
At some point, I began to tenuously, very tenuously, experiment with some of these supposed vices. I wasn't being particularly rebellious, but I guess that I was beginning to think and evaluate for myself. I went to an amusement park and failed to find anything particularly unregenerate about riding the roller coaster or The Wild Mouse. Even a little more tenuously did I venture into the dank confines of a theatre to watch a movie. I came to a similar, surprising conclusion, for I discovered it to be no more grimily stainful to my soul than watching tv at home.
No, I didn't plunge headlong into the wild life, always thought that there was some virtue in moderation or even in eschewing certain activities, and I continue to think that way. Even as an adult, in my late-twenties or early-thirties, I remember getting involved in a card game with some of Cuppa's worldlier relatives. I felt sick to my spirit at having to gamble despite the fact that the grand purse consisted only of paltry pennies, nickels and dimes.
There's no scintilla of doubt that I will always be affected by those early years, for we are what we were when. For example: although I now drink a little wine or beer or put a dab of Bailey's in my Christmas coffee, I remain pretty darn moderate. I no longer hold it sinful to have a drink, but, at my core, I can't help but feel that it not a terribly moral choice to consume significant quantities of alcohol on any sort of regular basis. I'm sure that I have never been drunk although two glasses of wine can render me a trifle woozy. Hence, my daughter, somewhat jealously, deems me a cheap drunk. I say "jealously" because I'm sure that she wishes that she could be as easily affected by consuming such a paltry volume.
Pretty well the last Thou Shalt Not item on my list has been dancing. That is really what I wanted to write about today, but all of this seemingly necessary background has consumed so much of both your and my time, that I feel it incumbent upon me to put these ruminations on Pause for the nonce and advise you to stay tuned for some of the more recent developments in my journey towards some semblance of normality.