Sunday mornings

Chapel was compulsory
in our household
unless you were nearly dead
which was how I often felt
after Saturday night
at the youth club
or to be more precise
The Red Lion Pub.

If you don’t come then
you’ll peel all the vegetables
for dinner
difficult choice.

God didn’t approve of jeans either
unless you were catholic,
then he didn’t mind one way or another.
But we were Methodist to the core;
a weekly dose of pleated obedience –
below the knee.

Arrows of hell fire and damnation
fired from the pulpit
aimed solely at me
because I was the one
who didn’t want to be there
and God knew it;
I was marked down in his
little book of badness every week.

But even if God hated me
attendance was rewarded;
one more reprieve
for that day at least
from the ever increasing
slipperiness of the slope
I was now on, heading toward
parental shaking of heads
and the shameful label of
“bitter disappointment”
which was the last thing in the world
I would ever want to be
because that would mean
I had failed.

 

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54 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ina
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 10:18:49

    This is a lovely poem. Oh what a shame the church was so dominant… And approval of parents, it is so important. Children should be allowed to go their own way (with some limitations) and not be forced to do things they don’t want! You make it clear here what that meant to you. Well done! 🙂 L&H xxx

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 10:23:46

      Thank you very much Ina! I like to think I was a little more open minded while I was bringing my three up. Strangely though, my parents’ views seemed to change to be more open as they became older, particularly my dad, which is weird as he did a diploma to become a lay preacher in his later years and I thought this would make him have a more stuffy approach but the opposite was the case. L&H xx

      Reply

  2. Janette moran
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:05:08

    A really lovely poem, says a lot … Yes you were more open minded when we grew up. I only knew the more relaxed side of Nana and Grandad when they were older so never saw this side of the church for them …. What I saw / experienced was all about coffee mornings and church fairs and a Grandad taking our toys to use in his sermons 🙂
    I imagine they were operating from the place of fear that religion had instilled into them when they were growing up …. And then as they grew older they were more confident to hold their own views and worry less about how they had been taught to be or what other people thought (maybe there are other area of parenting this is true about too!).
    A great poem that says so much and reminds us to be there to guide our little ones but to not to force things on them xx

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:14:31

      Thanks so much Janette for this lovely comment which says it all! You are right I think about them letting loose the chains later on in life, that they had been tied to regarding religion and church going.

      And thank you for the memory too. Id forgotten that dad used to borrow your toys for his sermons. I miss him!!!! 😊 xx

      Reply

  3. Janette moran
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:17:21

    Just thought it also says lots about how teenagers perceive things too …. At that age they aren’t able to see other perspectives to explain where parents may be coming from etc and things are generally interpreted really personally. I think this poem shows how that was happening too in these situations which possibly made it more powerful for you too ….it reminds me of looking back at some diaries I wrote as a teenager and the amount of things I took personally that meant you and dad didn’t like me ! E.g. Not letting me do certain things meant everyone hated me etc etc ! I would never remember these things had gone through my head without the diaries to remind me ! Good reminders for me for when T and S get to that age ! …. Maybe you’ll need to remind me again too 🙂 hope this hasn’t veered too far from the point! 🙂 xx

    Reply

  4. Janette moran
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:18:38

    I miss him too …. As he said to me just before he died, he’ll be looking down on us all with his angel wings 🙂 xx

    Reply

  5. journeyintopoetry
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:26:04

    Oh gosh yes!! I took it very personally! I “knew” mum hated me and yet she couldn’t have loved me more!! And actually Im kind of grateful for most of the discipline now because it kept me grounded in a way I wouldn’t have been otherwise. I just hated Sunday mornings with a passion! And then the smell of Sunday dinner which reminded me I hadn’t done my homework! Those were the days! And no you haven’t veered from the point; it’s good when a poem can take us to places!

    And Im absolutely certain he is there with his angel wings; how could he not be?! 😊 xx

    Reply

  6. Minuscule Moments
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 11:26:35

    Christine this poem makes me think about my choices growing up. My parents were strict catholics, church on sundays rosary every night etc etc But as they aged they allowed for the human error element that comes with raising a large family and relaxed a little. I tell my kids god will love them no matter what they choose to follow or believe in.

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:20:50

      Thank you Kath. Yea my parents relaxed.so much more in later life regarding all this stuff. I dont know if you saw the comments above between my daughter Janette and me but I think a lot of how they behaved way back was born out of their own fears about religion. And in his later years my father did a diploma to become a lay preacher and by that time his views were so very relaxed I hardly recognised him. I miss him a lot, well I miss both of them a lot. They were good, loving parents. X

      Reply

      • Minuscule Moments
        Jun 17, 2014 @ 20:48:51

        Sounds like he became one with the human condition. We all struggle don’t we in some way or another.. Christine, my father had great empathy for all people and would help anyone in need. I have big shoes to fill and I miss him too xx have a nice day.

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 18, 2014 @ 07:54:50

      Thank you Kath. Yes I have big shoes to fill too. 😊 x

      Reply

  7. Angela
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 12:07:00

    There’s nothing like time to give us distance from something – and perspective. You reflect beautifully on this time, Christine. In what appears to be simple lines you have included many of the great questions and emotions we are so often faced with in our lives: religion, God, why our parents, seeking approval, guilt… and loads more – all ending with a wonderful full stop, as if you, in later years looking back, had understood all that there was to understand and brought a full stop to it. Great writing, my friend. :-). Love and hugs to you, xxx

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:14:58

      Thank you very much Angela. I think our teenage years are riddled with all those things you mention and it takes a long time to untangle everything. Of course there are also many rhings I was given by my parents that never needed untangling and their love was the main one. Thank you for your lovely comment. Love and hugs xx

      Reply

  8. Cynthia Jobin
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:06:59

    I guess you know from my own poems how I feel about Sunday ennui and institutional religion, Christine. This is such a neat little poetic drama, and so sense-rich: I am ready to scratch my knees from the itch of a wool pleated skirt, and I can smell the vegetables that reek of unfinished homework. And that deep need for parental approval—is it ever satisfied? Or do we just transfer it to the larger conventional society? I like when a poem is a springboard to alternative realities, and this one does that for me. I imagine saying: okay, I’ll stay home and peel the vegetables, and then having a lovely zen-like time alone playing with carrots, turnip, potatoes, sharp knives, big bowls, and cold running water…..I guess you know I really enjoyed this poem. 🙂

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:10:38

      Cynthia, your comment gave me a huge smile. When I was reading through my poem I actually did think of you and your feelings on Sunday ennui. I think you may be right, we do transfer the need for approval to a wider society. On reflection, it has taken me/is taking me forever to realise this isnt necessary; I am who I am, take it or leave it. And I did stay at home on a few rebellious occasions to peel all the vegetables and put the record player on full blast while doing so! 😄

      Reply

  9. journeyintopoetry
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:49:21

    😊

    Reply

  10. Peter Wells aka Countingducks
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 17:10:06

    That rings a bell with me. I was bought up a catholic, by my mother who had converted from the Anglican faith, and was therefore somewhere towards being fanatical. In the holidays I would be woken at 5:30 am to go and serve the 6am mass, as, for reasons I’m sure we both find bewildering, he couldn’t get anyone else to help him. Needless to say, I have been significantly more liberal in my approach when dealing with my own children.

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 17:41:21

      Yes Peter, my husband has told me of similar stories to yours. And when he first started school most of the teachers were nuns, and they were not kind, compassionate women, anyrhing but. As I said to Lauren this stuff could be discussed forever! Im just glad we have been more liberal with our three children.

      Reply

  11. Jane Thorne
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 14:09:20

    Oohh Chris, how beautifully you capture the need to conform at that tender age…when all we craved was freedom…your two words ‘pleated obedience’ are perfect. ❤ xxxxxx something has happened to my spacing on this comment – thanks WP….at least it's not lost…well, I hope not…. !!

    Reply

  12. Jennifer's Journal
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 14:36:55

    Outstanding poem, and point taken!

    Reply

  13. leamuse
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 15:16:15

    Brilliant and please pass the vegetable peeler s’il tu plait! 🙂
    The parents never went, my half-sister never went so I was forced to make the appearances. There will be more about it but that will be in the book. 😉

    Reply

  14. journalread
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 13:03:56

    Great authenticity – love it 🙂

    Reply

  15. Thomas Davis
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 23:23:38

    Poetry, touching what is true in the poet, touches what is true in the reader. The truth is that church when I was young did not harm me all that much even though the lady who screeched singing hymns sometimes did hurt my ears, and I often wondered what I was doing there. Later my parents, Methodists, fell away from Sunday church when we moved from Delta to Grand Junction since they had to work on Sunday. What this poem does is conjure up the traditional childhoods of your readers and lets them see into your reactions to that childhood, letting them reflect on their own. The specific instance becomes a community experience inside reflections about individual experiences, letting us all see humanity as a whole a little clearer. You are growing as a poet, Christine. I expect that you will keep growing.

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 20, 2014 @ 12:23:54

      Thank you very much Tom. I didnt realise when I first posted this one how much it would reach out to the experiences of others and I found this really interesting. I keep learning as I go. 😊

      Reply

  16. bardessdmdenton
    Jun 20, 2014 @ 21:14:36

    Wonderful, wonderful poem, Christine! It takes us on a journey through your very personal experience and spiritual evolution, expressing the discomfort, frustration and even anger you felt, but also humor as you look back on it.

    So often the dogma of specific religious practices can get in the way of our soul’s discoveries and transformations … (I suspect that it what it is ‘designed’ to do.) So many wonderful lines in this: “a weekly dose of pleated obedience/below the knee.” and “Arrows of hell fire and damnation/fired from the pulpit/aimed solely at me …”

    Happy birthday, my dear lovely friend! Hope your day was wonderful and wishing you a year and many more ahead of poetic journeys that I look forward to you sharing through your words and beautiful spirit. Love always, Diane XO ♥

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 23, 2014 @ 08:45:30

      Thank you so much Diane. Yes I think you are right, they were”designed” to keep us in check and stop our souls from soaring. Im not saying my parents did all this to be purposefuuly stern and strict; it was all they knew and as things were sort of stuck in this respect for ages it wasnt until their later years that they mellowed as a result of reflection and life generally “moving on” from those dogmatic days.

      Thank you for the lovely birthday wishes and I,too, look forward to continuing to share my journey with you. Lots of love ❤️ Xx

      Reply

  17. SuzyHazelwood
    Jun 23, 2014 @ 16:42:19

    This is so good Christine!! 🙂 It really conveys so well that AWFUL feeling of needing to attend church – because you MUST. It used to be me too! An experience like that really lives with you a lifetime, and is not exactly an encouragement to stay a member your entire life! The church I was brought up to attend almost completely died as far as young people were concerned – only the elderly remained. And those members wondered why!!! I think they convinced themselves it was just the younger generation who had the problem. Changes were made eventually, but way too late.

    I love your choice of – attend church or peel or the vegetables! 😐 Mind you, I didn’t even get that choice, I might just have gone for the vegetables, anything would have been better than sitting there hearing a mundane voice reminding me of those things that God didn’t approve or would not listen to. I wonder now, what a pity none of the young ones stood up and said “but how do you know that” Oh, if only I’d had the courage, I would have loved to have heard the response. I would now, that’s probably largely why I stay away from church – I can’t trust myself not to be cheeky! 😉

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 24, 2014 @ 11:01:18

      Hi Suzy and thank you! You are so right, we wouldnt dare question any of what was put forward back in the day. At least the young are mostly given a chance to question things these days, sometimes at least. And as I said somewhere above in the comments, the Methodist church I went to as a child now has a small congregation with hardly a young person to be seen; Im not at all surprised. Xx

      Reply

  18. kathryningrid
    Jun 23, 2014 @ 20:05:17

    I’m quite certain that guilt-based religious practices (amazingly common, from what I’ve seen, in many religions!) are an end in themselves and obscure the original intent of any of those religions. It amazes me at times that institutions of religion have survived at all, let alone so long, when I think of how hard many stalwarts within them have—however unwittingly—worked to make them punitive and hideous in so many ways. Ha. Dogma becomes too dogged.

    Any god worthy of being worshiped is surely a whole lot more gracious, forgiving, passionate and compassionate and, frankly, joyful than such small-minded humans make him/her/it/them. Even your poem’s supposedly naughty teenager is clearly rebelling against the meanness of human attitudes, not a creative and loving God. Funny how churches and the people who create them can be so foolish that way.

    Terrific, evocative poem. 🙂

    xo,
    Kathryn

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 24, 2014 @ 11:28:31

      I am with you all the way Kathryn. This “god thing” can be a point of discussion for ever I think. If anyone asks me if I believe in God these days I say “what do you mean?” That floors some people to begin with which is never my intent. The word “God” was so ingrained in us as children (if we were members if an organised religion that is) that it is hard to shake off all that “stuff” and begin again.

      Ha! Here we have another word that can be used wrongly too! I have no idea what I believe in apart from the fact that the universe is vast and wonderful and I know very little. But I still say “Thank God ” for whatever, without even thinking about it. Maybe I need to change my exclamation to “thank the Universe”! – Doesnt have the same ring to it does it? 😊. I am still finding my way though and I would never be so arrogant as fo say I can handle everything Im faced with alone, and in very dark times I do find myself saying a prayer to soneone/something… And the saying “There are no atheists on a sinking ship” springs to mind. In AA it is suggested we choose “a God of your own understanding” or “not understanding” for that matter. I can live with this 😊 xx

      Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 24, 2014 @ 19:44:34

      Thank you Kathryn xx

      Reply

  19. Through My Eyes
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 12:08:59

    Wonderful poem Christine. I didn’t have it quite so tough but it brings back memories. It was a different world back then too, much more closed-minded. I’m glad things have changed but sometimes I think we’ve gone too far the other way now. xx

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 24, 2014 @ 12:57:25

      Thank you Norma. And yes Im totally with you here. We have gone too far the other way. It seems balance in all things is difficult to find. Im not sure where I am with belief, faith etc, Im a work in progress, but one of the thing I find so sad here in the UK is how many lovely churches have been abandoned and left derelict or maybe even worse, turned into carpet warehouses. Its very sad to see this happening.

      Im pleased to say my parents mellowed in their later years and I cherish what they left me spiritually. Xx

      Reply

  20. Wendy Macdonald
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 16:41:48

    Christine, this poignant poem makes we want to give you a big hug. It also reinforces the choice I’ve made years ago to never force my kids to attend church. They love youth group and participate in the music team there. When they come with me I consider it a blessing. ( I often stay home if my health is acting up.) Thankfully our church is not formal and the teens all wear jeans. God looks at the heart. Ironically I was the only one that attended church from my own family. No one told me to go. I was simply invited by a cousin and I said yes.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jun 26, 2014 @ 09:57:08

      Thank you very much Wendy, for your lovely warm comment. As I said in a few different comments above my parents mellowed so much in their later years with regard to their outlook on religion and church going. And I do need to stress that they did their very best in my childhood days; I need to remind myself they had come through two world wars which must have had great impact on them. And they both worked tirelessly within their chirch to help others less fortunàte. They gave me much love and cosiness and I love and miss them both very much x

      Reply

  21. beckarooney
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 18:17:10

    I enjoyed reading this and hearing about the slight rebel in you Christine! It’s interesting how much tradition in families is forced on each generation. Great poem 🙂 xx

    Reply

  22. Betty Hayes Albright
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 19:32:12

    Christine, I really feel for you in this one. I too escaped the church (though it wasn’t quite as harsh as the one you attended). True spirituality was beyond the church and any organized religion. I find the “the universal divine” within myself and others, and outside myself in the beauty of nature.

    Reply

    • journeyintopoetry
      Jul 30, 2014 @ 13:23:32

      Hi Betty, lovely to see you; I know how didficult it is so I really appreciate your visit and comnent. Yes I am like you and find that “universal divine” in those very same places. It sits far more comfortably with me. Sending love and hugs x

      Reply

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