The following guest post was written by Marie.
My mom sent me back to school too soon after having chicken pox. I had come down with it during a Girl Scouts camping weekend in fourth grade. It was right after my parents separated, and she was working days for the first time. So, the first week of school that I was sick, I had been home alone. This was highly atypical for my upbringing and in hindsight, I believe she had kept this a secret from my father’s side of the family–who knew I had chicken pox, but whom she did not want to ask for help from, and this created her internal stress to get me back to school.
The following Monday morning, I still had open sores all over me, but my cold symptoms had lessened and my mother had been making noise all Sunday, in Christian Science platitudes, that I was ready to go back to school the next day–I had made my demonstration and that sort of thing. I kept pleading with her that NO ONE came back in one week, you were *supposed* to stay out for two weeks when you had the chicken pox; it was not a race, there was a rule. But, I was sent on my way, to walk to school alone.
I was filled with dread. I was a pariah at school because of Christian Science. I was not a cool kid to begin with; too fat, too bookish, and too sincere. I did not wear my ‘cult status’ (heh, heh) well. The arrangement in the mornings was that the entire student body waited in a crowd outside the doors until the arranged time, and then the doors were unlocked and we proceeded into our classrooms. It was a small school district where we all walked to and from school, even at our lunch break.
As I approached the already large crowd of students, the first few took notice of me and a murmur, then a larger thrill of reaction sped through the student body. There were no adults present. They simultaneously turned to face me as a group and backed away from me as a group, into the brick building behind them, protectively. Dozens of voices cried out, “You’re not supposed to be here! You’re sick; what are you, stupid? She’s a Christian Scientist, she doesn’t know she’s not supposed to come here with chicken pox, she’s gonna get us all sick! Get away from us! Get away from here! Go home, Christian Scientist!”
I stopped, paces away from them, in the middle of the playground, hysterical with tears, pleading with them, “I know! I told my mom!” over and over again. They would not hear me. A teacher came to open the doors and saw the scene. She waved the children in and hustled over to me to ask, “what on earth are you DOING here? It’s only been a week! You’re still sick!” I sobbed, “I KNOW! She told me to come back!” With veiled disgust and efficiency she whisked me into the nurse’s office who quickly confirmed with the first temperature check of my life that I was still contagious, gave me a note stating I was not to return until the following Monday, and sent me on the walk home.
I marched home filled with deep fury at my mother, hyperventilating with sobs at what I had been put through. She was surprised to see me stomp through the door and slam the note down in front of her. She asked some sort of question I can’t remember, but my answer was, “No. All the students were afraid of me and yelled at me to get away, and the teachers said I shouldn’t be there and the nurse said not to come back until next Monday; just like I TOLD you.”
I crawled into my bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, which is where I should have been in the first place, hiccuping with tears as I slowly calmed down. As I drifted off, my last awareness was my mother’s presence at my bedside, stroking my hair. “I’m sorry, honey.”
Marie was a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and Principia Upper School survivor/graduate. By day, she works with kids; by night, she’s a caped crusader working to exorcise Christian Science demons from the world.
I really feel for you. I was brought up Catholic n my happiest childhood memories are of being home from school ill, as they were the only times I got attention and nurturing and protection.
That nurturing and care is sadly lacking with many Christian Scientist parents, and it’s all due to the philosophical denial of the existence of the illness.
So cruel. So much in my life when I’ve needed support n new friends I’ve found myself around New Thought Louise L Hay obsessives, n Oprah fans, who have a similar toxic dismissal n seeming heartlessness. Nowhere near as painful as with a parent, but a bit of the same stuff by the sound of things.
New Thought and Christian Science have a somewhat intertwined history, although they do not dangerously eschew proper medical care like Christian Scientists do. However, it’s still the same weird denial of the reality of the world, and ignoring (praying) away problems, rather than doing something to solve them.
Yes and being blamed for your sufferings because your thoughts are supposed to have created them? With cheerfulness the supposed panacea rather than sympathy and compassion? I could not resonate with that, as it’s the opposite of my values and who I am
My situation was rather unique. I was sent to the CS Sunday School, but neither of my parents attended any church at all. When I was sick, I was taken to the Dr., so it was a schizophrenic early childhood. My Mother was wonderful, loving, and empathetic, and I don’t ever remember her talking about CS or it’s teaching. My Mother’s best friend since early childhood lived next door to us, she was a dyed in the wool CS, and I think she was the one got my Mom into it. One childhood memory that I will never forget is when one of the old biddies who taught Sunday school baby sat me one night when my parents were out for the evening. Unfortunately for me, I had been sick with what I now believe was whooping cough. She came into my room and shaking her finger at me said “STOP that coughing. You are NOT sick! I don’t want to hear anymore of that coughing!!” I think I was 6 or 7 years old. I was so scared. By the time I was 12 or 13, I had had enough. The kids at school made fun of me and I told my Mom I didn’t want to go back to that church. She was totally ok with that, so I started attending the Presbyterian Church, where I finally heard what Christianity was all about. The end of the story is that I became a registered nurse and spent 35 yrs as an ICU nurse caring for the sickest of the sick, and loving my vocation.