Epiphany: Saved By My Mother

The following account was shared on EpiphanyChannel.com.

Back in the early 80’s, before I got married, moved to Brooklyn and became a mom, I lived with my single mother and twin sister, Heidi, in an area known as Hell’s Kitchen. It was a rough New York neighborhood filled with drug dealers, prostitutes, and gangs so I didn’t blame Mother for pulling us out of grade school and attempting to teach us at home. But as I became a pre-teen, I hated home-schooling, watching Pat Robertson on the 700 Club TV show predict the end of the world, and resented being isolated from the world.

While other kids were in school, I watched the gypsy kids play in front of their parents’ tarot card storefront. One afternoon, a dark haired girl waved and yelled up for me to join them. I turned toward Mother and told her about the girl. Mother looked up from her Bible study and warned that they believed in the occult.

For weeks, I begged Mother to let us play with the gypsies. Finally she agreed on one condition: that we were to be examples for Christ and witness to them. I cringed. Heidi and I were twins, already freaks of nature. Plus, I didn’t want them to think we were like our neighbor, an elderly lady shut-in who yelled Bible verses while she trapped pigeons on her fire escape, put them in a tin can, and froze the birds in her freezer.

Heidi and I ran downstairs, introduced ourselves, and they did the same. They were small for their age, even skinnier than Heidi and I, and seemed to exist solely on bags of potato chips and candy. Muppets, Smurfs, and He-Man figurines rested curbside and a dog peed on the sidewalk tree barely missing My Little Pony.

Hours later, over dinner, we told Mother about the games we played.

“The indoctrination has begun. Those toys are disguised as fairyland, but they are tools for magic and Lucifer,” mother said. Then she plopped open a Sears catalogue and pointed to a model wearing a peace sign on a T-shirt.

“That’s the upside down cross. It signifies Satan’s victory over Jesus.”

Mother told us how Disneyland’s wizards, crystals, rainbows, and unicorns were symbols of the Third Eye and of the Antichrist. She said the song, “It’s a Small World” taught one-worldism.

Every day we listened to Mother rant about how Christ was going to pass judgment on the world’s sins and how the End Times were approaching.

Months later, Mother asked us if we had led the gypsies to Christ. We shook our heads no. She didn’t understand that I didn’t want them to change and become Christians, I just loved being their friend.

The gypsies eventually moved away and Mother railroaded us into Bob Jones University, a Protestant fundamentalist school in the South where we had to sit six inches away from boys, wear skirts below our knee, and weren’t allowed to leave the gated campus without a chaperone.

When I quit a year later, I wanted distance from my family and fellow Christians and decided to move back to New York. I was tired of hearing from Mother and classmates that I’d end up in hell if I didn’t settle down and marry a missionary.

“Where are you going to live?” Mother asked.

“YMCA has cheap rooms,” I said.

“They teach yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi. Tools for Devil worship. They should re-name it YWOA for Young Women’s Occult Association.”

I ignored her, moved in, bought books by Buddhists, and became a waitress. I stopped visiting her as often and decided to shut her out of my life. But she sent hand page written letters. At first, I tossed them onto my desk and watched them pile up. Then out of Protestant guilt, I read them. She detailed how her father was strict, disciplined her by hitting her, how she ran away on freight trains for Kentucky, was put into a boarding school for bad girls, and how she entered a mental institution in her twenties. All those years of hiding us in a tenement and smothering us with sermons was meant to keep us safe from what had hurt her.

I called her and cried.

“Pray to God for strength,” Mother said.

Last time I visited Mother, we went to Sunday service. Inside the unadorned church, we watched a women be baptized in a pool of water. For the first time, I understood my mother, her search for renewal and for the past to be washed away. She was just trying to shield us, protect us from what she thought were the evils of the world. Kneeling for the prayer, I reached over and took my mother’s hand.

I might have lost my religion, but I finally understood my mother.

– Heather Kristin, New York, NY

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