Note: A few weeks after my last "life story" installment, I got e-mails from someone at IBLP and a rep from Gothard asking me to stop using the character traits as lead-ins to my story. Since I don't know how I would stand legally, I'll honor the request and not re-post the traits. I will, however, keep telling my story and if one of the character lessons is directly related to the story, I feel justified in posting it as background.
The Beggining of the Relationship That Ended It All
As I've said before, my family did a lot of fellowship with other IBLP/ATI/QF families. Our house was a convenient rest stop for families travelling to and from sessions, conventions, and other gatherings. While our house wasn't terribly large, it did have a large yard and land enough to park trailers/buses/motorhomes or a fleet of vans (the general vehicle of choice for QF families).
One afternoon, as we were cleaning in preparation for yet another gathering, my dad asked to speak to me. He handed me a rake and asked me to help him level a spot under a tree for the Carson's* trailer. (NOTE* - I've obviously changed names here.) He explained that the Carson's were good friends of his (even though I'd only met them a handful of times and couldn't recall any special relationship). My dad veered off into the unexpected when he started asking me questions about my future. Dad asked if I had been praying for my future husband or if I had thought about "seriously preparing (myself) for marriage?" I don't remember what my external response to him was but I do remember thinking that I was uncomfortable with the way this conversation was going. After we'd cleared the spot, dad and I got in the cart to go back to the shed and he laid his hand on mine. He said that he'd been praying about my future husband and had received some guidance from the Lord. The Lord had guided him to the Carson family.
The Carson family had five boys. The oldest was eight years older than me (but still living at home). The youngest was two years my junior. The third boy, Jacob*, was a year older than me and I assumed that my dad was referring to this boy. Rounding out their family was Adam*. Adam was three years older than me (17, at this point). Because we weren't allowed to socialize with the boys in other families (other than brief interactions with no physical contact or real deep conversation), I didn't know the Carson boys very well. When they visited before, or when we saw them at conferences, I kept my distance and kept busy. I had no interest in any of the boys because they seemed odd to me. Jacob was, from my estimation, approachable and the most cordial of the boys. But the others were rowdy and loud and talked badly about others in a way that I found off-putting. Hearing my father say that I was now supposed to "get to know them" made me anxious. I had no experience with dating, it being forbidden, and was certainly not thinking of courting anyone at fourteen.
When the Carson's arrived, my dad greeted them warmly and, as happened with all "fellowshipping opportunities", gathered us all for a prayer. The prayer was standard procedure until my dad said, "...and Lord, please use this weekend to do your will...open hearts and minds to new possibilities, for your Glory." As he said this, he looked at me. The prayer circle broke and for the first time in my life, I was told to go with my brothers and entertain the Carson boys while we toured the property. I protested and said that I was needed by my mother. My father grabbed my arm harshly and told me to do as I was told.
During the walk with the boys, I tried not to be noticed. I hung back. I only answered direct questions and was counting the moments until I could retreat into the relative comfort of my room. After we'd left site of the house, Adam slowed down until I had caught up with the group and he tried to make small talk. He asked me very personal questions about my faith and if I believed in the principles that certain people in our circle promoted. I'm sure I touted the party line and told him what I imagined he wanted to hear. This interrogation lasted until we got back to the house and I went to find my mother.
My mother was in the kitchen with Mrs. Carson. As soon as I entered the room, the tone changed and my mother began telling all present how skilled and capable I was in managing our home. "In fact...", said my mother, "...Ruth, why don't you take over dinner while Mrs. Carson and I watch the girls play! You don't mind, do you?" What could I say? Open contradiction was unheard of and I'd prepared dinner for many many times. I did as I was told. When we gathered at the table for the meal, my parents made multiple references to how good my cooking was and how efficient I'd been in presenting the meal. It was strange praise. Even stranger when Mr. Carson took each praise in like a bidder at an auction, smiling and nodding to his sons.