Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fear the Almighty Google

My friend Alisa lived across the street from me when we were growing up. My home town was tough on her. She moved there when she was in that Middle School Awkward stage, and she was the daughter of a minister. Looking for a recipe for childhood emotional trauma? Be an awkward 6th grader, a preacher's kid, and get plunked in the middle of a backward small town.

We connected because we both wanted to get away from that tiny town more than anything else in the world. Neither of us wanted to be farmer's wives, which was the career choice girls were offered. That, you know, or slutty whore.

I know many people are very happy being part of a family farming operation. I don't mean to disparage it, it just wasn't for me. I do mean to disparage the idea that if you decide being someone's wife and mother is not your only life goal, you're clearly an awful little girl, and no one will ever want to marry you. (What, you're too good for our way of life? Slutty whore. Only it was never phrased quite like that. I'm sure the church also figured into it somehow. God created you to be a farmer's wife. Why do you want to make the Baby Jesus cry?)

As a wife and mother who is happy being both, but who would struggle if that were my only identity, allow me figuratively moon anyone who ever told Alisa and me we should just stop being so uppity already. I'm flipping you off, too, with both hands. Suck it, morons.

The church plays an important role in the daily workings of my hometown. It's scary. When I was in college, I found out my high school hosted an exchange student from one of the former Soviet Republics. He was a muslim until he came to our neck of the woods. The "good" people of Southwestern Minnesota converted him, and he couldn't return home after his exchange. There was much pride about this. I heard from several people how they saved this boy's soul; but no one bothered to help him out after his parents shunned him and his former home wouldn't accept his new brainwashing beliefs. Horrifying. Also, hello placement organization? What were you thinking? Gah.

I don't mean to denegrate faith, but I will pass judgment on an odd little enclave in Minnesota that's probably a little more cult-like than John Calvin envisioned. Yikes.

Alisa moved to Grand Rapids when I was a high school sophomore. We planned to go to a college equidistant from Grand Rapids and my home town. We wrote frequently and called each other often.

What college is equidistant from Grand Rapids, Michigan and where I lived? Beloit. Alisa, a year ahead of me in school, matriculated to Calvin. I was surprised, but clearly she would transfer to Beloit once I got in. I was accepted at Beloit two weeks after I applied. Then I found out I got into Yale, which abruptly brought all plans of attending Beloit to a screeching halt. (The Beloit people kept calling me though, once even describing their school as the "Yale of the Midwest." Um, yeah. I'm not going to attend your school. You just described yourself as the "'School I'm Going to Attend' of your region." Please stop calling.)

Sadly, Alisa and I fell out of touch during my college years. A few attempts to reconnect since then have been fairly dismal misfires. Back when we were kids, yearning to Get the Hell Out of Dodge was a pretty powerful thing to have in common. Now we're both out of Dodge, and struggle to find similarities.

I think my home town scarred her. I don't blame Alisa for wanting to distance herself from anything and anyone associated with an awful, awful place for her. Or, I may just be horribly boring and a terrible phone conversationalist, so she cut her losses and stopped calling my sorry butt.

But I think of her often, so I googled her.

At last contact, she was teaching Spanish at Indiana University, where she received her advanced degrees. It seems she's moved on to Calvin, her undergrad alma mater.

She signed an open letter to the President, in protest of his policies before he spoke at a Calvin commencement. The letter was eloquent and inclusive; it summed up what faith is supposed to represent. Politics aside, the letter gracefully spoke of belief system that a small town full of "faithful" rarely demonstrated to Alisa. I was proud to know her when I came upon the letter.

I hope she's well and happy. I hope she's found security and a sense of belonging, and is surrounded by bountiful amounts of good friends and good wine. I should drop her an email, try once more to reconnect.

By the way her brother, who (last I heard) was doing publicity for a golf tour somewhere in the south, purchased a home in New Orleans in the 432-48 block of Julia St. for $149,500. It was Unit 213, if you're curious. I hope he - and his lovely wife, who I've never met, but hello Lovely Wife! [waves] - escaped the worst of Katrina. He works for the Saints now, which is mighty cool. Go Ian.

Google might be scarier than the Dutch Reformed Church.


Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I'd say it's a tie.

Mom at Work said...

tie nothing -- I doubt the Dutch Reform Church would knuckle under to the commies just to get a foot in the door. then again, google did stand up to the justice department. maybe it is a tie

MetroDad said...

Damn! Both are scaring the crap out of me right now!