A Memoir of a
(PublicAffairs)Part II grew up in Florida, so it is always a treat to read a book about growing up in Florida. Rosen called St. Petersburg home; my playground was Jacksonville. These two cities are not so far apart, but from her writing, I guess we were stationed in another world.She deplores the bugs. For me, they were part of the scenery. Palmetto bugs --- roaches that grew to five or six inches in length --- seem to faze her. You tried to be careful not to step on them, for if you did, they left a gooky yellow custard behind. Even if you just threatened them, they would let go a stink, then raise their shiny wings in such a stance that you knew they would fly right in your ear.The heat and humidity seemed to bother her. Mercy! It was a given for people who lived there. Your shoes turned green if you didn't polish them; the light switches would tickle you with their overflowing currents; everything smelled dank; stamps wouldn't stick, envelopes would always jam closed. Wasn't that the way it was in the rest of the world?
But the big difference, one gleans from reading My Fundamentalist Education, was that she had one, and I didn't. I mean, I went to Sunday School, where we colored Bible Books and giggled behind the unsmiling teacher's back. I drew Jesus in a book with yellow face and red hands. At Christmas, I put on a robe and a cotton beard and was told that I was Joseph in the Nativity Play.
Outside of that, and ducking out from the house as quick as possible when Rev. Leatherberry (!) came to call --- so I wouldn't have to listen to him droning on --- my growing up was hot, and sticky, and fun, and bug- and snake-filled, and not at all as threatening as her own. There were some cards dealt Rosen that didn't appear in my deck. Her mother --- she calls her "Biomom" --- was a little crazy, drifting from religion to religion, expecting momentarily to be lifted out of the car or off her bed or out of the bathtub into something known as "The Rapture."
She said that it didn't matter if her savings account had nothing in it, because the Holy Spirit had told her that the rapture would happen very soon, so all of her debts would never need to be paid.
By contrast, my mom and dad wouldn't have been caught dead in a fundamentalist church because such bogs were no fun at all. My parents liked having a good time, in a post-Prohibitionist way: drinking cocktails and smoking and dancing at the Yacht Club on a Saturday night. Church just wasn't where it was at, although I suspect that one thing that kept them away was that most the churches of our time in the south were what we now call "fundamentalist."
The Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists admitted no blacks to worship, didn't seem much bothered by all the slavery in the Bible (and in the history of our part of the country), frowned on drinking, smoking, dancing, having babies out of wedlock, and something they referred to, constantly, as "fornication."