Invasion of the Preachy Aliens From Godland

An uninspired title, to be sure, but I’m a bit tired and cleverness has never really been my strong suit. Deal with it, galleons.

On the way home from depositing a friend at her vehicle this morning, I spied a sign for a vacation bible camp on the street my own little dead end sprouts off of. Which took me back to the time I attended such a “camp” in elementary school.

Growing up, I wasn’t a part of a terribly religious family. My father had renounced Catholicism and refused to enter a church again (he did so years later, to get a cross necklace blessed for my mother… the cloying love spit emanating from her countenance upon discovering this nearly made me gag), and my mother, while a devout believer in God, never belonged to an organized church. However, I had friends that belonged to many denominations, so I found myself attending a large variety of churches in my childhood (you kind of get roped into Sunday church attendance if you spend a Saturday night with a church-going family). Catholic. Mormon. Lutheran. But, more so than any of the rest, I was frequently an attendee at my best friend’s Presbyterian worship center.

I always found church exceedingly boring (while I read the Bible at age 8, church was full of pomp and ceremony and boring men who talked entirely too long about things I didn’t care about), so I frequently found myself doodling on the postcards tucking into the backs of the pews in front of us. And reading the hymns, which were kind of interesting, even though when it came time to sing them I never knew any of them… I got really good at faking it, though.

Still, Sunday school was pretty fun. I would get to do art projects and they’d just tell stories from the Bible and, while they were always trying to impart a lesson, I just kind of found the whole thing like an extension of kindergarten, with storytime and clay.

I love clay.

But my dear friend Brianne decided, one fine summer day, that I would enjoy going to her church’s vacation bible camp. It wasn’t so much a camp as it was a day-long kiddie church event, but that didn’t matter much to me (I never actually went to camp as a kid- the first time I spent any length of time in a foreign place wasn’t until the summer programs I attended in high school). I wanted to go.

The theme of the thing was aliens and outer space. To tell you the truth, I have absolutely no fucking idea how they tied God into this whole thing, as I didn’t really pay much attention to anything beyond the bitchin’ space things we got to do.

There was a room covered entirely in foil, with light-up control panels. They turned all the lights out and had us wearing glowsticks and operating these panels and piped fog in and made us feel like we were space travelers.

I was enthralled.

At one point, I won something (Bible trivia? Scripture memorization? Probably something along those lines) and was allowed to select a prize from a big tub. And oh boy, did I find myself a gem.

Headband sunglasses.

Mine were pink, and I wore them for the rest of the program, much to the exasperation of the staff. I mean, you really can’t fucking see out of these things, and I’m already klutzy to begin with… I know I ran into a lot of shit and fell down a few times, but goddamn it, I was not taking them off. Part of this was because I was a stubborn little chit, but the larger part was because, with these on, I could pretend I was Geordi La Forge.

Yes, even as a child, my sole goal was to be a black man.

And how is that not the best way to spend a day? Screw the religious stuff- I was now a member of the Enterprise crew.

Outside, they had your stereotypical “flying saucer” set-up, with three skinny tripod legs and all. And there was a ramp leading up to it so we could climb in a few at a time, pretending we were really in an alien spaceship.

I snuck through the line three times before they caught me and hauled me off to the side to “wait for everyone else to go through.” Damn church harpies.

This was also around the time when the pony bead fad was in full swing. Do you remember that, dear galleons? People used to string those colorful plastic beads onto thick string, making little animals and such that dangled off of backpacks for years afterward.

At the time, I knew of the fad, but I had no idea how to make the damn things. These were the days before elementary school kids were given their own goddamn laptops by the school, the days before I knew what a wealth of information the interwebs was. Hell, I’m fairly certain I’d only used the internet once at that point- it was in the first grade as part of our library “class,” and it was to look up a little animation of a horse trotting, galloping, and cantering, in case you were wondering.

But at the only “space camp” I would sadly ever attend, I learned how to make these things (so I guess I can blame them for the fevered obsession I had with the fad for the next year or so… I still don’t know who to blame for the finger knitting one, though). We didn’t make animals, though. We made crosses. As befitted us, the little Jesuslings. Still, the basic principles were the same, and I have my moments of intelligence. Therefore, I was able to transfer the skills learned from making my cute little Roman torture device into the creation of bizarre little animals.

We also got to eat space food (dehydrated goodies and Tang, like all good little astronauts), and at the end of the program, we went into a dark room where they projected the constellations onto the ceiling while we just lay there. They probably read us something suitably religious, but again, I wasn’t paying attention. Because it was a room full of stars, and if there’s been one great constant in my life, it’s my love of the night sky.

And at the end of it, my parents picked me up and I bumped my head on the door trying to get in the car and I chattered excitedly to my father about getting to be Geordi and he laughed uproariously and my mother told him “She’s your daughter, Jim” and I happily watched the world go by in a blurry yellow haze, my head full of stars and space thoughts.

…I was never a very good Christian, was I?

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