Cover Photo: Photograph by Caroline Hernandez/Unsplash
Photograph by Caroline Hernandez/Unsplash

When I Left the Cult I Was Raised In, I Learned What a Family Could Be

Spending my childhood preparing for the Apocalypse exacted a price on my ability to trust, particularly in the concept of family.

I come from a family that values rocks. We collected them, categorized them, called them by their geologic names. We owned lapidary slabs and tools. Our family was like the rock: solid, heavy, held by gravity and by the Field.

Bloom where you are planted. Don’t stray from the pack. The stone which the builders refused is become the cornerstone

Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe
Forward into battle, see his banner go.

Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil.

Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise

Let this faith of mine be tried, for the Lord is on my side
I am ready, I am ready, I am ready—you can pass the cross to me

That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.

family

At twenty-five, with a freshly-minted MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia, Angela entered our department as a tenure-track assistant professor. I was scheduled for an upcoming writing workshop with Dave Eggers at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. I had funding, and she had a background in community building, so I invited her. She said yes. After the workshop, we walked across the street to Dave’s office to talk about the nature of truth and memory. Then we walked four miles to a restaurant and shared a meal. Strolling through the dark streets to our hotel, strangers asked us if we were sisters. When we got back to our hotel room, I asked her about her marriage. She told me her truth.

deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide

 Michelle Dowd believes (along with Einstein), that logic will get you from point A to B, but imagination will get you everywhere. After an unconventional upbringing, Michelle moved into Pitzer College at 17, and is eternally grateful for the education she received there, which continually reminds her, the future does not fit in the containers of the past.