My family was friends with a bunch of other families. Some of them lived near, others were some hours away.
As kids, we highly enjoyed visits especially of the ones who lived further away. It was always exciting to hear their stories. We felt like they were from a completely different planet. My family never travelled, so a four hour drive seemed like half the country to me.
When I was 18, my dad invited an extremely conservative family over once every few weeks. The father of that family was a tyrant, there is no other word for it. He had something about him that scared everyone, especially the girls. And his wife was as quiet as it gets. I haven’t heard her speak more than 10 times in all the years I knew her.
The family had seven kids. Their oldest son, Harry, was 20 at the time and their oldest daughter, Beth, was my age. I loved Beth and she loved me. The times we spent together were blissfull. Beth knew what it meant to live that life. She had been mothering her siblings all her life just like I did. She had to stick to the same rules, she knew the same struggles. What made her different was… she had a wild mind.
Beth didn’t show it, but she was wild! Wild means, she was progressive and she was also smart. She had everything it took to stirr up fights – if she wanted to. I admired her intelligence. Beth and I were to look after the small children whenever we visited each other. If it was up to me, I would’ve sat there and tried to whisper secrets to her, and then probably face some punishment. Beth however was smart and shrewed. She would come up with games for the small ones, or excuses, to make sure her and I could talk in quiet and peace, without anyone hearing us. You might have already guessed it, she was my best friend.
I can’t stop telling you just how much smarter Beth was. She didn’t blindly believe what anybody told her, she actually had her own opinion. She was by no means liberal in a way that she could be considered a “normal” girl, but for our standards, she was a revolutionist.
At the age of 17, her dad decided that it was better for Beth to be married right once she turned 18. He knew her character, he knew she would be harder and harder to control once she was old enough. For six months, he was looking for a suitable spouse, which he presented to her about six months before she turned 18. She agreed to the courtship – not that she had much of a choice. In our circles, a girl would listen to God’s word. If God didn’t write it down in the Bible, then your father’s word was the replacement. So if dad told you that this was the man God wanted you to marry, that was it. You saying yes wasn’t important. It was a pretty detail, like a bow on a present. A present is still a present without a bow on it.
Either way, Beth was in a courtship at that point in our lives. Whenever we had some time for our private talks, she would tell me everything about it. She had this sarcastic sense of humour, imitating voice of the person she talked about and adding her witty comments. She didn’t really like her potential spouse. He was alright she said, a good man, nothing you can complain about. But they were so different, she said. She was a girl who loved to play games with her thoughts – he was a worker, not caring about the creative, pretty, dreamy things in life. She was poetic, he was a maker. She was looking for new shores, he was looking for a homestead that they could stay in for the rest of their lives. In short, Beth didn’t want to marry him.
Beth challenged me. She forced me to think about the things around me. She questioned the fact that our families were keeping us from education. There were days where I feared that God would punish me for just listening. We often talked about marriage. Beth thought that it was our choice whom we would marry. I told her it wasn’t. I was raised to believe that your father was your authority and his word was directly inspired by God. God through our authority had the right to pick a spouse for us – meaning our dads. She thought about it for a minute and asked me where in the bible it said that a father’s word was inspired by God. I couldn’t answer. Sure, there were some passages I could interpret that way. But I realized that it didn’t directly say that. She then said, “You know, imagine we had a president who rules over us. He’s just a person, right? Now if he were to elect the following president without anyone being asked, would that be right?”. Of course I answered No. So then she said, “Then why do you believe that one worldly authority of yours has the right to pick out the authority for your marriage?“. I was baffled. She seemed to right.
I felt a sense of rebellion creep up inside me – and I was scared to death. Were we really sitting here, out in the garden, questioning what I thought to be God’s order? I went quiet, and so did she. I was immensly relieved when one of the kids called us inside for cake.