It was a summery Sunday afternoon. I was in the kitchen clutching crayons in my five year-old fingers, digits of somewhat-old-enough-to-know-what-I-was-doing hands, and I was feeling particularly evil. The crayon selection should have been a dead giveaway: Black and Red Crayola. I slashed the jarring colored lines against the white and pure paper that my mother had given to me moments earlier.
“Mom, mom!” I shouted to her, an excited nervousness growing in my belly. ”Momma, I drew you something!”
My mother gracefully entered the room, tiptoeing softly but speedily. Her petite and flawless nature was so maternal, so motherly, with an essence of beauty brimming from her hair, lips, eyes, and heart.
I slowly turned my crayoned-up paper toward her. Pulling the corners of my mouth into a wider smile, my eyes focused on the dainty gold cross slipping away from her neck as she bent over to see, the symbol gently knocking against her dress’s neckline.
“Mom, its a picture of me.” I straightened up, tall and proud of my creation, “Me and my best friend, the devil.”
The natural floral of her cheeks escaped, turning astonishingly pale. Time stopped. The Holy Family shrieked in unison from the heavens, grasping each other tightly.
“Barbara!” Her voiced boomed, erupting dangerously from her small frame. Her otherwise gentle nature was gone. I had committed a great crime.
My mother raised her hand high and rapped against my bottom. We both shouted, but she shouted out the demons that must have been within me and I shouted out in pain.
I’ve always been an on-and-off-again skeptic of Catholicism in my house. This was a natural state of being. My older siblings slowly narrowed their way out of the weekly Catholic services as the years progressed, making up reasons to “go to the earlier mass” or hit up the “Saturday night service.” The pew that was once filled with fourteen Powell bodies, sure enough, would thin out year by year.
It was easy to be a cynic of the faith because my parents would go to fantastic lengths to engrain Jesus and God into our hearts. He was everywhere.
My earliest memory is, unsurprisingly, about God.
I was in my crib, painfully alone in my older sister’s room. The lights had been off for what felt like hours, but I could not fall asleep. I’m not tired! I thought, I want to stay up! The house was insufferably still and I’m sure all were sleeping soundly—but me.
Frustrated, I began to cry in hopes that someone would wake to keep me company. When there was no response to my false tears, my cries evolved into wailing.
A deep voice split through the bedroom door, startling me.
“BARBARA, WHY ARE YOU CRYING.”
I sniffled a half-response, my nose gooey from snotted tears and my eyes blurred with the moisture, “I’m not tired.”
“BARBARA, THIS IS GOD. GO BACK TO SLEEP.”
I sniffled meekly, “Okay.” Obediently, I rolled over onto my side and promptly fell asleep.
That day and every day that followed, I had a cloud of suspicion hanging over my head. Why would God go out of his way just to tell me to go to sleep? Why did God sound like my dad?
My skepticism was ignited. And using that fire I questioned my parents in many little ways, including that drawing of the Devil and Me.