Praise the Lord! Part II  

Monday, April 07, 2008

Image via Tommy and James Home Page

I'm sure we went to Heritage USA off and on before major development was completed on the Heritage Grand Hotel, but I don't remember those trips very well. I remember the literature about becoming a Lifetime Partner. There was an artist conception of the Heritage Grand Hotel and Main Street. I remember thinking that it would never happen. I must have been no more than ten or eleven. I don't remember the exact year, but it would have had to have been the early 80s (1983?).

But it did and I remember feeling surprised, overjoyed, and proud of the accomplishment. After all, my parents had played a part with their donation and we were encouraged to think of it as ours, as being part of the ministry. The hotel, the shops, all of it was beautiful.

When I was entering high school, the school I had attended for five years decided to cap enrollment at the eighth grade because they didn't have enough students to support the high school. I had gone to small, Christian schools since second grade and truthfully I was afraid to attend public school. I heard all sorts of things about school shootings and knife fights. I'm sure it was mostly exaggeration with a little truth, but at the time I believed the stories and thought school would be dangerous.

I spent most of the following day calling up private, Christian schools, from Catholic to inter-denominational asking about enrollment and cost. Even then I was a "do it" type of person. I didn't really dwell on the problem much. I took action. But maybe a little too quickly. As a result I also never thought to ask about academic excellence. You think that would have been important.

Heritage USA was the one school that was affordable. By the end of the day I was determined to convince my parents to send me there. And it didn't take much for them to agree.

I can't remember if my mom was working out at Heritage USA then or if she started after it was decided I'd go to school there. Part of the summer before school started I would go to Heritage USA with her in the mornings and spend all day running around the park. Crimes were unheard of and everyone felt safe there.

Most of my day was spent at the hotel, Main Street, and the conference area on the other side of Main Street. That was only a small part of the property, but it was the heart of activity. The water park wasn't completed yet, I don't think. Or if it was, I went rarely.

Heritage Academy, as the school was know, was located in the basement of the studio. A lot of times for chapel we'd go upstairs to watch the show, especially on days that Tammy Sue or another student would perform.

I made friends and academic life continued as normal. We made fun of our English teacher. Our math teacher was hard (but really not that hard) and disliked because of it. I wasn't in Biology, but I envied the 10th graders. They got to dissect tons of stuff. Not just pig fetuses but eyeballs and baby squid and host of other things. Once I got to 10th grade in public school I dissected a starfish with three other people. It was smelly and rubbery and ugh. It wasn't at all what I expected after hearing all of the excitement from the year before.

The lunchroom was a restaurant across the parking lot. PE was at the family center, which also was a roller skating rink and a pizza parlor.

Jamie and Tammy Sue attended too. Jamie was several years younger than me and Tammy Sue was several years older. I never saw them much or spoke to them, that I remember. I do have fuzzy memories of a drawing contest with Tammy Sue when I was five or six when I was given a plastic rose as a prize, but they're too fuzzy to really remember how much is true and how much is colored by the years.

But it's safe to say I didn't know either one. They were absent often and seemed almost like outsiders. I can't imagine the kind of education they must have received, especially after their lives would change late in the school year.

Even before the scandal life at school wasn't always happy or exciting. Once, when ex-lax brownies were sent to the office and one of the teachers got very sick from it the entire high school was severely chastised. The faculty forced us to take communion in repentance. I was one of the few who refused and I was looked at suspiciously because of it.

I wasn't being rebellious or trying to make a statement. I'd been brought up to believe that communion was a very serious matter and all sins must be confessed and a person must be clean before taking communion. My fear of being struck down by God was stronger than the authoritative pressure.

And then the scandal struck and things changed.

Read the other parts of my story

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