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My Experience Inside the Church Walls, to My Reality Outside the Church Walls
By Chanequa Monroe Posted in Non-fiction 13 min read
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This story is intended for adult audiences!

Disciplined Children

Hearing my Mama yell out my name on Saturday nights, Christina! Are your clothes laid out for church tomorrow? I would be sitting on the couch with my thumb in my mouth, watching T.V. Better be careful not to take too long to respond, or a hit was coming after the second call for an answer. I replied, Yes! Though that was not the ending that was to be expected of me. Dad comes into the room and says, Yes, what? I immediately corrected myself and replied, Yes, Mam, I did. I could see my sister Melanie with a grin on her face hoping that Dad or Mom would have popped me for her own amusement.

Getting ready for church at night would ensure that no time would be wasted on non-sense early in the morning. Another night of fighting and pain in the bed with my sister Melanie who is seven years older than me. Due to the bed being too small, we keep getting on each other’s side.

I want to have the T.V. on because I would always get scared to get to the bathroom at night. Melanie would turn it off out of spite. Saying that she doesn’t like the light. I told Melanie she shouldn’t have made me watch the movie “Candy Man” the other night, and then I wouldn’t need the T.V. light on. We somehow managed not to wake Mama and daddy up this time.

We would go to church Monday through Sunday. From Youth Discipleship training on Monday Tuesday. We will have an Usher board Meeting Tuesday. Choir Rehearsal on Wednesday. I would go with my daddy to Brotherhood meetings sometimes on Thursday and so on. Growing up, I have always had questions about what was happening outside of the world of the church.

It came from how my dad would always say not to be so quick to talk but observe people’s actions. I always observed, however, that I wouldn’t even speak the truth, scared of hurting people’s feelings. I guess in some way; I wanted to be like my older brother Tre. Tre was the humble one of all of the siblings. He would get away with so many whoopings.

One night Tre got in trouble for not coming in the house before the street lights came on. Cory, Melanie, and I sat in the living room area, as we already knew what was about to happen when Tre walked in the door. My dad took Tre into the room and whooped him for a good 3 minutes straight.

We could feel all of our hearts beating in our stomachs from the fear we had of Tre not making it through this beating. Once daddy went to sleep, Tre came into the living room area where we were watching T.V., with a big smile on his face, asking if daddy had gone to sleep. My sister Melanie and our other brother Cory wanted to know how it was that he was smiling and not crying.

I mean, we heard the pops that our dad was giving Tre. I knew that they were hard because even my mom closed the door. She never liked us getting whoopings. Tre looked at us and said, “Daddy thought that these tights I have on were thin.” We all looked and felt Tre’s body, looking puzzled and laughing. It felt as though, finally, one of us prevailed in overcoming an ass-whooping.

When our oldest brother Darin came to visit for the weekend from my dad’s previous relationship with my mom, I couldn’t wait to tell him what happened with Tre and the rest of my week. It only seemed like I could tell him anything, and he would listen. Tre and Melanie (the twins) were both going through their puberty phase and didn’t like to deal with me as their pesky little sister. On the other hand, my sister Melanie was on a different level of pettiness. Melanie never wanted to share anything, and I told on every damn thing she did and didn’t do.

The majority of our whooping came from her always starting this with me. I have another brother right before me named Cory, and then there is me. Cory was always stubborn and sometimes set in his ways. He would challenge my parents all the time when we were growing up. However, there was always some envy coming from Cory’s way or a little jealousy he had towards me. I always wanted to be like him, though, no matter what. From the time I was born, we stayed in church almost every day of the week. My daddy stated that he wanted to get back fully in church for all of us when I was born. My dad watched me when I was around two since he lost his job. He watched me for about two years.

My dad ended up getting a job after I turned two years old on the northside of Houston, Tx. They let me know that I had to start going to daycare. I wouldn’t say I liked the facility since it had a huge window next to the school my siblings attended. I would get in trouble with the facility because I would bang on the window as my brothers and sister walked by my daycare uncaringly. Hoping I could walk home with them. My mother was a bus driver for HISD, in which she was always taking care of the household both physically and financially.

We didn’t care what occupation she worked at the time. We knew that mom was home whenever we were out of school. My mother would risk being caught by HISD whenever we were sick with asthma and sneak us on the bus. Usually, I would fake some of my asthma attacks to stay and get on the bus with her. Mom would work as a bus driver in the mornings and afternoons, but while the students were at school, she would go to Johnston Middle school to work as the snack line lunch lady. I would be in the back with my mother and enjoy all of the free onion rings and chicken with cheese, and my favorite was the turkey legs they would sell. One day before school was out for the year, to top it off.

My mother came home with a big black trash can full of all the candy you could imagine. She said that all of us would have to split it. Of course, being the family’s baby, I wanted it all for myself. My mother would also sing in the choir, in the alto section. In which she is not where some of us learned how to sing, lol. Only my sister Melanie and I were the singers in the house, just a little gift from our dad.

At that time, I never appreciated how much pressure Melanie was under. Melanie was the older sister, so everyone would ask her to sing at different church gatherings. I would be jealous at times, saying how much I was not too fond of her voice. Now that I think about it, it was only because of how we never got along at home.

Melanie would never take up for me against others outside of our apartment. However, out of my siblings, I was the only one to have Godparents that spoiled me, so at this time, I have acquired two families. I always used to feel special because my Godmother would always make my dresses, and I was her little model at the time.

At Fonder Elementary, I started playing with another little boy who was big like I was and his siblings to make him feel bad. We fooled around in the girls’ restroom, “Just Goosing Around,” while the other classes watched movies. I ended up getting caught, and the teacher was so disappointed in me and even sent a message through Cory to tell my dad what had happened.

He was so happy to do it because I would always tell and get my other siblings in trouble. Of course, my dad was upset and angry; however, he swept it under the rug and said not to do it anymore. That was the 1st time I had ever experienced being with a boy. It felt good not to have someone like my siblings judge or make fun of me. I felt like I just had to have that feeling back of not caring what other people were saying at that moment. I just wanted to feel unconditional love, and I didn’t know how to find it.

One night at church, my childhood crush Monty, and I snuck into the finance room at the church and started making out after choir rehearsal. It all started with him making sexual eyes at me on the choir stand. He told me to go and run to the room before the adults found out where we were. The only problem with that was that the church’s deacons always counted the money in the room we went in. Not knowing that our time was about to be cut short, we started kissing and hugging when a knock hit the door. I was so glad Monty had enough sense to lock the door.

When we opened the door, Deacon Johnson looked and asked, “Why were we in there together?”. I answered, “We were just playing and hiding away from the others.” Deacon Johnson said, “OK, but we couldn’t play in the room,” and he counted the church’s money. I was always reticent and sneaky. The crazy part about it was my parents never picked up on where and how I learned such actions, in which my siblings were scared because they knew they had nasty videos in their room that I learned it from. That was why my brothers and sister never told on me, only because I used to have that hold on them.

That was just some of the things that I did. In which I wanted to be the girl version of my brother Cory. I did not know that I would have to learn the hard way that I couldn’t do everything Cory used to do. Within some time, my parent’s enrolled me at an elementary school called Windsor Village, closer to my parent’s friend’s house, “The Wilson’s.”

However, Cory went to middle school, and now my Godmother would take me to different schools. That was the 1st time I felt lonely in a big place all on my own. Even though I never had a problem adjusting to whatever environment I was in. I look at things as, “OK, we gotta be here; why not just get this over with so I could get home and do my favorite things. As I started settling in, I wouldn’t say I liked any type of school work given to me because I didn’t understand why I had to do a lot of the work I had to do when I was only in the 1st and 2nd grade.

I saw kids playing, and it didn’t look like they got whooped for not understanding the lessons given to them. Even though I started getting the hang of it in the 2nd half of the semester, I still had the deal with “The Wilson’s” daughter Gailen and the horrific fights we used to get in every day. I had to wait on my parents to come and pick me up. What got me over school and fighting with Gailen at the time was my ability to connect with different movies. My favorite thing to do was watch movies and act them out for family and friends. Even though I was only eight years old, my favorite things were movies.

Like, Waiting to Exhale, Bodyguard, Soul Food, Boomerang. I love Whitney Houston, by the way! My Godmother used to take me to school every morning, and after school, I would have to go to my parent’s friend’s house to wait on them to pick me up.

I always fought with their daughter Gailen, a year younger than me, but we were in the same grade. Gailen was in the Vanguard program and always thought she knew every damn thing. I only found out that she was adopted by her aunt and uncle when she was only a baby. Gailen’s biological mother was hooked on crack when pregnant with her. Gailen’s aunt Corina and Clevis wanted to have a little girl at the time.

Even though it was an OK place to be, I always knew that Gailen and I were going to end up fighting about something after school. It was so bad that we would get bribed by our parents, to get cookies and candy.

All of that still didn’t work because we both felt as though we were right. On the other hand, I also really didn’t like it at the time because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go to school with my brother Cory. I always loved doing everything he did, and at this point, my Idol became my brother. Cory started protecting me more, or so I thought. Even though he would still say some things about me being born. I would laugh it off because I felt like it was just a little sibling humor, and all siblings go through it. I watched whatever movies and music my older siblings would watch and listen to, like Friday and Martin for the movies. As far as the music, I mean, yeah, I loved Whitney Houston, but it was all about R.Kelly and SWV.

That is where some of my imagination came from because I was always fascinated with the “I Can’t Sleep Baby” music video. When R. Kelly was in a cabin with a huge big black dog in the freaking snow.

Why is it that we didn’t see that in Texas lol? When R. Kelly put out the song “Bump and Grind.” Being exposed to this type of music and movies at a young age started a journey of how people are outside of church or beyond those walls. I just wanted to have fun like the other kids on Sundays.

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