The sickly yellow board, discolored from years of use and lack of preservation was a vivid and painful memory.
The markers were nearly dried up, but somehow once a year, it was littered with the church secretary's writing, outlining an annual event that haunted my youth.
"Camp meeting" was just about to start, with a name that sounds far less ominous than it should. Every year our church, which was usually a small gathering of like minded individuals, hosted a sort of camping retreat, right outside on the church lawn.
Our belief system had spread beyond our little state, and new places of worship had sprung up in the regions surrounding us.
Somehow, our leader had managed to manipulate thousands of people into fearfully joining our cult.
I stared at the chart in surprise and disbelief, the activities that were lined out took up every second of the day. One service by a leader of the churches would go on every couple of hours.
Meals would follow in between, and when night fell, you had the choice of going to bed, or joining in a "fellowship bon fire."
I despised camp meeting with every cell in my body. The services that were thrust upon us were long, hot and uncomfortable. More than anything else, they were frightening.
I began to breathe heavier as I looked at the different leaders who were charted along the board.
I knew them all well, they were the same men who came every year, ready to make us fear for our lives.
My heart grew heavy, wondering what awful thing I would learn from them this year when I heard the rustling of a heavy skirt approach my side.
My dearest church friend Emily came and stood under the board with me, and sighed.
"Wonder which awful pastor's son they’ll try to force on us this year?" She said in a very unserious tone.
I laughed with her, remembering in years past when different boys had been set up with us in our church like, traditional fashion.
It may have been harmless, had every boy being sat upon us weren't being raised to completely disrespect women.
All of them were taught from a young age that girls were sort of like trinkets that were needed to continue the species, and coddle and care for men.
We were unequals, and that's how they saw the world.
Emily and myself were always grossed out by the concept. Camp meeting was a dreadful time for both of us, who had bonded over our disgust of our lifestyle.
We always felt that the entire thing was secretly a way to match up the youth in the congregation without actually calling it match making.
They loved the idea of creating new members through reproduction.
We all felt this way because both of our parents, and grandparents had met in this way.
Maybe we were just young conspiracy theorists, but I knew more girls than I could count who met a boy, married quickly, and then disappeared thanks to "camp meeting."
We stood staring at the chart, bonded in disdain. Knowing that whether we liked it or not, camp meeting was upon us, and we had to prepare. I hung my head low, and scrunched out a smile.
Emily bumped me with her elbow and giggled. "We will be all right, let's go get our camping gear together after church."
We always shared a tent together outside during camp meeting. We stayed up all night chattering, unknown to the elders that we were spending our nights heckling the services and people within.
This was a terrible situation for everybody involved, but at least we had each other and a good spirited sense of humor.
We both headed out the church doors when service concluded. We had to help the women prepare for the following week, gather our essentials.
The chart never lied, "camp meeting" was arriving, and there was nothing 2 young girls could do to make it stop.
*this part one of a series where I will outline the events of camp meeting, and the terror within. *stay tuned...