I can remember the smells of the motels – the clean smell of disinfectant. I can hear the ice machine unloading its newest ice cubes into the dispenser trays at 3 AM. And I can still remember the treats we'd only eat at the Feast – trail mix, health bars (I think they were Heath bars, actually), and the cool plastic cups wrapped in plastic next to the little bitty soaps we'd collect from the hotel. These memories are ingrained in my head deeper than the Grand Canyon, so it seems.
I remember sitting there, watching the minister speaking, absorbed in every detail of my surroundings. The lights – the ceiling fans whirling about. I would sometimes look down when they quoted scripture at all the heads dropping to take note of the exact chapter and verse. I would watch the Ushers ushering, or just standing around like they always seemed to do by every entryway.
I can remember the crying of scared babies when Herbert Armstrong went on a sudden crescendo about the Kingdom, or about how badly we need to wake up, or the “TRUTH”. I remember how his voice would echo around the hall on such a high note. And how quiet the audience was, so deathly quiet. I remember the voice of Art Gilmore with those films – the ones with the giant Statue, the beasts, or the Young Ambassadors. I distinctly remember Herbert Armstrong talking about Roast Porcupine in a very expensive silver serving tray.
I remember wearing that name badge – so proud of wearing an actual Festival badge. I can remember those proud moments of placing a Green Sticker on the car – verifying we were the True Church going to the True Feast. And I can remember when I would get those special Feast Edition magazines – yes, it's that time of year again – Feast Fever, the chill in the air, you can see your breath – and that special moon the night before we took off. These are things you can't forget.
Are these things me? No, they are not me. These are not my worst memories. These aren't my horror stories - But they are a part of my vivid childhood experiences, and they always will be. Pretending they didn't happen doesn't help anything, or change anything. The truth is, I thoroughly enjoyed some of these experiences. Was it - the whole thing - wrong? Absolutely, a lot of it was. Was it incorrect? Certainly. Was this version of the Feast of Tabernacles even done “right”, or “biblically”, if we even could? No, not at all. Yet, this was my experience. This was my life. And I have learned that while everything in life changes, and those days and times and seasons – and the very church itself – is gone, I have learned to take the good out of it and reflect on what was positive, what was decent, and good – because in everything you will find goodness if you look for it and focus on the positive.
Yes, it was a vacation. We were away from home for eight days. We ate good – real good. The hotel was far better than the house we lived in at the time. The people were friendly and like-minded, the enthusiasm and energy was palpable. The choir music was sometimes quite beautiful. We were all dressed beautifully and smelled... as best as we could smell! We went to museums, riverboat cruises, amusement parks, met great people, and made friendships that lasted decades. Even though in retrospect I am fully aware now that the entire thing was a fraudulent, lie-filled, financial convention that benefited the top, I also am fully aware that I was a kid – a child – and despite how much I believed the lies and went all in with it, I could be a kid, and there were moments – like ski-ball, roller-skating, and mall-walks that were a whole lot better than the day to day drab life at home.
What's the point of all of this? The best thing we can do is find the positive out of our experiences. The past is gone. The future will always be the future – but now – NOW is our present. Now is the only time we have. When we reminisce – either in nostalgia or in horror about our past – and though we all have been hurt and pained in life, and many of us by the WCG experience – thinking positively will be as an ointment soothing on the skin and calming to the nerves. Taking just a half an hour to write down the positive things – the positive aspects of our collective experience – might be far more beneficial than you might possibly imagine – and might even bring a smile and a laugh or two. Let's be thankful for those moments in time that brought smiles in unfortunate situations, because to everything there is a season, and to every season of sorrow there's laughter in the rain. We just sometimes have to go deep to find it.