Christian heavy metal? Really? "No it's Awesome" Rebeckah, insisted as we went down in to the basement of the farm house. It was cool and a little damp down there and quickly Rebeckah flicked on the florescent light reveling plain white walls and boombox sitting on a ledge. She shuffled through a box of tapes popped in the right one and put the music on. "Let's dance!" She said.
I felt so awkward. It's normal for a teenager to feel awkward, but being deep in southern Ohio, in the basement of a farmhouse with a teenaged girl in a white bonnet and 'plain' dress "rocking out" in her socks just made that awkwardness worse. What would the kids at school think? I thought, that panicked refrain of a teenaged mind: What would the kids at school think? What will my friends think? Is this cool?
But, I didn't want to be rude and the music was sort-of fun. It sounded sort of like Metalica, but instead the guy screamed "Jesuuuuus! You need Jesuuuus!" Da da da da dum da da da.
We marched and we stomped and we rocked. I showed her the two-fingered "sigh of the horns. "Put one hand in the air and bang your head like this!" I said doing my best impression of the bands on MTV. "Is that satanic?" she asked? "No it's awesome!" I said without stopping.
So, we rocked out. Who cared if it was cool? My bonnet fell off. (I had one on, and a plain dress like hers out of respect.) After all, it had been a fun day. (Surprisingly, since the day had consisted of: Going to church, Breakfast, more church, chores, dinner and now some "fun time" in the basement.) They sang more at their church than I ever did at mine. I don't know about doing that every Sunday. But, it was all-right. I thought Mennonites are all-right.
Rebeckah was one of seven sisters and, at 14, the closest in age to me. Her older sisters were busy on the internet emailing their (potential) future husbands who were some kind of Russian Mennonites. This was much to mushy... and too adult for my tastes. Her younger sister wanted to play with dolls. Boring! My parents and her's, long-time friends, were inspecting the barns together. Hanging with Rebeckah seemed like the thing to do.
After listening to a few songs we plopped down on the the carpet. Rebeckah's face was red and she said a little breathlessly "do you like to run?"
I winced a little. Yes... in, fact, I loved to run, but at the same time it was not something that I ever really shared with anyone. I dreamed of being a "real runner" swift, lean, well trained. Instead, I failed to make the track team... even at our rather liberal, unsporty high-school in Cleveland. "You're not really an athlete..." the coach had said "... If this is about fitness I don't want you on the team, this is sport not a way to just get in shape." I never returned after he said that.
So, I ran on my own instead, early in the morning, hoping no one would see me in the misty suburban mornings, clad in the baggist sweats I could find, as I shuffled my way around the city's little lakes and trails. I wasn't an athlete, but I liked running. No, I loved running. But, I had always ran alone.
And I'd heard about Rebeckah, too-- she was fast they said.
"I run barefoot mostly" she said."My dad will get whatever shoes I want if I win the 5K...do you want to go in the morning?"
How could I ever prepare her for how slow I was? She had to know though, didn't she? Just looking at me she'd know that I could never hope to keep up with her. Was she mocking me? Doubtful, all of the girls were far to kind for that. They were not much like the kids I went to school with. They were open and honest... uncomplicated. I liked them for it.
I agreed to go.
The next morning we met in the dining room as the older sister got ready to go tend the goats. My mom and dad were still asleep. "What will I wear?" I asked suddenly?
"Oh, I just wear my skirt, like normal." Rebeckah explained. "It's great for running. You feel so free!"
And so in skirt and bonnets we went out over the fallow field behind the barn. She went out much too fast at first, but slowed coming to my side. And, to my relief, she said nothing about slowing down. I was going much faster than I normally ran, but it felt easy for some reason, the ground was soft and the air was cool. It was fall and the fields and forest smelled sweet with rotting leaves. We came to a gate and she hoped over without stopping, I followed suit and, to my surprise, made the gate. "Did you see that?" I said breathless and laughing.
My legs felt so free as we cruised down a soft-grassy hill coming out behind the local high school. "That's where I do my speedwork." She said.
"What speedwork?" I tried to ask but I had no breath. This must be speedwork. I thought.
As we came back to the farmhouse the sun broke out from behind the rolling hills, the red and gold fall leaves caught the morning light and the sky was filled with brand new pinks and purples and a pale sweet yellow that looked just like buttered biscuits taste.
We had buttered biscuits for breakfast.
And it was time to go back to the city. I listened to the "Jesuuuuus" song all the way home.
I tried sharing some of the Christian heavy metal with my peers and never really lived it down. I had a photo of me and Rebeckah in our plain cloths by the church, which I kept hidden for fear of being called "Amish Girl" even more.
And I was very very happy when I read about "Some girl in a skit and bonnet" winning the Akron 5K some months later. I put on the "Jesuuuuus" song and went out to run... and to "rock out."
I wondered what kind of shoes she would choose.