“I’ve always felt, even when I’m in a relationship, this sort of loneliness.”
“The Purple Knit Cardigan”
Fiction. Based on a True Friendship Over Time.
By Starry Teller
All journal entries are inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
She listened as the pastor finished giving a message about how people need to connect with one another more, and create more lasting bonds with each other. She listened earnestly.
This was her home—the church her parents had raised her in. Her father was on the church board and both her parents were ministers. She knew most congregation members, even if only by recognizing their faces. Even the halls of the large building, and the carpets where she ran barefoot, were well known to her. She had started singing on the children’s worship team at 8 years old, and moved onto the youth worship team at 12 and then the adult worship team at 13. Though she had friends in elementary school, growing up, her best friends were the girls who she had gone to Sunday School—and eventually Youth Group—with. The boys she had crushes on were from Youth Group, who also were involved in worship. Though she had gone to private school during elementary school, her mother started homeschooling her in middle school. Since she didn’t drive until she was 17, she only left the house to run errands with her mother, visit family, or go to church. Since she was on several worship teams, she attended rehearsals and led services 3-4 days each week. Needless to say, her entire life was connected with aspects of this place.
She loved her church home. Though she harbored very slight bitterness regarding being homeschooled, for the most part, she enjoyed how intertwined her life was with church. Her nature was to tend towards honesty and purity, and being sheltered protected her extreme innocence. She appreciated it. She recognized she was missing out on certain things, but since she was instilled with the concept of good versus evil, she believed her innocence was very good, and what she missed out on was very evil. Her worldview was very simple—very black and white, with no room for gray.
Since she hardly left her house, the only discourses she participated in were those that took place within her home or within her church. This produced a very knowledgeable mind regarding Scriptures, and established a lifestyle model for her peers. She memorized chapters out of the Bible and lived a very upright life. She led Bible study groups for girls her age and older. She prayed with over a dozen girls every day. Her pastors and parents lauded her for being such a wonderful and unique teenager. She saw herself as a wonderful example for others to follow and felt great pride regarding that.
At some point during junior year of high school, when her purity and innocence was at an all time high, she was attending a prayer meeting after worship practice. She listened as the pastor finished giving a small message, just to the worship team and other Sunday morning volunteers, about how people need to connect with one another more, and create more lasting bonds with each other. She listened earnestly. As the prayer circle dispersed, she walked into the foyer. An elderly woman with white curly hair and a purple knit cardigan walked in through the front doors.
She approached the sweet looking old lady saying, “Good morning. That’s a beautiful sweater you are wearing.”
The lady looked shocked at first, then looked down at her sweater and replied, “Well thank you very much.”
She and the elderly lady introduced themselves and began talking. Eventually they made their way into the sanctuary and sat down in the lady’s regular seat.
Over the course of four years, she and the lady enjoyed each other’s company every Sunday morning at 9:00. She would finish worship practice then eagerly seek out her friend who became very dear to her. They shared their lives with one another. They shared in the joys and pains of each week. They prayed together and spoke of their favorite passages of Scripture. Together, they made it through high school and medical operations; they laughed and cried through college exams and heart medications. The lady presented her with precious birthday and Christmas cards, always signed “With all my love.”
Throughout her three years of college, she underwent an excruciatingly painful process. She grew in knowledge foreign to what she had always known and treasured. She was met with opposition in all areas. What she had always called the Truth was not a universal truth for everyone. The Way she followed was not the way everyone else went. She struggled to make friends and maintain conversations. People respected her for her intelligence, but she didn’t know how to interact with them on a social level. She fought to be open-minded, yet stand her ground on what she had always known. The strain caused dissonance in her mind which she could never reconcile, despite her unceasing efforts.
By her second year, she felt bitterness growing in her heart towards the church and home she had always loved. What she had been taught and believed with all her heart, was not completely true. It was not the only way. It was based on a certain set of doctrines and customs. It was upheld by a specific institution and those who chose to build it. Yet it was all she truly knew.
She began opening her mind to new people and new ideas, while still subconsciously elevating herself above it all. She pretended to accept difference, while still believing herself superior. She slowly stopped attending her Sunday morning meetings every week. She found it hard to talk with the old lady about The Bible and pray with her, when she was doubting the validity of all of it. She loved the relationship she had with the old lady, but she felt complete loneliness in it. She could no longer be real with her. She fought for a year to reconcile her past to her present—innocence to the desire for knowledge. She no longer wanted to feel small-minded or conservative, when so much of what she found beautiful required open-mindedness and acceptance.
By her third and final year, she stopped playing on all worship teams. She still believed in God, but grew to despise her home and hate the church she was raised in. She stopped hosting and attending Bible studies, she stopped reading her Bible, she stopped praying, and she stopped seeing the old lady on Sunday mornings. She immersed herself in the world of literature and people who were able to have intellectual discourses. She made decisions and felt things she couldn’t turn back from. She fought within herself to stay true to her old self, while understanding she could never reconcile her old pride to her new lifestyle. She never lost herself completely. She never abused substances and didn’t run from man to man. She never even touched alcohol until the time she turned 21. She was very skeptical of men and love in general. Her fight was less a physical one, than it was a mental and emotional one. She tried to maintain her purity and innocence through it all, but could not justify her thoughts and actions. She constantly fought with herself—all day long, every day. Only months before she graduated, she realized that the only way she could be liberated from the battle, was by appreciating her upbringing but coming to terms with who she was becoming. She slowly stepped into her freedom, learning to accept her new worldview as valid, starting to see herself as worthy.
The Sunday after her graduation, she saw her old lady friend at church. The old lady greeted her with a hug and a card containing twenty dollars, signed “With all my love.” She could no longer share her life and her thoughts with the old lady. She felt like an outsider in the home she once ran the halls in. She felt bitter towards the teachings and small-minded views of most people there. She anticipated leaving for graduate school, so she would no longer feel like an imposter in the place she once was free.
However, she did not regret any of it. The home she was raised in did not prepare her for the real world, but she had found her way in it, regardless. The people she had loved did not know who she truly was anymore. However, she had faith that some friendships could transcend the evolution she had undergone. Perhaps people could love her even though she had changed. Maybe the first person would be the old lady in the purple knit cardigan.