And so, September 15, 1978, I met Bernie outside the Coeur d'Alene library. He had his dog, Nicky, with him, and we walked around the city for a few hours. I was 20 and he was almost 19. We were already breaking the rules, and it was fun! Dangerously fun.
This was a long time ago, and I cannot even remember how we got in touch with each other. But, somehow, we managed to get messages back and forth. We had to be very discreet. The rules under schuckardt were that "young men and women" were not allowed to see each other unless they had permission from him to "court". (Oh, gads! It gags me to use that term!) So, first of all, you would join the group Cana Cell. That was for individuals who were interested in finding a marriage partner. It all seems so ludicrous now. Most of the couples that I know who were part of it, had already met and were just jumping through the proverbial hoops. There were some who joined without any idea who they would meet and possibly marry. Bernie and I were not among them.
In spite of the fact that I had fallen hard for Bernie, it was a difficult time in my young life. I had no place that I called my home. Again, I moved from one friend to another. When I got a job as a nurse's aide in Spokane, I moved into an apartment with my friend, Kelly and her brother, Mike. They had left the religion some time before. Now, I had technically left it, too, because we were forbidden from living on our own until we were 25. But, again, my head hadn't left it. I did a lot of crazy, stupid, and fun things, but always felt the guilt weighing on my mind. Bernie lived at home with his Mom in Post Falls, Idaho. He was still actively involved in the religion. He would get counseled that we had to stop seeing each other, and maybe we did for a couple of weeks, and then we'd find ourselves on a date. We couldn't help it. We liked being together. We went to movies, dinner, and Christmas parties that year. It was so fun, and my heart was so full. Within a couple of months, I had moved into my own apartment. But.... remember the phone call that I got while in New York, visiting my sister? Not from my Dad, but from my best friend's Mom convincing me that I must return to the church for the sake of my soul? Well, she reached out again. This time, she sent her daughter, another of my friends to my apartment to try to talk me into coming to dinner. One of the priests was there, and he wanted to talk to me. I liked this one, and so I said I'd go. What's the worst that could happen? He told me that there was going to be a retreat in Phoenix, AZ., and I really should go. It would be good for me. Bam! I was sucked right back in. I called my Mom and asked her for the money to go. She got it for me. Kelly helped me empty out my apartment and I got on a bus to Phoenix. She must have thought I had lost my mind.
Without even getting in touch with Bernie to let him know that I was leaving, I was bound for Phoenix. Once I arrived, someone from the church picked me up and drove me to the hotel where the retreat was being held. I remember attending one lecture. That was all I could handle. Once again, schuckardt was on a rant about the end of the world. I called friends in Colorado Springs and asked if I could come there. And so, once again the wanderer, I was on my way to Colorado.
I stayed in the Black Forest with the Toussaint family. There were two other girls there that I knew from Coeur d'Alene and the convent. I got a job as a nurse's aide again. But, I just couldn't wear the long dresses to work anymore. I bought myself a uniform for work - and it was pants. I would leave the house in a skirt and change in the car and then back again before going home. Now, I was a 21 year old young woman trying to kind of sort of break free from some of the idiotic rules of the cult and their standards.
When the school year had finished in Black Forest, Joyce, my friend from Coeur d'Alene, and I took a bus trip back to New York. We visited my sister, Sue. Then, we took the train down to "the City"! It was so exciting and frightening at the same time. I LOVED the thrill of so many people all crammed into this small, but huge, area. We went to Times Square, took a boat out around the Statue of Liberty, and saw a small play production. (I don't think it was on Broadway. We couldn't have afforded that.) We also visited an aunt of Joyce's in the area. And then, without much of a plan, we headed west on Greyhound. I remember going through Toledo, Ohio, Bernie's birthplace, and being so excited. (It was the middle of the night and there wasn't much to see.) We ended up in Los Angeles, and I don't remember anything about that except that we were more terrified walking down the streets there than we were in New York City. We parted ways after that trip.
Now, not knowing what I was going to do with myself once again, I returned to Montana. My sister, Pauline, was living in a home on a hill just west of town. I moved in with her. She was sharing custody of the kids with her ex-husband. I loved it when they would all come for their time with her. By now, there was also a new niece in the area, and that was fun, too. This time, I got a job working at a small factory that made sticks of incense. It was called Campfire Memories. I worked there for a few months. But, in November, I couldn't stand being away from Bernie, and I moved myself back to Spokane. I was staying in a hotel, paying by the week. One night, one of Kelly's sisters came to visit and I asked her to ask her parents if I could stay with them. It was agreed. I would pay rent to them and help out. Once again, I found a job as a nurse's aide, bought a car from a friend, and settled in. Bernie was only 20 miles away in Idaho. I had confessed my "sins" of leaving the church, living on my own, putting myself in numerous occasions of sin by being alone with Bernie. (I smile writing that.) So, being in compliance, I could now ask permission to join the group of young adults looking for a marriage partner. I didn't have to look for long. Soon, Bernie joined, too....now, we were "legal". Well, kind of legal. The rules of our courtship will be another chapter.