The last man I fell in love with grew up in a similar household to yours. He is the only child of older parents who had long since given up on having children by the time he came along. Who he is today has a great deal to do with this strict and religious background. I grew up in a traditional middle class suburban neighborhood and we went to a bland Lutheran church every Sunday. There was no fire and brimstone and I don’t recall ever worrying about going to hell.
I am so glad you had books as a refuge. I did too….in fact I have said more than once that books saved my life. I was painfully shy, very tall and gawky and didn’t think about the same things other children did. Comics were another refuge….things were simpler in comic books and there were heroes and villains with no gray areas in between. I didn’t go for the action ones as much, although I collected them. I LOVED Mad Magazine…it appealed to my very twisted sense of dark humor. I also really liked the Archie Comics, with the eternal conflict between sweet Betty and bitchy sexy Veronica — who all the boys lusted after. Now of course I know that there’s a spectrum of choices, and not one or the other. I can be sweet AND sexy. But the messages back then were pretty clear about being expected to be a good girl and what the reward for that was. I loved most the books about girls or women who were strong heroines, either in clear or more subtle ways. That was always my goal, to be the heroine who saves the day, and now that I think about it, makes more clear some of my choices in men.
I would love to hear more about your musical theater piece…it sounds amazing. What a great story you have to tell.