Rednecks Saying "Ma'am": A Conversation with Keturah
I became aware of Keturah Lamb's existence, ironically, through her blog The Girl Who Doesn't Exist, a headline weird enough to get my attention. That sent me down the rabbit hole of her regular blog, where I have proudly read every single post. Her life was so different from mine it fascinated me. We became Facebook friends and Keturah graciously answered every single thing I ever wanted to know, until I got an idea...why not interview each other at the same time? And focus on the different ways we were raised and how that affected our lives?
Keturah kicked off our conversation with her question, “What is your first childhood memory THAT has impacted your life to this very day?” What followed was one of the most enjoyable 90-minute conversations I ever took part in.
M: So sorry about the wait. I thought I could feasibly walk a dog and do an interview but no.
K: I'm not surprised.
M: Let me grab some water before I die. Speaking of that, before I answer your question, my first for you is...do you speak in a lot of hyperbole?
K: I had to look that up...and wow, yes, I do lol.
M: It’s hard to resist.
K: I suppose so, haha. Does that mean you do, too?
M: Oh all the time. Anyway, your question is hard for me to answer because my childhood was idyllic. I remember specific times my eyes were opened to things. Would that count?
K: I guess so. What's one of the specific things for example?
M: Well when I was growing up in the very early 2000s, meteorologists hadn’t implemented the polygon warning system for tornadoes yet. It was county-wide. So we were under tornado warnings ALL. THE. TIME. Often my mom got me out of bed in the middle of the night. We would camp out in the interior bathroom with our bedding. Or if it was daytime, my mom would let us bring games in there. I had absolutely no idea what a tornado was or why we were doing this. I just thought it was a blast. Then one day I asked if we were under a tornado watch and my mom said yes and I said that I loved tornadoes, tornadoes were fun. I was about six by this point. My mom got serious and told me that people get very very hurt in tornadoes. So that kind of blew my whole mindset. Not everything was fun. It was actually possible to be in danger.
K: Ahh that's so amazing.
M: How would you answer that question? What impacted your life the most?
K: Mine is kinda sad I think, but the first thing that has come to my mind is when my dad first left. Before he'd always come home every night for dinner, and we always kept Sabbath together. But then he left for two weeks to Guatemala with a missionary friend. I was nine, I think, and wanted to go so bad. To this day it's one or my top countries I wish to visit. The first week I cried every night, and asked to call Dad, and Mom let me. But then she told me to stop crying, that it was acceptable to be upset one or two times but now I had to be acting. I remember feeling ashamed, and sucked down my tears. I made myself not show my feelings and found they were easily controlled. To this day I find I don't need to cry if I just tell myself so (except the times I end up crying, then it lasts forever and I hate myself). I also have always related that in my mind as when dad started going away more, though, I know now they are unrelated. I was sad the next time he left for a weekend work trip, but slowly I calloused myself until I was able to believe I didn't care even when he was gone for months. Also, the second week of him being gone we stayed with the missionary’s family. I remember hating their house and all the toys, but I made myself play and have fun and overall I'm pretty sure I appeared as a very content kid. I think that especially stayed with me, as when I'm sad I often find something to laugh at, and then forget. I was very excited when Dad came home, and determined to go to Guatemala myself someday.
M: That actually is really sad. I can see why that would affect you forever, like as far as not showing emotions.
K: I wonder if it's TMI actually, haha. Sometimes I'm so blunt and honest I'm not sure what should and shouldn't be shared.
M: There’s no such thing as TMI in this interview. And I have no filter anyway.
K: Did you love school? Describe one memory to share WHY.
M: Oh my gosh. Growing up I said my favorite subject was lunch. I was a very typical kid. I wanted school to be over. My mom homeschooled us for peer pressure reasons and like...it was like she made sure she was making up for the academic aspect we were missing. We were very, very structured. And my mom has a teaching degree and my dad has a Ph.D in education so that added a whole other level. But in fifth grade I did this culture study from Abeka and I absolutely could not get enough. And in third grade, also with Abeka, I LOVED my health subject, and I had to plan imaginary meals and track the nutrition and everything. If I could be creative, I loved it. Many tears were shed over math and science.
K: So, you were homeschooled? I wanted to do Abeka too!
M: Yes I was homeschooled the whole way. I went to a 2K program for a month and hated it.We did Calvert until I started third grade, and then did Abeka, and by the time I was in fifth grade we had a mix of stuff but we always had a lot of Abeka. (Melissa's edit: I forgot to mention this in our conversation, but I didn’t love Abeka, as it was more conservative than I was raised and also because I had no patience for the King James Bible. I also picked bones with the history, such as when they portrayed FDR as a bad president. I was a judgmental ten-year-old.) [Keturah’s edit: That’s so funny because KJV is my favorite and I also don’t have the highest opinion of FDR] What was a day in the life like for you when you were elementary-age and homeschooled?
K: Which age? Haha, my whole life has been different.
M: Let’s say third grade.
K: We didn't do grades, lol.
M: Okay age 8, then.
K: Ahh to remember then. Eight was before my journaling days, as I started when I was nine. But I do remember I was already loving academics and the written word. We lived on a little farm which holds so many good memories. My favorite thing to do was to read in my room, collect rocks under my favorite tree in a five gallon bucket, or sword fight with my siblings—I always won because I attacked their thumbs. I said my favorite things were reading, writing, and art and always thought I was so clever saying it as if it were some proverb. We always had someone or some family living with us, either in an extra room in our house. (We didn't have an extra room, but one room for all the girls, one for the boys, and the pantry/ storage room. At a couple points all of us kids were in the same room so people could stay both in the boys' room or the storage room). Eventually we got a camper for people, and built a pole barn.. I loved having people with us. I was always a little flirt, and a show off. I wrote and illustrated my own stories and made sure everyone saw them. I still have those stories. My miseries in life were being forced to go on six mile walks, having to play outside all day with no book and being handed peanut butter sandwiches out a window when lunch came, and not being able to get my siblings to finish any project I forced them to start with me. Our most famous was this robot ant we were building to do all our chores. Oh, I also hated washing the kitchen floor.
Photo credit: Keturah Lamb
M: Would you go back to those days if you had a chance? Would you even have to consider it?
K: Yes and no. I was angry when we moved (I was ten or eleven I think). But to go back would mean to leave the life I have now. So, I wouldn’t go back, yet it has always been the time I so highly treasure in my life. I would definitely raise my kids that way.
M: What kind of animals did you have on the farm? And were you renting out the extra rooms? I read the American Girl books growing up, and the Kit ones gave me a boarding house obsession. At our grandparents’ house, my brother and I pretended to rent out each room to imaginary people. So I think I would have freaked to meet someone who actually rented out a room of their house.
K: No, we never rented. We only had people living with us because they needed help. For awhile my uncle, then another single guy who I always thought of as Ned Nickerson. Then we had an Italian family with a couple kids, and a Spanish family with several kids (and probably my first crush). And we had other relatives and strangers staying with us. The strangers became friends, but we never met most of them before they came to us needing a place to stay or work. Some stayed for only weeks, others for months. As for animals we had fowl, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, a pony, and a cow. Lots. American Girl books were my favorite during those years.
M: You were living my dream with that animal lineup.
K: Haha, I liked the people more to be honest.
M: How many times did you move in your life? It must have been a lot.
K: I guess only eight times. Feels like more. And I’ll be moving again sometime this spring. And for part of a year we were kind of homeless, so lived with other people just as people had always lived with us.
M: Where were all the places located?
K: Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana.
M: As someone who has moved five times but stayed in-state, I always wonder what that would be like.
K: Horrible. I was an angry teenager. I felt I could never keep a friend. Most of my friends were made through letters. And one of my best friends is an old pen pal of mine. Now we talk nearly every day and hardly have time for letters
M: All my best friends now are internet friends. I’ve met one in real life. She’s coming to Realm Makers with strict instructions to tell you hello from me.
K: Ooooh nice. Why don’t you come?
M: I have other places I want to go. Like Texas to see another friend.
Photo credit: Melissa Little
K: As a kid what did you dream of someday being? Before reality said you had to be realistic.
M: The very first thing I wanted to be was a doctor. This was sort of a paradox because I HATED doctors. There is no word strong enough in any language to describe my hate. I have a lot of sensory/Autism-related issues but we didn’t know that yet. I would scream the whole time. One time I threw something at a doctor. Yet I wanted to be one?? I guess I thought it was totally different when I was the one doing the torture. I loved to play with my doctor’s kit. As I got older (by “older” I mean like seven) I said I was going to write and illustrate picture books about my stuffed animals. Then I wanted to make movies. That one lasted a really long time.
K: Oh, wow, I love that! Especially the doctor paradox.
M: Kids are so weird.
K: Yeah, I suppose.
M: I actually almost went to vet school after I graduated. So I almost returned to my roots in a way.
K: I've always "hated" doctors but loved learning about natural healing and stitches and such.
M: Do you know how to do stitches?
K: Kinda, but as no one has let me do them I'm not 100% certain. And I actually had an opportunity once! But my mom said no.
M: That’s disappointing.
K: Do you feel like your childhood dreams at all influenced who you are now?
M: I thought my childhood dream of being published was unattainable. My ten-year-old self would be proud of me now. But my biggest dream is to eventually be a parent. Everything I’ve ever wanted will come true the day a kid calls me mom. Well I shouldn’t say everything I’ve EVER wanted. About eleven or twelve years ago I swore off ever having kids.
K: That’s natural of all of us girls, I think. Only the crazy ones never soften their hearts toward children.
M: I think that’s generally true.
K: How many kids do you want? I said I wanted sixteen back when I was eight. Because you need eight to make a baseball team, and I thought I could have two baseball teams. Then I hated kids and said none. Now I want kids, but I also know I'm too old for sixteen. So eight or ten will do. Maybe seven.
M: A baseball team is a perfectly valid reason.
K: Of course it is.
M: You could sell tickets.
K: Yes! Always been a capitalist by the way.
M: I want to be a foster parent first. I’ve set my whole life up to reach that goal. Whenever I have my permanent nuclear family, I honestly want one. One or two.
K: Only one!?!?!
M: One or two and I don’t want to give birth. I want to adopt from foster care or in a private adoption.
K: Why don't you want to give birth, if you don't mind me asking? By the way, we definitely need more godly people adopting and loving children. So, I'm not against that at all and find it admirable.
M: It relates to all my sensory issues. I tested borderline for Asperger’s. Being pregnant involves doctor’s visits and being touched and seen in intrusive places. It involves a hospital stay. And I would never in a million years give birth at home, because that would scare me. My heart stopped beating when I was born and the doctors saved me. I know a homebirth happens so many times every day and the babies are healthy and perfect, but I have that fear because of what almost happened to me. Also, I don't want to put my body through pregnancy and birth. Finally, the ultimate reason is because I was given a gift most people don't get, by being raised with love and stability. I want to give that gift to someone else. Though I should add if I somehow got pregnant, I would give birth in the hospital with the strongest epidural known to man.
K: That makes sense. And I would never go to a doctor unless it was an emergency. I don't even want a midwife...I hope to marry a guy that will do husband-coached birthing. I think if I had to go to a hospital I wouldn't want to have kids, either. I, too, hate being touched.
M: Do you have a “bucket list” for your kids? Are there things you want to do with them or want them to experience?
K: I want to travel with my kids, write my own homeschool curriculum for them, teach them to work like slaves, teach them to be rational. As for experiencing ... I just want to teach them that simple and normal is the best sort of fun one can ever have. So, I don't have concrete dreams in my head, only this idea that I want them to love the moment they are living in because it is a gift from God. And I don't want them ever to utter the words "I'm bored" or "that's unfair," because I want them to think and do.
M: Work them like slaves, haha. Working is good. Kids need chores. I hope you don’t beat them like slaves.
K: No cash allowance, yet they'll know how to work better than most adults. And when they ask about making money I'll find extra jobs to pay them for. I also plan to beat them, but not with a bullwhip, and I hope to train them from tiny babies so they hardly ever get spanked, if at all. I plan to be strict, but also someone who is fun. Well see if I can balance that out.
M: I want to take my child to New York City. When they’re 10 or 12, old enough to want to go and enjoy it. I wanted to go as a kid, but I didn’t have a chance. So I want us to go and ride the subway and eat hot dogs and everything. Maybe we’ll get super terrible seats at a Broadway show. I try to keep my plans small so at the end I don’t say, “Sorry honey that was your college fund.”
K: Hahaha. I won't have a college fund for them, either.
M: The college fund and finances in general is one reason I only want one or two.
K: I'm not going to encourage them to go to college. I'm going to encourage them to make success on their own terms and God's terms alone.
M: What if God’s plans for them include college? Would you give it your blessing?
K: Of course. But I'm not going to push them to go if they are uncertain and will only acquire debt and more uncertainty. Instead I will teach them to work hard and be educated. With those two gifts they can do anything.
M: You have to give them a solid foundation. Colleges are kind of nutty. And my dad teaches at one.
K: Is it my turn or your turn?
M: Yours, I think.
K: Ok, who are you?
K: I mean your identity. Lol, without a name. How do you view yourself? And don't give me a politically-correct-Christian answer.
M: I’m someone named after a country rock song that my dad first heard in a bathroom in Panama City. I’m someone who doesn’t want to be who I am right now forever. Who would you say you are?
K: I am someone who is trying hard to not be bitter of humanity, and I am doing that by loving them. When I was younger I was always angry with the cards that I'd been dealt, and so now I am determined to use the cards as my assets. I always feel sorrow of some sort, and that defines me a lot, and so I've tried to hide behind laughter. Now I do not hide, but I've learned that doesn't mean I need to give up laughter, as it is a beauty and a medicine. I consider myself as someone striving to live in the world, but not of the world. Which means I stand out in every secular and Christian circle simply by existing.
M: What kind of cards would you say you were dealt? I won the childhood lottery but got a lot of mental screwiness. Some people spend their lives reversing their childhood trauma but I would say I’m somehow living the opposite of that.
K: I've been handed a wide variety of cards from embarrassingly eccentric to greatly blessed. I think my cards didn't involve stability, and that came with a lot of hate. But with that I've also had a diverse education that has made me who I am. So, I'm glad I lacked stability.
M: Would you say your family unit was its own stability? Or is it possible to get lost in the crowd in a large family? I have only one sibling so I can’t imagine.
K: My family was the best family I could have ever had. Sometimes I didnt feel that way, but I never felt lost in it. I definitely had my place. And often when visiting other families I have thought, "How have I been blessed to have the only good family ever?". Mostly, it was moving a lot and unsure of how my future COULD look, as I’d always been told my only option in life was marriage, and even that would be hard without a social security number.
M: I actually wanted to get into that and discuss what our parents expected of us or told us we could do back when we were still young, in regards to growing up. So you were told your only option was marriage?
M: I think that’s very common among conservative Christians.
K: Yes. I was rebellious and said I was going to go to college and never get married. In my heart I felt I had to choose: be a writer or be a wife. And I knew I could never give up writing. So, I decided I would never marry. And then I read the “Emily of New Moon” series. And felt so inspired because the girl both wrote and married
M: Life has many choices, but writing or getting married isn’t one.
K: I truly believed it. Also, I figured I could never find a decent guy that was weird in all the right ways and not in the wrong ways. So, yes, I planned on moving out when I was eighteen, going to college to become a history teacher, and write books, and never marry.
But then I turned eighteen and knew I wasn't ready to live on my own. I felt that I wasn't emotionally stable, though I had great work ethics. Instead I traveled and through that I have built up confidence, worked through my emotional dilemmas, learned to love my family better, and have a realistic understanding of just what I can and can't do in life. I've realized I can learn better on my own, and that I don't like what colleges around me offer. And I didn't want to be a history teacher anyways. So instead I can do what I've always wanted, which is to write and maybe marry and have kids and teach THEM history.
So I think I’ll return it to you. Did your family have expectations for you? And how did that affect who you are now?
M: It was kind of always expected I’d go to college. I was on a college readiness plan. I took the ACT and we kept transcripts and made sure I got enough high school credit. But if I hadn’t wanted to go to college, my parents would have helped me figure out trade school or training or something. They were super involved in helping me plan my future. My mom was big on having something to “fall back on.” Even if I got married she wanted me to be able to support myself if it ever became necessary.
Marriage was never an expectation whatsoever. My mom had a horrific first marriage so she would talk to me about making wise choices and not rushing or settling and following what the Holy Spirit was telling you. But that was “if” I got married. And both my parents are supportive of me being a single foster parent one day. My mom is literally picking out grandparent names. Their only concern is me being single and living alone, like the safety aspect. So I’ve told them I’ll get a German Shepherd.
The biggest expectation was that we’d be respectful. We were hugely southern. So we lived or died by “ma’am” and “sir.” My mom stayed on us with acting right. I see some kids and I’m like, “Dang, my mom would have killed them.
K: Isn't it harder for single women to find husbands after fostering? Or so I've heard. Like some say it's best to wait to foster until you have two parents. But then ... there's "Kisses From Katie.”
M: Finding a husband is not a priority for me. I think I can take in more kids and do mission trips more easily if it’s just me. And if he didn’t want my kids, I wouldn’t want him, anyway, because obviously our hearts would be on different paths.
K: Good point and good answer. We were big into respect also, but not in a ritualistic way. We grew up calling people by their first names unless it was obvious they were the sort of grumps that required a title. Everyone loved us because we could have a conversation with an adult as if they were a great friend.
M: In Alabama it was common to say “Mr./Mrs.” and first name.
K: It does depend on where you live, I think.
M: It does! Very cultural.
K: Missouri is rednecks. So we were respectful even though we never said any nice stuff.
M: Oh, Alabama is seeped in rednecks saying “ma’am.” And on that note, I think this is a good place to wrap up part one of our conversation.
K: This was fantastic! So enjoyed it!
M: Yes, I agree! Part two of this interview will be posted on Keturah's blog!