Thursday, July 7, 2011

PK: Preacher's Kid vs. Deacon's Kid

Preacher’s kids, if of the male variety, have a reputation for being, at the very least, rowdy and rambunctious, and at worst, something akin to Children of the Corn (note: insipid movie reference).  If the PK happens to be a girl, “spunky” seems to be a catch-all.   That’s not fair, but it is what it is. 

My older sisters were—are—spunky.  My oldest sister is less spunky, but she is the Perfect Sibling; the Why Can't You Be More Like Your Sister sibling; the I Make Perfect Grades sister.  None of us like her very much.  The next oldest is spunky.  With a capital ‘spunk.’  But, she is married to a preacher and they have two PKs, so, you know. . .payback.

The Senior Pastor of my church has kids.  His youngest, a daughter we’ll call “Natalie,” because that is her name, is spunky.   From my observations, she occasionally crosses over from spunky to rowdy.  Maybe even, at times, rambunctious.  I have even wondered if she hasn’t walked out of the cornfield a time or two herself (repeat insipid movie reference).  But even then, it’s considered “cute.”  A guy could never pull that off.  I know, that sounds sexist, but whatever, it’s the truth. 

If you’re a guy, and a PK, you are trouble.  This is true, or there wouldn’t be so many Preacher’s Kid jokes out there, the vast majority of which are male-oriented.  There are websites devoted to the subject.  There are facebook pages for PKs.   Whether you’re rowdy, rambunctious, Damien incarnate (note: second insipid movie reference), or “spunky,” the fact is PKs have a rep.  And it’s usually not that positive.

But to get to the point of this writing—and the title, why are there no Deacon’s Kids jokes?  Why no facebook pages for Deacon’s Kids?  There are 592,000 entries in a Google search for “Preacher’s Kid”.  There are less than 3,000 for “Deacon’s Kid.”  Why is that?  I mean, besides the fact that they are less interesting.

Deacon’s Kids get away with everything.  And that includes the trouble they start and then inflict on PKs simply because they can.  Because they know that popular opinion is on their side.  I know this from personal experience, having been inflicted upon and popular opinioned against by Deacon’s Kids.

As you have no doubt already figured out, because you are a bright reader, I am going to share a few of those inflictions I have suffered at the hands of Deacon’s Kids to prove my thesis.

Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, a rural community church not far from Jefferson City, Missouri, is where I spent most of my growing years.  I say that because my father was the pastor of that church, and the church was right next door to the parsonage, where we lived.  Consequently, this is where I spent most of my time, and where most of the malfeasance by Deacon’s Kids took place, the consequences of which I bore more than they.  I’m serious.

Consider the Case of the Initials Carved in the Pew.  I always tried to sit in the pew with the initials carved in them.  This is because, during my father’s sermons, I would pretend that the pew I was seated in was reserved for members of the Royal Air Force.  See, the initials carved in the pew were “RAF”.  Not my initials.  However, they were the initials of the eldest son of one of the deacons.  I got in trouble for daydreaming and tracing the initials with my fingers during the sermon.  Did the Deacon’s Kid who carved his initials in the pew get in trouble?  Nooooooooo, never a mention.  But I got in trouble for merely looking at them!  (The perpetrator later married my oldest sister.  And my father performed the ceremony.  Is there no justice?)

Then there’s the Case of Rock, Paper, Scissors.   It’s a Sunday night.  (Yes, back then, we went to church on Sunday nights.  And Wednesday nights.  And, I believe, 8 more nights per week.)  A Deacon’s Kid seated next to me decides that my father’s sermon provides the perfect backdrop for a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  About four “rock beats scissors” and “paper covers rock” later, I hear the voice of my father cutting through, from the pulpit

“Keith, I want you to move up here to the front row where I can keep an eye on you.” (For those uninitiated in the unspoken social etiquette of the Baptist church, the front pew is never occupied.  It is reserved, apparently, for the Trinity.  Or for rowdy PKs.)  My father looked ill, which is always how he looked when he was embarrassed by one of his children.  Then he said, “I’ll take care of you later.”  From the pulpit he said that! 

With that statement, my fate was sealed.  I was dead.  I hadn’t even had a girlfriend yet, and I was going to die.  You have to have known my father to know that the last thing he wanted was to have negative attention drawn to himself or any member of his family.  Particularly his offspring.  And so, having had to “call me down” from the pulpit was the last resort for him.  This equated to certain death for me.

Ever watch a football game and seen one player shove another player, and then the player who gets shoved first shoves the shover back (still with me?), and the guy who got shoved in the first place is the one who gets penalized simply because the ref didn't see the first guy, the shover, instigate the whole thing?  It's kind of the same thing.  The Deacon’s Kid who instigated the Rock, Paper, Scissors game, and who made the most overt gestures and who made the most noise slapping each rock, paper, or scissors in his palm, he gets off penalty-free.  And I’m going to die without a girlfriend.  Tell me that’s fair!

Finally—and I say “finally” only because I don’t want to over-tax your attention span by listing case after case after case to prove my point, but just know that I could—there is the Case of the Herald Trumpet That Didn’t.  And this, my friends, is the piece de resistance.  This story alone proves my case.

It’s Christmas, and as we did every year, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is putting on a Christmas program.  Because I had begun playing trumpet in the school band, obviously I had to have a part in the Christmas program.  

I should stop here and explain the Musical Requirements for my family.  See, my family is very musical.  My father played clarinet in school band, and he sang—well at least could carry a tune; my mother played cornet in school band, played piano, and had a very nice voice.  All of us kids sang, played an instrument in school band, and in the case of my sisters, played piano.  Therefore, we all had to sing/play in church.  That was the Musical Requirement.  From the time I was old enough to stand on my own, I sang, and later played in church.  My older sisters developed a beautiful 3-part harmony thing and were quite the hit with their trios.  My father loved to have what was called “special music” whenever he preached.  If none was available—or if he was hit with an idea from the pulpit, he might call on the girls to “bring special music.”  And so it followed that, as soon as a new musical instrument was picked up by one of us, it must be incorporated into a church service. 

So, back to the Christmas program.

This program called for a Herald Trumpet to fanfare the announcement of the Heavenly Host to the shepherds in the field.  Right after, “…And ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger…” the Herald Trumpet was to blow a fanfare, leading into the next verse in Luke 2, “…And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host…”  I was the Herald Trumpet, and all I had to do was play a short fanfare.  (For the musical among you, it was nothing more than a “dut duh-duh-dahhhh”, a G to a C.) 

My cue came, as I heard the narrator say “…and lying in a manger.”  From the back of the sanctuary, I raised my trumpet to my lips, and blew. 

“Pfffffftttt” is what came out.  I looked at the mouthpiece of the trumpet as if to say, “How dare you!” 

I positioned my embouchure perfectly on the mouthpiece and blew correctly, more forcefully.

“PFFFFFFFFmmmmRRRRRRFFFFFFTTTT” was the sound that wafted across the sanctuary.

I was not a bad trumpet player, even at the young age of 12.  I knew enough about the instrument to know that whatever was wrong, the problem lie with the instrument itself and not my technique or even my nervousness.

I could feel rather than see the burning stare of my father from the darkness between me and the stage area.

“AND YE SHALL FIND THE BABE, WRAPPED IN SWADDLING CLOTHES, AND LYING IN A MANGER…”  The voice of the narrator boomed.  (Oh yeah, that was the problem, I just hadn’t heard the cue.)

“PFFFFTT-MMMMM-FFFFF-PRRRFFFFFFF” came bursting forth in all its muffled brassy glory from the bell of the trumpet. 

The program moved on without the benefit of the Herald Trumpet to herald the event.

It was then that I noticed two Deacon’s Kids laughing in the corner close to me.  Until that moment, it had not occurred to me to inspect the horn for possible sabotage. 

I had already removed one of the valves to make sure it was seated correctly, so it wasn’t that.  Then it hit me like a—well, like a trumpet heralding the event.

“Dut duh-duh dahhhhhh!”  The bell of the trumpet.  Look in the bell.  Sure enough, stuffed into the bell as far as it could go was a wad of toilet paper.  My discovery of the terrorism only made the two Deacon’s Kids laugh harder. 

I was finally able to convince my father that I didn’t do it to purposely blow up the Christmas program.  I think he knew me well enough to know that I would never have deliberately caused myself embarrassment musically, let alone him and the entire church.

But did the Deacon’s Kids get in trouble?  No.  Even though I was quick to throw them under the bus (hey, it was life and death, me or them, that whole “fight or flight” thing, and I wasn’t taking the fall for them.  After all, they had caused me humiliation at the one thing that I could consider myself fairly good at!), and I told my father exactly who did it.  Still, they got off as free as OJ Simpson.

And in any case, all they had to do, if questioned by their parents, was say, “No, it wasn’t me!  We told him not to do it, but he thought it would be funny!” and their parents would probably have believed them. 

After all, I was the Preacher’s Kid.