12+ Growing up in the 1970s in Perth, WA, I once had a primary school teacher who was a lay preacher on the weekends. He started class every day (at our supposedly secular state school) with the Lord's Prayer and gospel readings. And his favourite scripture topic was Signs of the Second Coming.
Whenever a natural or man-made disaster struck some far-flung place in the world, our teacher greeted the class the following morning with a beaming face. "Did you hear the news?" he'd ask. "About the earthquake—flood—fire—famine—war?" Disasters, he informed us with a saintly smile, were Signs of the Second Coming.
The Second Coming became a subject of discussion in the school playground. One classmate joked he hoped it wouldn't happen before he'd played league footy for Perth. But unlike my classmate, I was a nervy kid. And the gospel readings and our teacher's enthusiasm for Signs of the Second Coming panicked the eleven-year-old me.
I dreaded seeing disasters on the evening TV news. And each night before going to bed, I'd pop out to the backyard and scan the dark Perth sky. If I spotted a falling star (another Sign, the teacher said), my panic soared. And I'd lie awake in bed, unable to sleep for fear the Second Coming was upon us.
The teacher reassured the class our daily gospel readings had saved our souls for a beautiful life ever after. But not so for non-churchgoers — like my family. With the Second Coming, he'd explained, they'd be despatched in the blink of an eye to burn for all eternity.
Later that year, my family moved house, and I moved schools. In my new (secular state) classroom, we still started the day with the Lord's Prayer, but there were no more gospel readings. I soon stopped worrying about Signs of the Second Coming. And with the onset of puberty, I started worrying about other things, like girls.
LOVE WRITING FICTION?
Tall And True is an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers.
The 1970s in Perth are a distant memory. The nervy eleven-year-old is now a sceptic almost-sixty-year-old, living in Sydney. My old primary school teacher, the lay preacher, must have "moved on", too. Perhaps he's enjoying a beautiful life ever after with his Maker?
Recalling the fear he triggered in the schoolboy me, I wonder if my old teacher's thought to ask, "Why do you keep sending Signs of the Second Coming?"
© 2021 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You may also like to read this memoir piece on my Perth Boy's Perspective on the Vietnam War.
A post popped up in my Facebook timeline memories in March 2021 from 2011. It was titled "Signs?" and was a brief account of my primary school teacher, a lay preacher, who started the day with gospel readings. And how he greeted the class excitedly with news of disasters because these were "signs of the second coming".
The gospels and my teacher's account of the "second coming" did scare me. And my fear only abated when I moved schools. I don't know why I wrote the post in 2011. But it brought back memories of the panic the eleven-year-old me felt seeing a falling star.
And as Graham Greene said, "Writing is a form of therapy." (Quote.org)
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert Fairhead is an editor and writer at Tall And True, and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com.
His favourite pastimes include reading and writing, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son. He is also a part-time dog trainer and runs classes at his local dog training club and through Robert's Responsible Dog Training.
Robert has worked as an electrician, a computer programmer, and a sales and marketing consultant, and he is the principal copywriter at Rocher Communications.
His book reviews and writing on dogs have appeared in newspapers and online. And in 2020, he published a collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story.
Robert has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.