I've been enjoying immensely CV Rick's memories of childhood, and have discovered that his writing reminds me of many of my experiences while growing up Mormon. Almost every time he writes memories it sparks memories I have, so I will be sharing them here on my blog under the label "Growing Up Mormon."
I am the second oldest of 8 children in my family, oldest daughter to parents who grew up in Utah and dated three years in high school before marrying at age 19. Eric, Val, and I were each born a year apart (my mother's a SAINT!), and two years later Tony was born, two years after whom Baby Mark was born. He died of crib death at age 7 weeks. Every two years or so after that, Steve, Keith, and Kate were born. Our family dynamic plays out in two groups: the big kids (Eric, me, Val, and Tony) and the little kids (Steve, Keith, & Kate). I feel like the oldest as much as Eric does, since I was the oldest girl. Tony was treated often like the youngest (spoiled, we teased) sibling, as was Kate, wrong as this label is.
My dad was in the army during the early years of their marriage, so he was in Vietnam when Eric was born and returned the day before I was born. Eric was old enough to know that Dad was a stranger to him, so he took a long time to warm up to Dad, which didn't bode well for Eric down the road. I don't think Dad forgave him for that for a long time. But I was newborn, and a girl, so I was treated like a favorite, while Eric was treated worse. It is subtle, yet undeniable. My sister Tony and I are the two who were treated the best by our dad, for some reason, if you can apply the term "best" to it. It is something I've pondered often, wondering how the different treatment we received may have affected our lives and personalities. I know that I wish it hadn't been so. So my memories will be varied, some painful, some light. I look forward to remembering.
My dad was in the army for three years. After that they moved to Orem so he could return to BYU. He almost became a paleontologist but ended up not doing his thesis, (world-class procrastination) so in the end, we moved to Montana after he got a job working for a pharmaceutical company as a traveling salesman selling drugs to doctors. I was six years old.
It was an interesting childhood. We were poor, very poor. There were very few families in church with as many kids as we had, and even fewer outside of church. Life is different when you have that many siblings, and not enough money to go around. CV Rick describes this as MWOM (Mormons Without Money) as opposed to MWM (Mormons With Money). I'm sure I'll have much to say on this subject in the future. We were definitely a family belonging to the first category, and I'm so thankful I have the mom I do, who was so very good at homemaking, and cooking on a tight budget. She makes the most wonderful food. She was of course a stay-at-home mom, because 1. we never could have afforded day care for that many children, and 2. it was taught that a mother's place was in the home.
We were poor, and we were Mormon. We were different, as there aren't too many Mormons in Montana. But we were taught that different was good. Let your light so shine, so that others may be drawn to you and will ask you about what makes you different. You will then be able to teach your friends about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have no idea if I will be able to effectively describe how painful being different can be when you're a child wishing to be "normal" (although now I recognize that "normal" is subjective and means very little to me)... I was certainly different. I still am. "Unique" is how I prefer to describe myself now.
I was also taught often (at home and at church) to always be a good example of righteousness, because people who aren't Mormon are always watching and secretly looking up to you, because you are different, and you live highter standards. They will be watching for you to mess up, and when you don't, you'll be admired all the more.
I remember three instances in my life (although there were more than that) where people told me "There's something about you" and asked me what it was. Having grown up Mormon, I knew what that special something about me was: The Holy Spirit™. These instances only served to reinforce in me the truth that I was being watched and admired for being different.
1. I was the lotto booth clerk at Albertsons when I was seventeen, and had many regular customers who bought lotto tickets for Wednesday and Saturday drawings. One such couple came to the booth one day, and the husband said to me, "Lisa, you have such a special aura about you! There's just something about you that makes you seem to glow. What is it?" I was very uncomfortable. They were both staring at me intently and beaming at me...it was creepy. I mumbled something quickly about the fact that I was Mormon and how I was sure it was The Holy Spirit™ they could see within me. They responded that perhaps that was it and left, each of them turning to look at me twice on their way out the door. I dreaded seeing them after that. I still remember that guy's name...they had given me their names and his business card when they asked me about my aura. Strange. Did they think I would actually call them??
2. I was an exchange student in Austria when I was 18. One of the Austrian AFS volunteers named Clemens was a little older than me, and had been an exchange student in the USA a year or two before. Every so often we'd get together for a weekend as a group at a lodge in the forest somewhere, and it was tons of fun socializing with the different exchange students from different countries. On one of these weekends, Clemens asked me to go on a walk with him, and we found a swing, so I started swinging, and he said to me, "Lisa, there's something about you - something different, like a glow. What is it that makes you so different?"
Of course I gave him my only answer for this phenomenon. "It's my religion that gives me my glow. It's because I have The Holy Spirit™." He asked me some deeper questions and I was so nervous and worried I would answer wrong if he asked me a tough question, that I told him I'd get him a Book of Mormon and he could read what I know and could ask me any questions later. It never occurred to me that he actually had a crush on me and was making a pass. At least it didn't occur to me until later...the very next Sunday I got the missionaries in my ward to give me a Book of Mormon, in which I wrote my testimony in my best teenage girl handwriting in the front cover, and I sent them to his address without warning him first. After that, he didn't have much to say to me at our AFS weekend retreats. Go figure.
3. I had a friend in high school who lived nearby. She had an older brother only, so her house was extremely quiet always, and one time when she came over, she admitted to me that she felt something every time she was in my home. "There's something about you, something special about your family that I feel every time I'm in your home. It's so warm and inviting! What is it?" You can guess exactly what I answered.
So. I grew up Mormon. And there's something about me. I can't wait to write more about what it was like for me to Grow Up Mormon. It was an interesting ride, to be sure.