Growing up Mormon.

I have one of everything.

Older sister, older brother, younger sister, younger brother. I am rich in my siblings. There were seven of us growing up including our parents and I am the lucky middle child.

Both of my parents grew up in the church and their parents, and their parents and so on. I am a five generation Latter Day Saint. My dad went on a mission to England and my parents were married in the Salt Lake Temple not long out of high school. Most everyone in my neighborhood was a member of my ward. This was a normal life in Utah. The neighbors I didn’t know well were the not Mormon. Going to church every week was a big neighborhood gathering. Also most of the kids I went to school with were Mormon too. We always had the majority. (Very different from my own kids. For years they were the only members of the church in a primary (elementary) school with 800 students. But recently we had some church friends move into the area. So know there are three of them at a school of over 850 students).

We fought a lot as siblings. Once I watched my older sister drag my older brother up the stairs by his hair. I ducked when he retaliated by throwing a rotten peach at her bedroom door. The stain remains there still today.

We had a very full house. Our first house was a two-bedroom home with a finished attic. My parents had a room, my older sister had the attic as her bedroom and the rest of us (four of us) shared the other bedroom. Two sets of bunk beds. A blue set and a pink set.

Our backyard had a big tree with a sandpit and I remember looking out my bedroom window at my little swimming pool heating up in the sun. Inside we had diamonds as doorknobs, a big tree painted on the wall and carpet made out of all different colored scraps. We made up a game called carpet-tag, where you would run around trying to tag each other and you had to stay on your own color.  We would watch a Disney movie on Sunday nights while we ate ice cream out of cones with children’s names on them. My name was never on them.

On the weekends, as a treat to my mom so she didn’t have to cook, my dad would take us out to Dee’s burgers. He would sing the commercial “Dee’s, Dee’s, let’s all go to Dee’s”. It was like when I use to say the word “walk” to my dog and she would go totally berserk running all over the house wagging her tail. And that’s what us kids did, we ran around jumping up and down with excitement (we didn’t get out much). We loved Dee burgers (and who could pass up their Saturday .25 cent hamburgers) or the other weekend staple diet…

a big bucket of chicken…2ec83727-82a4-443d-af33-18e72fe0e393.jpg

By the time I started school, my dad’s mental illness became bigger than all of us and us kids were good at staying out of his way. The cracks started to show by the time I was seven. My Uncle even flew our family with his us to Disneyland, the last attempt to save his little brother’s marriage (that was the first time I ever saw the ocean and the second time was when I was eighteen). Soon my parents lived separately shortly after my dad baptized me. I was the lucky last, my little brother and sister had to ask grandpa and an uncle (we had many relatives lining up for the job, the priesthood runs strong in my family).  My mom, who had never worked before was now our sole supporter, a single mother with five young kids. It was hard. I wanted to be like all the ‘normal’ kids with a mother and a father…we all had a void we were desperately trying to fill, including my mother.

When I was sixteen my dad took his own life his attempt to stop the pain. He left an even bigger gaping hole in his family and most of us have inherited some of his pain. We all deal with it differently as we are all very different.

Somehow we survived. We became street smart. Most of us had our fair share of bullies but my older brother got it the worst. I watched helplessly as the older boys his age treated him appallingly, which he turned around and did the same to us at times. I learned quickly how important it was to have good friends and be a good friend in return. Sometimes, it was my friends that got me through some of the really rough times at home. Their parents putting their arms around me and accepting me as their own. I always felt loved, even if it wasn’t always at home. I knew my family loved me, its just we were all going through so much trying to survive childhood.

It’s amazing to me that no matter what kind of childhood you had, you find yourself going back there as an adult to take shelter from the world occasionally. We all have that little child just wanting to be loved in each of us.