May 3, 2009
These stories of the church and community get mixed up in my memories of my family. It is an odd dichotomy. The family I belonged to most completely was my mother’s family and our holidays were a combination of booze, cigarettes, and card games. As the youngest in the family, I eagerly anticipated being old enough to sit with the adults and play cards. I remember one of my first games, 9 years old, at the table in my grandparents home over Thanksgiving. I don’t remember who won, just that I finally got to play.
It’s strange to me that I craved family the way I did, when I really think about my family. We spent most major holidays together and some holidays most people have never heard of (the Gaspee Days parade was an annual tradition my entire youth). I have fond memories of digging for gold in the backyard with the neighbor boy. I learned to swim in my grandparents pool and would stuff myself on raspberries in the summer after a day of playing.
I could try blaming my mom again. I may have to dedicate my journal to Freud if I go all parental focused. She was definitely the odd-one out in the family. And since I was her “best” friend, I heard all about how we didn’t belong. How she wasn’t wanted. How she was treated badly. She was a born victim. But, to be fair, they weren’t very nice to her either.
So she was probably part of it. We see with the eyes we have and mine were tinted by relationship dynamics I was too embroiled in to have any hope of seeing or understanding.
May 2, 2009
I wonder what I was trying to fill in myself when I joined the LDS church. I was paradoxically highly devout and not very good at following some of the rules. I craved people in my life, family and community. As a teenager I attended church alone, every week, without fail. My mother never joined me. I sat alone in the pews, surrounded by large families with two parents and a loads of kids. I heard stories of people who adopted youth attendees like myself, giving them a surrogate family. And I hoped I might someday be chosen to join one of those bustling homes. When I was included in one family, I spent my time avoiding unwanted sexual advances from their son who was my age. So maybe I should be grateful it was a one-time thing, as far as I can remember.
There were signs of my hunger. I would often gather with other kids in the church halls during sacrament or other meetings. I loved going to church, but I don’t think I realized then how much of what I craved was human connection. And one thing the mormons do better than anyone else is build community. I craved a family and community more than I craved a religion. I was so jealous of those rows of happy groups I sat behind, beside, and around, but not within. Not even when I was married did I ever have that golden standard of a family unit.
The closest I came in the mormon church was my freshman year of college. We were all lonely and we bonded in groups trying to live the ideals of the church as we believed them to be. We took care of each other, laughed, created, bought each other groceries, and ignored the things that kept us from believing, all the way, that we could have this dream we had been taught was real. It was a heavenly experience in many ways.
I might still be looking for someone to choose me to be part of their family. Even grown as I am, partnered and parenting, I yearn for a larger family to keep me safe from the loneliness in my heart.