tonight my mom brought on a blast of reminiscence. she's been gathering up some of my sister's old things and shipping them out to her in NY where jeni now lives with her husband and daughters. and as she was sorting, she found an old craft project that jeni and i had both done. we grew up painting plaster things--christmas ornaments, plaques, figurines. we loved going to the plaster shop that was a couple miles from our house. my mom would load us all up in our big old passenger van and we'd be off to wander through the shop, contemplating the difficult dilemma of which thing we wanted to paint this time. i remember this particular project. i must have been ten or eleven. and i just knew it was the finest bit of plaster painting i had ever done. and i remember secretly feeling sorry for jeni cause hers wasn't as beautiful as mine.
if there's any single object that could represent me and all of my hopes and dreams as a little girl--and a not so little girl--this is probably it. pink. and flowery. in a big poofy skirt. with a baby. and those books--the complete works of l.m. montgomery, purchased one at a time on my weekly excursions to the bookstore--were some of my favorite reading as a pre-teen and on through my first couple of years at byu. and of course i painted the object myself. because everyone knows that a good woman can make all kinds of things from scratch or craft in myriad ways.
those of you who know me now but didn't know me, say, twelve years ago are probably a little bit stunned. but it's the truth. i was the poster child of conservative mormon femininity. well, maybe with a couple of minor exceptions. i did love backpacking, after all. but that kind of fits in with pioneer trekking or something. and i was really into school and books (not just those by l.m. montgomery) and had a career path in mind. but everything, including the unfeminine backpacking and the career path, had a spin to it that pointed in one direction--wife and mother. at home, of course. i think the family i envisioned at that point in time was 8 kids. and a husband, of course. and i wasn't sure if i would finish my bachelor's or not.
obviously my life didn't work out the way i envisioned it when i packed my bags and moved to the Y at age 17. i now have far more education than i ever dreamed of. i'm more committed to a career than i would have found acceptable then. and almost every political or social opinion i have now--imagine the reverse and ascribe those positions to my 17-year-old self. gun control? hell no! (except i wouldn't have said "hell.") environmentalism? that's for fruity liberals. america fighting a war to "preserve freedom" and "promote democracy" in the middle-east? strike up the patriotic band!! feminism?
clearly i wasn't an entirely foreign being to who i am now. i valued education. i loved reading. i loved art and culture. i have always been a thinker, committed to examination and evaluation. i simply had not had much opportunity--or a reason--to examine the opinions that had been instilled in me by my parents and the other adults in my life. my platform in high school was that i was mormon and mormons believe "X."
i'm still a mormon. and i still believe most of what mormons believe, at least when we're talking about doctrinal beliefs. i've long since jettisoned much of the mormon cultural fluff that i accepted as a kid. and i have byu to thank for it. i went away to college knowing exactly what made me different from everyone around me. and what made me different was my mormonness. after two years of absolute fun (with occasional academic work) and a summer of dating a baptist, i found myself lost in all that mormonness swarming across byu's campus. and it forced me to examine my beliefs and make them my own. it wasn't a short process. but it helped me figure out what i think rather than what mormons think. and it taught me the value of ongoing re-examination. the person i am now would have probably chosen almost any university other than byu. but i wouldn't change it for the world. if i hadn't gone to the Y, i may have been a pink-flowery-clothing-wearing mother of eight by now.