A Shit Load of Mormons
It wasn’t like we decided in advance that our kids would be allowed to have religious freedom. Joe and I weren’t that kind of parents. There was no rational plan, no need to plot our children’s spiritual journeys. We were too busy trying to live on AA and Top-Raman to come up with a plan like that. We didn’t go to church; we went to meetings. We didn’t read the bible we read the Big Book. Our spiritual guides were old men with no teeth and good stories about driving with a bottle of Jack pressed tightly to their palm. We weren’t bad parents—just young and stupid—and so our kids, Lexi and Dylan, were left to plot spiritual journeys on their own.
Lexi chose conservative Christian.
She came home from school and told us that she wanted to be an Awana.
“What’s an Awana?” we asked.
“A child soldier for Christ.”
Neither one of us was quite sure what a child soldier for Christ did but their group met every Wednesday night, and she would be carpooling with other small child soldiers of Christ, so we decided that the few precious hours of private time we would receive during her conservative Christian conversion would be worth it.
We let her go.
Months went by and soon years and Lexi was still going to her conservative Christian church. She went to all of the special functions: Car Wash for Christ, Ice Skate for Jesus, Field Trip for our Father. Anywhere they went she went. She had a special Awana’s shirt with little badges for achieving spiritual marks. Recite bible page 562: earn a small green bead for your Awana’s Soldier of Christ vest. Recruit another soldier: earn five small green beads for your Awana’s Soldier of Christ vest. During that time Joe and I earned two drug relapses, six unpaid pawn tickets on hocked musical instruments, and numerous arguments over who I suspected he fucked while touring with his band.
It wasn’t until Lexi was in high school that things changed. Joe’s sobriety remained intact. I learned to focus on myself after attending only four Al-Anon meetings a week for two years, and Lexi one day came home and said that she would no longer be attending her Christian fundamentalist church.
“Why?” I asked, rather stunned that after all of this time she was just quitting cold turkey.
“There’s nothing in it for me anymore,” she said.
“Did something happen?” I asked.
“Well,” she paused, “Pastor Fred said that all homosexuals would burn in hell and I thought that was a bunch of crap.” She shrugged her shoulders a bit, then turned and bounced back up the stairs to her bedroom whistling the Awana theme song, All Workmen Are Not Ashamed, and that was that. Lexi’s religious journey was over.
4th grade until 10th grade a soldier for Christ.
11th grade: Christ is crap if he isn’t for the homosexuals.
I wanted to give Lexi a bead to wear on her Awana’s vest that said, “Christ for homosexuals” and I wondered if she would be happy with a 30-day newcomer chip from AA.
By 12th grade graduation, Joe and I were divorced, Lexi was void of all religion, and Dylan was writing the serenity prayer on the back of his bedroom door. I knew what was coming next. He was two years behind Lexi on his quest to be a child soldier of God but I knew it was coming as soon as I read, “God grant me the serenity” on the back of the lacquer white bedroom door.
Dylan chose to focus on Eastern philosophy. He became obsessed with Buddha. He asked Monica, the owner of Siren, a hip and trendy art store off of 4th street in Long Beach, if he could purchase one of the shrines she sold honoring the Buddha. She was so touched by the fact that an eleven-year-old boy wanted a Buddhist shrine that she gave him one for his 12th birthday. Dylan was beyond thrilled. He unrolled each little foiled incense pillar as if it was a Hershey’s kiss about to be popped in his chubby little mouth. He folded back the wooden doors so that Buddha could have a better view, and although he seemed to be a 6th grade boy in every other aspect of the stereotype: farting, burping, jiggling his penis inappropriately and staying up late to catch soft core porn on the cable channels, Buddha presided over it all, watching lovingly from his overpriced arty wooden shrine.
Buddha lasted until 8th grade. Dylan never attended church, bowed at a public shrine, or recited prayers at a temple. He never meditated or offered Buddha much more than a Pokemon card now and then or sometimes a small green rubber Martian that he nabbed from a quarter candy machine. Then one day, Buddha’s shrine was packed with Dylan’s special keepsakes, the little wooden doors were closed, and Dylan moved on to musical instruments, the pursuit of teenage girls, and South Park became his favorite show.
I thought he had finished his religious phase.
I thought we were done.
But I was wrong.
I should have known there was trouble when I saw the first two Mormons.
They arrived on a Saturday, all pedal tired from pumping their bikes across town in the warm summer sun, suits constricting their muscles and causing them to sweat. They were riding by they said, and God told them to stop when they saw Dylan outside working on the driveway by himself. Dylan was actually just putting his garage bedroom back together. Thirteen and obsessed with his material possessions looking neat and clean, cool and properly placed, was a big deal, and the Mormons were happy to help. Really, they said, more than happy to help.
When they finished the day’s work, they left Dylan with some literature and said they would be back in a week. Dylan came in after they left and said, “Mom, I’m considering the Mormon religion, do you know much about it?”
I told him the only thing I knew about the Mormon religion was that Brigham Young founded it and they thought Native Americans were dirty people.
“Come on mom,” he said, “tell the truth.”
I didn’t want to tell him that was the truth. That I had been on a Mormon historical tour once when I was driving through St. George Utah and the guide had actually said, “Early Mormons thought the Native Americans a dirty people.” So I lied and said, “I really don’t know much about it” and left him to run off with his new Mormon bible and figure it out on his own.
One week later the Mormons were back. The two must have decided that they really wanted Dylan because now there were four. I wasn’t quite sure what to think but they offered to help us clean the house so I allowed them to stay. They seemed a bit miffed when they finished their work and found out that Dylan had still not read their literature so they left again, planning to return the following week.
Several weeks went by and the Mormons did not relent. They came by again and again but by this time, Dylan had realized that there was nothing cool about their book or their religion and so he would hide in the garage until their knocking ceased and they went away. For weeks he continued his hiding until one day, he was caught. They trapped him by the driveway—four Mormons—and much like being attacked by a gang; he could do nothing but allow them to bully him with their testimonials as they tried to jump him in as a new recruit. I watched from the front garden, unwilling to get in between the Mormons and my son. He would have to learn to deal with spiritual zealots on his own.
I saw the Mormons roll out about ten minutes later and I figured that Dylan had final gotten up the nerve to tell them the truth: he would not be their newest recruit. But I was wrong. He had lied and said that he had a doctor’s appointment and that he would talk to them later, hoping I guess that if he continued hiding, sooner or later they would give up.
But he was wrong.
That night my friend from program, Don, was coming by to pick up a bass amp that he had left in my garage. Don had been clean and sober for years but he had not evolved into much more than a sober junky/carny character who came in and out of my life whenever he felt the need to start a new musical project. Once again he had tried to start one with me and it had ended in shambles when he realized that at 40-years-old, his dreams of being signed as the new Iggy Pop would most likely never be realized. He had decided that he would become a marathon runner instead and that he would pick up his amp and hock it to pay for new running gear, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help with his aging knees, and the entrance fee to the Las Vegas marathon. I had told Don to drop by whenever he wanted, Dylan would be home if I wasn’t, he would be in the garage, and Don would easily be able to retrieve his amp.
When I arrived home that evening, I knew something was terribly wrong. A large white Dodge van was parking in front of my house and so I paused at the stop sign across the street and watched as the lights turned off and the doors opened. Mormons began to exit from each of the doors. But the most disturbing moment was yet to come…when the driver exited. I watched the door open, and a strange electronic lift slid sideways from the door. Attached to the lift was a wheel chair and attached to the wheelchair was a small withered body with a large oddly shaped head. I watched as the lift slowly descended down to the street, and then the wheel chaired occupant turned and whizzed off towards our garage as one of the remaining Mormons waited for the lift to rise and return into the carrier van, then shut the door, and headed off in the same direction. I was still pondering how the wheel chair bound Mormon had manned the driving of the vehicle when I noticed Don Hafke across the street hiding behind his beat up pick up truck watching the garage door from a safe distance. I could see him lean out and peek over the hood every now and then, looking around as if he was worried someone or something would catch him. I sat in my car laughing until I finally caught my breath, opened my door, and headed across the street to Don. He jumped when he saw my silhouette, but then realizing it was me shouted, “Did you see that? Did you see that shit load of Mormons?” I wanted to explain but Don was just too interested in recapping his part in the story rather than listen to me.
“I was in the garage talking to your kid when they started pouring through the door.” he said. “First I thought it was like a joke but then I saw your kid’s face and I knew it must be something serious. I just grabbed my amp and bailed out the door.”
I could tell Don wasn’t proud that he had been a coward when faced with a shit load of Mormons but being that he was a recovering addict, I didn’t really expect much from him in the way of honorable behavior.
I gave Don a quick hug, said I’d talk to him later, and told him I needed to go find out what was going on with Dylan. He was relieved that he wouldn’t have to help and quickly and quietly placed his amp inside the passenger door—afraid any sound could bring the Mormons out to convert him—and then scurried around the back of the truck bed, gently pulling open his driver’s side door before revving his engine and screeching off down the street.
I walked slowly towards the garage and pressed my ear against the outer door. I could hear a video being played loudly on the TV and I decided that Dylan was most likely pinned in by Mormons but safe enough for now that I could wait until the Mormons left to speak to him.
I went to my bedroom, lay down on the bed, and watched out the front window, waiting patiently for the large white van to disappear. After a time, I forgot about my vigil and fell into reading until I heard the engine start. I peered out across the yard as the van drove away and wondered where they were off to next. Did they have a map of the unconverted in Long Beach? Were they on a time schedule? Did they have a nightly conversion quota to meet? My questions would remain unanswered because that would be the last time I ever saw the Mormons. Dylan came in shortly after to tell me that he was over the forced visitations.
“Well what were you watching in there with them?” I asked.
“A Mormon introduction video” he said and then left it at that.
I didn’t push for information. I knew that he was probably worn from the evening’s festivities and most likely pondering his next move in his plan to get rid of the Mormons.
A week later the Mormons made a fateful mistake. They came to the house while Dylan and I were both at school. Lexi, obviously still jaded from her Awana “Christ isn’t for homosexual days” had no problem lying to the Mormons.
“He moved,” she said, “to Texas with my mother and her new boyfriend. He isn’t coming back.”
And that was that.
The Mormons took Lexi’s lie at face value. Dylan was saved. And our life went back to normal: Heathen pagan babies and spiritually unsound parents.