Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 11, 2007

Yet Another Good Reason to Avoid Church on Mother's Day

by Kerry Blair

Sometimes I despair being part of this blog. Jeff always has interesting, important things to share. Rob is funny and belongs to a distinguished guild of FableFabricators or TaleCrafters – or something like that. (I applied on Tuesday, what with resistance being futile and all, and haven’t heard back. What should I assume if even the writing Borg won’t take me?) Stephanie has a luminous new manuscript and deadlines over which to obsess. Sariah has a top-ten bestseller and soon-to-be-released new baby. Julie has fanatic fan fic fans and the cure for writer’s block. Can you see how intimidating it is when Friday rolls around and it’s all I can do to take up cyberspace?

What I really need is a claim to fame. These things aren’t easy to come by but, frankly, I think I’ve found one! Who else do you know who was baptized on Mother’s Day? Twice. Both times were more or less against my will, although the second dunking was for a good cause – to prevent a death in the family.

To appreciate the story, you must first know that I grew up surrounded by my grandmother’s sisters: Olivia Yozelle (Zella), Thelma (Toots) Iona, Wyona (Nona) Elise, and Pauline (Polly) Esther. (My grandmother’s name was Dallace Alma, but everybody called her Dutchey. Maybe it was a law in 1900-era Kansas that women couldn't go by their given names. Or possibly, given these women’s names, they all chose to go by something else.) At any rate, the grande dame of the clan was their aunt, my Great-Great Aunt Dode. She was already ancient when I was a child. She was also the only force on earth that could get my parents to church. Once a year, that is. Every Mother’s Day, one or the other of them drove me and Aunt Dode to a tiny little church in a tiny little town about forty miles outside of town. I’m not sure this is gospel truth, but I think Aunt Dode started going when she heard that each year the pastor presented a lovely wrapped gift to the oldest mother in the congregation. At any rate, in one of the early years, Aunt Polly was visiting and went with us. It was she who saw to it that I was finally (and thoroughly) “saved” despite my howled protests that I was really quite happy as a heathen. Thus befell my first Mother’s Day baptism.

The year I turned sixteen, my parents figured Aunt Dode and I were a match made in heaven. I could drive her to church and they could devote a fifty-second Sunday to yard work. (The yard did not improve noticeably, I’m sorry to say.) Who could have foreseen that this would be the year my aunt finally got religion along with that lovely wrapped gift?

It began innocently enough. After we were “comfortably” seated on the rough wooden benches, a chorister led us in a hymn. A deacon (not the twelve-year-old kind) led us in prayer. The pastor gave the sermon. More deacons (still of the geriatric persuasion) passed the collection plate. At last the service was over and it was time for all the mothers in the congregation to rise. Then, under the pastor’s direction, everyone under the age of thirty sat down, followed by everybody under forty . . . and fifty . . . and so on. At last the only mother standing was Aunt Dode, and that was only because I was holding her up.

With her fame maintained yet another year – and gift in hand – I figured we were good to go. Except that the meeting wasn’t over. It had merely been adjourned long enough to allow the congregation to make a fifty-yard trek to the river bank where we were to reassemble for a baptism. I was shocked. Possibly appalled. (In the Methodist church less than an inch of water, sprinkled lightly, sufficed believers.) But Aunt Dode insisted on following the crowd. She loved to see people “dunked” and she wasn’t missing the show this time. Ever the dutiful niece, I pushed her wheelchair across the meadow to muddy banks of the Hassayampa River. There we gathered in tree-dappled sunlight, sang a hymn, recited the Lord’s prayer, and listened to the pastor relate a truly touching account of our Savior’s baptism in the River Jordan. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. So moved was I that I didn’t notice my aunt had also moved – down the bank and into the pastor’s arms to petition for baptism. As he looked over her snowy-white head at me I did the calculations:

Seventy-degree-weather + icy cold, muddy water + frail, 94-year-old woman = double pneumonia and certain death.

I could explain myself to my grandmother and formidable cadre of aunts at Dode’s funeral. Not. I scrambled down the bank after her. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife post-pillar would have been easier to reason with. Fortunately (or not) the pastor possessed the wisdom of Solomon. Surely, he told my aunt with evangelical zeal, the Lord had led her to the banks of baptism, but wasn’t it possible that she was an instrument in His hands? Perhaps, having lived a good life and found favor in His sight, God’s gift to her this Mother’s Day was to look on as her dear niece accepted His Son.

Me? Here? Again? Come to think of it, it was probably only sixty degrees under all those trees, the creek contained more mud (and leeches) than water, and I didn’t have dry clothes – or even an old Kleenex to dry off with. Nevertheless, as you already know because I gave away the punch line in the second paragraph (where is Jeff's writing advice when I need it?) I drove home soggy, muddy . . . and probably happier than I’d ever been.

I did it again about fifteen springs later. Well, sort of. Stepping into the warm, crystal clear water of a font at the Mesa Temple, I was baptized for my grandmother, Aunt Nona, Aunt Zella, Aunt Toots and, of course, Aunt Dode. (Aunt Polly was still standing on street corners handing out anti-Mormon tracts.) The temple experience was glorious – and leech-free – and I knew absolutely that my marvelous great-great aunt was happy and whole and very near, anxious to accept the only truly valuable Mother’s Day gift she’d ever been offered.

So, even if I only have one claim to fame in life, probably that's the one to have. (Is it wicked to admit, though, that Mother's Days still make me cringe?)

And what in the world will I write about next week . . . ?


At 5/11/2007 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerry, I don't care what you write about next week because I love reading whatever you write!

This was a beautiful story.

--The Mean Aunt

At 5/11/2007 4:25 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Great post, Soggy Bottom Girl!

(I'm sure you'll think of something next week.) =)


At 5/11/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Gary said...

Week after week (most of the time) you come up with wonderful and inspiring stories or thoughts. I look forward to them.

At 5/11/2007 5:12 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kerry, you have the most interesting life--and the most marvelously engaging and interesting way of relating stories from your life!

At 5/11/2007 5:33 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Ah, Kerry, I think you're the most baptized person I know. At my own baptism, I tried to stick a toe up so I could do it again, but the young man doing the honors was too good and too fast for me to succeed. Maybe all those baptisms are the reason you are so sensitive to life's little nuances. As for what to right about next week, let's see, I suspect you could make even gasoline prices touchy or funny, maybe both. Or maybe you could tell us something about that place near you where the old circus animals go. If you're really desperate, you could fill us in on the joys of setting up your new computer.

At 5/11/2007 8:18 PM, Anonymous Nancy V. Sont said...

what a great story! I wish I knew you in person.

At 5/11/2007 10:48 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Thanks so much for the kind comments. If one is going to flounder around, this sure is the place to do it!(I'm not sure about that SBG thing, Jon, but I did laugh out loud.)

Jennie, thanks for the ideas, but I have an even better one -- a guest blog from you! You could write it in all that spare time you have. You know, when you're not writing, reading, reviewing, gardening, playing with grandchildren . . . I'm getting tired just thinking about your life! (But I still want a blog!)

Finally . . . drum roll, please . . . LDStorymakers invited me to join their guild today! I haven't been this excited since Dick Zabrinski asked me to the 7th Grade Sock Hop. Excuse me while I go dig out my best pair of white knee socks. . . (And no further comment from you, Jon. Remember what that L stands for.)

At 5/12/2007 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No way. There simply no way that you have that many aunts and female family members with that many goofy names. Did you make some of those up? From: your secret internet friend, admirer and confident who, by the way, may not have a weird name, but is certainly as goofy as those names...

At 5/12/2007 6:06 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I've been wondering when you'd join us, Kerry! It's about time! :D We need you!

At 5/14/2007 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your Aunts names (all my aunts and sisters have the most boring, average names you could find), and your blogs. You could talk about the weather and make it interesting.

Happy Mother's Day.

At 5/14/2007 11:37 AM, Anonymous kerry said...

These are all honest-to-goodness names and the IGI will back me up, you Doubting Thomases. You'll be amazed what you'll find under Manche.

I didn't even make up Polly Esther. (I only wish I had.) Naming children was one of my great-grandmother's gifts. Cool story: When I did her baptism the officiator paused, looked up, and said, "You know she's here, don't you?" Probably just making sure I'd got all her girls' names right.

But I have to confess I did get one wrong in the blog. My mother tells me that Olive Yozelle was called Ozzie, not Stella. (Oops.) I didn't know her as well as the others since she never came to Arizona.

Thanks again for the kind comments. You guys are amazing.


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