My mother, like me, is a woman who speaks her mind. She will yell and scream and occasionally swear. She is the breadwinner in the family. An nontraditional Mormon Mommy. That’s how I knew something was upsetting her when she wouldn’t say anything; she just went to her room and closed the door.
My little sister had just called to have a criticizing conversation about her wedding day —how everything had run smoothly until one certain moment where she felt my mother had interfered too much and therefore ruined it. My mother looked pale as she told me what my little sister had said. I know that mom had spent sleepless nights to ensure that this would be the best day ever.
Being a middle child, it’s not unusual for me to take on the responsibility as mediator. I called my sister up very calmly but soon I had to lay down the law.
“Do you have any idea the sacrifices Mom made for you? You got every damn thing you wanted at the wedding from the reception hall to the Italian soda bar. She never said 'No' to any of your wedding wishes. Do you know why? She loves you. She would have sold her left leg to pay for your Italian soda bar. Now I’m doing you a favor. Mom does not want to talk to you but if you are lucky I may be able to get her to listen.”
My mother was lying quietly in her bed. She would not speak. I asked her to listen to my sister but she refused. Finally the guilt set in on my sister as she frantically began calling Mom to apologize. Mom would not pick up. She called me again, this time in tears, and gave me her apology speech. I was able to convince my Mom to hear it and they mended fences. After she hung up the phone, Mom just looked at me and began to cry. I was a little confused. Everything was settled. The apology had been sincere.
“You know, no one from my side of the family came to the wedding,” she said.
“Well Mom, they couldn’t really go. She got married in the temple and they are not Mormon. I didn’t even get to go,” I said, trying to not show my own frustration.
“I know, I know but… It just really bothered me more than I thought it would. I really wanted my parents and my brothers and sisters to be there too,” she said through tears.
I was surprised. I had been so focused on my own bitter feelings of being left out (see: Off White Wedding); I never imagined it would affect those who could attend. I looked at my mom with brand new eyes. I thought of the sacrifices she has made all of her life. Her own parents boycotted her wedding. She lost all of her friends. She moved across the country to go to BYU. This religion has isolated her from her family in so many ways.
My mother rarely mentions her childhood. From the tiny slivers I hear of her Dad, I’ve suspected he was an Iron Fist Father. When I first learned the truth concerning the church, I would look at my mom and wonder, “How Mom? You are such a smart woman. How did you let them get you?” Seeing her weeping under the covers I realized that there is something about Mormonism. Something good. Something that pulled my mother out of a shadowed place and into a light. I know she has never studied the history of the church. Her family many times tried to have “anti-Mormon” interventions. I’m not sure how she got converted to Mormonism but I suspect the church acts as the father she never had. I climbed onto the bed and held my mom as she wept.
“Don’t worry Mom,” I said, “ I will never get married in the temple so everyone can come to my wedding!”
My mother laughed, and with complete sincerity said, “Thank you Honey. You always know just what to say to cheer me up.”