Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not Drowning In a Sea of Mormonism

Matt here.

I’ve been living with my parents for a little over a month now, after coming back from two years in Japan. In Japan I could ignore Mormonism much more effectively than I can here. There were always friends or blogs or random run-ins with missionaries that brought it up, but I could still go days and days without thinking about it. Here, that’s not an option.
My parents are devout. There are sets of scriptures all over the house, including my old French and Spanish sets in the bookcases in my bedroom. There are pictures of the Sacramento and Oakland temples on the walls, Relief Society cutouts and hymn arrangements on the piano, funeral and wedding leftovers in the fridge. They don’t ask me to join their scripture study since I asked them not to, but they still read to each other out loud, just like when I was small even though it’s only the two of them now. Every Sunday they pack off to church for a few hours. In between Sundays people call the house to make appointments with the bishop, ladies drop by to practice musical numbers, information about the ward that borders but isn’t quite gossip flows in and out. The missionaries come to dinner.

They’ve done that twice since I’ve been here, once with my dad here and once with me as Man of the House. Mom cooked both times, which is weird for our household--but then, she used premade dinners she’d made for an enrichment night lesson, so I guess it’s not that out of character after all. Perhaps more importantly, neither night was awkward. For the first time I can remember, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove to the missionaries, or anything to apologize for. I wasn’t defensive or maudlin. I was just a gracious host.

Why the change? I don’t know, but I bet it has something to do with how young they looked. I remember being twelve and fifteen and eighteen and seeing missionaries and thinking how mature and powerful they looked and feeling intimidated. I remember feeling like they were so wise and confident and full of knowledge and truth and feeling jealous. But these elders looked like little kids! Short and with baby faces, and when I asked about their pre-mission lives they talked about high school. It’s hard to be either intimidated by or jealous of babies, even (especially?) in suits. I feel like I can handle them now.

I think my time in Japan played a big part in the change, though it could have just been the time, location independent. I feel like an adult now, now that I know I’ve had giant sweeps of experiences that they haven’t had. I know things they don’t know. I feel like the playing field is much more even--maybe they know things about spirituality and God and Mormonism that I don’t (maybe), but I know things about literature and living in a foreign country and being gay that they have no idea about.

Perhaps it’s this sense of adulthood that makes it so much easier to be in my parents’ home than it used to be. The Mormonism in the air doesn’t give me the emotional rash it used to. I don’t resent it and the pain it caused me any more. There are other changes too, of course--I’m thinking particularly of having had the opportunity to host my dad four times while I was overseas, the last time for more than a month--but then again, perhaps they’re all tied together in a mess of independence and growing up.

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