It will come as no surprise to anyone that I have little to no recollection of my earliest years. I was born on the 10th day of December 1973. I’m told it was cold, as it is wont to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the December months. The birth announcement proclaimed “Our stocking was stuffed with…” (me). This part I know because I’ve seen the announcement. Which now that I think about it is odd, as the only way we announced the birth of my own children was via email (and phone calls to our closest family).
My mother kept a baby book faithfully. At least it looks like she did. There are two books covering my life to about age 8. My older brother Mike and I both have really thick ones . The books for my younger brother and my sister are both considerably smaller. Which is merely an observation that the trait of losing enthusiasm projects after I lose momentum over time is something I inherited, and I am in no way accountable for it.
Anyway, when I was born I had one brother. Mike. Mike was two and a half years older than me and the bane of my existence from about age 5 until I was 15 (the year he went away to school for the first time). He was also my most frequent playmate for most of my younger years, and he taught me most of the games I played with my toys and the mannerisms I have for playing with those games. He’s probably still the biggest influence in my life as far as the patterns of my life and sense of humor. This is a fact that I will never again admit to or acknowledge, so make the most of it now.
We lived on the Laramie Air Force Base at the time, though I’m not sure what rank my father was. Some time in my early childhood I know that he was a captain, and I remember also at about age 6 or 7 praying as a family that dad would make the promotion to major (he did – though maybe he was older than I remember). At any rate, I don’t have memories of living in Wyoming (and there are nights I thank God for that) as we moved during my second summer, to Orem, Utah.
Dad had taken an assignment to instruct ROTC at BYU in Provo. I had no idea of this at the time, though I have a vague memory of my first (and only) college football game. It was cold. I fell asleep. We left before it ended. I’m not sure who my family was rooting for or who won, and it would probably only traumatize me to know because while Dad was teaching at BYU, he and Mom and I believe my mother’s parents had all graduated from the Y’s arch-rival, the University of Utah.
I have a dozen or more memories of driving down what I now know is University Blvd in Orem and seeing the Provo Temple lit up. This was always after returning from visits to Gramma and Grampa (Mom’s side) who lived in Bountiful just north of Salt Lake City. Still do, for that matter. I don’t know if my little girls will have that same memory, but it’d be kind of neat if they did – after all, we drove the same stretch as a family once a month or so after visiting my grandparents while I was going to school at BYU.
I also have vague memories of our house in Orem. We lived next to an empty swimming pool, which was fun to play in. And we had those broomstick horses that Mike and I rode on all through the back yard playing cowboys. My first dirty rhyme was learned in the gutter (literally) in front of that house. It came about because someone had a Mr. Peabody toy from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show:
I’m Mr. Peabody
I want my mommy
I need to go potty
Yeah, back off. I was three or four and lived in Utah Valley. Cut me some slack will ya?
Other fun things involved catching grasshoppers using our blankies. The method was to throw out the blanket so it was spread over the bug, and you pinned down the sides and slowly lifted until you could get a hand on the bug. Which you then let jump off (just to watch it jump, because we were boys, and they were bugs, and that was enough). Sometimes we just nudged them to make them jump. To be honest, I don’t remember ever torturing bugs (until I was 11, when I killed a slug by shaking salt on it…) or killing ants with a magnifying glass.
My earliest definable memory takes place in Orem as well, when I was about 3. My mother, like most good Mormon mothers get at least once (however short lived is the effort), was getting into food storage. I remember drinking a lot of nasty powdered milk at this time (I was so very grateful when that kick ended). My mother ground her own wheat for bread, and it being the mid- to late-seventies, we had this monstrous grinder with an open drive belt, which my brother and I loved to watch. The grain moved prettily as it was funneled toward the grinder, and plus here was this big engine (a temptation for all little boys, I’m sure). One time while watching the grinding, and for some still unknown reason – I think it has something to do with me being meant to have this mark on my finger – I decided I wanted to know how it would feel to have the belt move along the inside of the second knuckle of my right index finger (though I was familiar with very few of those vocabulary words). Being a very scientific three years old, I determined the only way to find out was to stick out my finger.
My second definable memory takes place in a hospital or doctor’s office – I’m not sure which – with a trained medical professional removing stitches from my hand. I remember nothing in between these two related events, but I had a lot of stitches. Apparently I had severed tendons and my hand had been cut open all the way down and across my palm in order for them to retrieve the tendons and reconnect them. Today the scar only stretches about half an inch down toward my thumb and half an inch into the palm, but there is a huge mass of scar tissue in that knuckle today, and I can only bend my finger about half way.
The scar quickly became part of my identity. There was a corner on my blanky that was harder than the others which I used to like to hold against the scar. My family still remarks on it. Over the years, I’ve kind of developed the idea of that scar as a symbol of the protection the Lord has given me over my life. I’ve been in many accidents, many of which could have killed or at least crippled me, but I’ve never suffered anything more injurious than that scar on my finger. I reckon that the Lord had something he needed me to accomplish. When I received a Patriarchal Blessing at age 18, I was told that I would bring into this world worthy spirits. I jokingly remarked that I was safe from any serious harm until my wife was pregnant with a second child. As I now have three beautiful daughters, all of whom are worthy, I’ve decided to start being a little more thoughtful and cautious (though I still want a motorcycle); the Lord might have had something else in mind for me, but no sense in taking any chances right?
I remember that I had a broken or sprained arm once in Orem as well, but I don’t know how I got it. I just remember playing in the backyard once with my broomstick horse with my arm in a sling (it’s hard to ride a horse like that, even one made from a broomstick).
Presaging my destiny to write and observe the beauty in all that surrounds us, I still have a slight memory of going out into the backyard and seeing the view of the mountains. Mt. Timpanogas being the most prominent. I remember thinking how wonderful the world was. As I was ever spiritually minded (or at least, have always believed myself to be), I also remember realizing in some small way how positioned I was in God’s plan. It’s not something I could put into words at the time, but it was a feeling. Knowing that I was on the earth, and the earth was in the heavens, and that I was an individual. Maybe you think this more of a psychological self-consciousness than anything else. But I knew it was a spiritual event.
My family was (still is) LDS. Mormons. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We went to church every Sunday for several hours. At this point, I believe the meetings were still scattered, so we’d go once for Sacrament meeting, again for Primary, etc. In primary I once got a little certificate of some sort of achievement. I have no idea what it was for. It had a picture of a young boy and a picture of a young girl on it. So I did something very typical for young boys: I crossed out the picture of the girl (well, they were ICKY!). Mike told me when he saw it that I would regret that later. Probably because he said that, when I saw the certificate once when I was much older, I did regret it and tried to erase it. It wouldn’t come off.
In Primary we learned a lot of songs like “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and so on. I still remember the first time I learned “The primary colors are one, two, three / red, yellow and blue.” I don’t remember the symbology, but I’m pretty sure there was supposed to be some. It’s ok; they don’t sing that song anymore. At any rate, I learned about Jesus, and the story of Joseph Smith, and many other Bible and Book of Mormon stories while I was still very young. And I’ve never doubted them. This could make you think I’m brainwashed, but as I grew the maturity of my belief grew as well. Sure, I’ve questioned my beliefs, and tried them, and had to learn more. But I’ve always had faith in the Savior and the scriptures, whatever misdeeds and actions I’ve taken. I know that the Church is of God, and that the Book of Mormon is true.