The 9th East church had two chapels, one with green carpet and one with orange. It was a massive edifice with lots of satellite classrooms and offices and a baptismal font attached to a gigantic gym full of echos and Friday night ward parties. There was a kitchen and two stages where we put on over-produced, over-acted road shows every few years and a massive black steeple on the west-facing wing. We went to church there every Sunday, walking the small block up the street with our bags of scripture and dressed in our Sunday best. Ours was the green chapel.
When I was tweleve years old I graduated out of the Primary room on the northside to the Young Women's room--a location only accessed by going outside of the building, through a set of mirrored doors, upstairs and down a hall into a room with a piano and a windowed view of Brigham Young University. In this upstairs room, always hot and full of fanning young women and adult women we learned about doctrine, about how our world was detiorating into wars and sin, but mostly about marriage and motherhood. Marriage and motherhood, our salvation in this earthly existence.
On Wednesdays we'd meet back at the chapel for activities relating to domesticity--napkin folding classes and how to make spaghetti. We were encouraged to help around our own home, noting and modeling our mother's moves, changing cloth diapers with clothes pins and pale yellow rubber diaper covers to the babies we tended. One Sunday I remember an older young women asking why we didn't get to do the same activities the young men were doing, bike riding, rock climbing, camping. It surprised me she didn't enjoy being trained on how to knit potholders, or arrange flowers in a vase, or make recipe boxes out of wood and paint them with stencils.
I don't remember our leaders response to her, but I do remember coming to a realization that I had a voice in my church. If this young woman could question something, so could I. And I remember this coming as a powerful sentiment of relief and permission.
Cumulatively though, I grew from twelve years old into nineteen years old believing the earlier I married and had children the more the Lord loved me and if this was done expediently and without complaint the more I would make my family proud. This message started at home, firm and unmoveable and it shadowed everything I heard at church.
Certainly there was something inside of me that begged me to believe bigger and see widely a view my Heavenly Parents had for me. A tug of divinity would often pull at me, I was born to be lots of things, a mother? Yes. A wife? Yes. But also a student and teacher, a lover, a dreamer, and maybe even a writer. My life was peppered with women and men planting seeds of possibility, people who challenged my anxiety towards the expectations pulsating my life.
Yet when I was nineteen years old, at the college across the valley down by the lake I could only feel one thing: I had to get married young or my value would decrease over time, like anything else worth having.
So it was the first boy who showed a passion for me--a dark, persuasive, charming boy in my Speech and Drama class--I closed my eyes and fell into the relationship. Closed my eyes so tight and hung on hoping this alarmingly bad romance could end on its feet. Closed my eyes and didn't open them until years later when I realized I had been entirely robbed, mind, body and spirit.
I use the word robbed, but something of my former life, something about that girl in the upstairs room of the green chapel shakes her head at me and says, no you chose. You chose to be robbed.
And that makes me sad.