Confessions of a Serial Hugger

Why do Mormons have lots and lots of babies? Easy, one word…FAMILY. (Part 1)

Family is the reason.

I did not grow up in the Brady Bunch household. We saw things kids shouldn’t see and experienced things kids shouldn’t experience. But if I reflect on my childhood, big giant gaping holes would be lost if any of us were missing.

Everyone in my family has driven me crazy, took me to boiling point and brought me to tears, lots of times. I’m sure I uttered  (or yelled most likely) “I WISH I WERE IN A DIFFERENT FAMILY! As I was 100% sure that I had been adopted. But the truth, is they all mean a great deal to me including their human flaws.

I found this cute video about family…Ok, it’s a little cheesy because its made for teenagers but its playful, beautiful and the words hit home. A family is all about the little things.

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My older brother

I remember when I was about six, I found a spider in the bedroom I shared with my little sister. Terrified I ran out of there right quick crying bloody murder (I had a set of lungs on me).  By the time I got out of my room, I wasn’t crying about the spider anymore. My Tall Grandma (I had a Short Grandma too) had been on a visit to Holland weeks before and she bought me a sweet little doll with wooden shoes. I was crying frightened that the spider would eat her and I couldn’t save her because I couldn’t touch the floor. Nothing would calm me down. That was until my big brother, asked if I wanted him to crab walk me into the room to save her. I stopped crying.

“What’s a crab walk?” I asked.

He showed me and before I knew it, I was being very brave while my brother ‘crab walked’ me on his stomach into my room to save my new dolly and her wooden shoes. I was very happy to sit there as he struggled to crab walk me. As long as I didn’t have to touch the same floor as the spider, all was well. I can still hear his grunts and heavy breathing as he struggled under my weight but I was safe in my older brother’s care. If I was six, he must have been eleven.

He didn’t have to do that. He could just go about his day paying no attention to his blubbering little sister crying about a spider and a dolly. He could have offered to get the doll for me but instead, he gave me so much more. He was a loving brother who crab walked his petrified sister into confidence and valor, he showed me that love prevails. He showed me the love he had for his crying little sister and forty plus years on, I’ve not forgotten.

I always thought heaven dealt my older brother an ordinary hand but when I truly saw my brother for his heavenly gifts, he was anything but ordinary.

My big brother was not perfect, he was a right pain in my butt for most of my childhood. He teased me to tears almost daily, stole my babysitting money and ate my Easter & Christmas chocolates but he showed me what unconditional love was.

He was different than the other kids. He struggled to learn the basics in school and never really learned how to read. I watched him get bullied his whole life. From school kids to church kids and even watched our own father give him a hard time, but he endured. He always offered forgiveness to his perpetrators in heartbeat. He never held any animosity and loved others unconditionally even when they hurt him. He was a guy that needed to be loved no matter what the cost. He never held a grudge and he’s the same way today.

He has the biggest but the most wounded heart. He’s been on heart medication for years, he got a pacemaker put in when he was in his early forties. He’s woken up many a night to his defibrillator shocking his heart back to life while he sleeps. He is the glue of his sweet family. Without him, his daughters and son would be lost. His grandkids would be lost. I never thought I would see him as a loving father let alone grandfather. Each day he is with us it’s a blessing. I’ve always felt he’s on borrowed time.

A family snapshot that was taken by my Grandpa Wolthius on Easter morning before church in front of our Tudor style home on 8th South in Salt Lake City, Utah.

My older sister

My sister is the oldest of us all and I idolized her. No, I really did. She was pretty, popular, funny and cool. She was everything I wanted to be. Out of all of us kids, my mom said we look the most alike. My mom labeled our baby photos to tell them apart. This secretly made me smile. I would follow my sister around the house doing everything that she did. She hated it. I would of too if I was the older sister. But I couldn’t help it. I learned so much from her just by her everyday example.

(Photo of us to be inserted here when I locate it…TBA)

She let me hang out with her friends when they came over until I got kicked out of the room but what they said was so funny. I loved being a fly on the wall. Once she even took me to see “The Empire Strikes Back” when I was nine, I felt so cool.

Vent brushes, big perms, girls camp, short shorts, tube tops, croutons made out of toast, backyard picnics, bike riding on a horse named Flicka, Star Wars, Valley Jr High, Tight jeans (how many stories?), kittens buried in our backyard, The Butternut Tree, The red purse, showing us the glow-in-the-dark ghost from the top of your lip balm, teaching me  “Shoe fly, don’t bother me”, giving me the keys to your car after I came home with my license, sneaking into your attic room to play with your barbies, wearing your paten leather red boots and sipping up my skin in them, watching dad slap you across the face when you were defiending your little brothers and sisters. 

There are several everlasting memories I have of my sister. I want to thank her for being my older sister, my second mom. I remember once when I was a teenager, my mom and stepdad went away for the weekend. I snuck out my bedroom window while my sister was looking after us. She was in the kitchen when I snuck back in at 3am. Ashamed and shocked I stood there looking at her in her pajamas. I thought she was going to yell, get mad and tell mom. She did none of those things. She was cool, calm and ask where I had been. I made a choice not to lie.

“I snuck out my window and met up with some friends.”

“I saw that, are they good friends?”

“Yea.”

“Friends that won’t lead you astray?”

“Yea, I think so.”

“Well good. You better get some sleep or you’ll miss church in the morning.”

I went to bed thinking about what she had said. Where they good friends not leading me astray? I was not sure about the answer that night but it made me question my friendships in the future.

I observed my sister take what she wanted out of life with both hands. She was a great dancer and enjoyed drama class always trying out for the school plays and mostly getting the lead roles. I would watch her from the audience sitting on my knees, chin stretched out so I could see her way up on the stage. No one was more proud of her than I, see I really did idolize her.

Suddenly, in her last year of high school, she fell pregnant with my niece. I became an aunt at twelve. She was the best mother I had ever seen and still is (and even a better grandmother). She had two more babies over the years, my nephews (the youngest is still on his mission) and I loved playing with them all. I learned how to be a mother by watching her.

I watched her study hard and become an LPN then further her degree to become a Registered Nurse. She taught me all about feminism. Bringing home what she learned in her women’s studies class. She could do anything and she was good at everything. I was proud of my sister and all the hard work she was putting into her life. Being a great mother was most important to her. Like I said I learned so much from her just by her everyday example.

This is part one of my family post…Stay tuned for part 2 next week.

Feature photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash