Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Todo Monologues: Part 1

At first I thought she was looking for someone who was standing behind me, the way she kept leading with her chin towards my right shoulder to talk into my ear. "Did you get your Masters?" Oh, it's me you're addressing...Yes, I did. "What school did you go to?" Brigham Young University, in Utah. "I thought so--I remember you from the listserv. And then when I saw you were drinking a Coke, I knew it was you. See, I grew up Mormon."

But -- it was obvious from the way she was shouting towards my ear like we were inside the crowded bar instead on the outside porch, and the cigarette in her right hand-- she did not grow up to be a Mormon. "I know the culture you're coming from." I see; that's great. She told her name, and how it was a "typically Mormon name" and everyone at EFY had a name like hers and how she almost went to BYU, but something didn't work out, but she wanted to hear about the English department there. I loved it, but I was in rhetoric, of course. "We should talk sometime." That would be nice; we could have lunch. We should chat. "Don't worry, I'm not going to try to make you smoke a cigarette or anything." Ah, thank you. We'll be sure to talk.

I should have said something like, "And I'll try not to make you come back to church," which might have been witty. Glad I didn't, though, because I can't promise that I won't. I was going home at the time, granted, and she was a couple of beers into happy hour, also granted, but she did scare me just a little. I'm scared of becoming someone who "grew up Mormon" and while I believed her assertion that she wouldn't force me into smoking ("Inhale! Inhale, curse you!"), I wasn't sure that she didn't want to chat with me in order to tell me that the LDS Church was patriarchal and oppressive and narrow-minded, etc. Not that I can't handle a little criticism, but I'm not eager to set a dinner date for it, either. I'd rather just talk about things other than my religion with most of my fellow scholars.

Except as I got home and finished writing a postcard of the Prodigal Son for a student of mine serving a mission that I began to think less on the defensive. She sought me out. Maybe she wants a pretext to preach at me, but maybe she wants a pretext to have me preach. Maybe she wants to have a connection to something that used to (maybe) be important to her. Maybe she just misses being around Mormons. I don't know. I am, though, pretty sure she's not terribly fascinated in the departmental workings of our English program. Why assume the negative, as another slightly loose colleague had pointed out in another context. Instead of always assuming that everyone's rolling their eyes and preparing the tar-and-feathers, why can't I be as comfortable talking about my background as a Mormon as I am talking about my background as a part-Swede, or a comedian, or a rhetorician? Not everyone is waiting to pounce.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Away at College

One of the few disadvantages of growing up in a first-rate university town where your parents teach is that you don't really go away to college. Not that this is much of a disadvantage: you can come home for Sunday dinner, enjoy free room and board whenever it suits you, and your mom will pick you up and take care of you when you get really sick. No, I might go as far as to say that living in your alma mater's town has its advantages.

Until you move away.

Then you feel a little bit like a doofus. You have to think, "If I pack these rollerblades, I won't have much space, but if I don't pack them, it's not like I can run home and get them." And you can't borrow tools from your dad, so you finally have to go to Lowe's and pick some up. Fortunately, my parents came down here with me and helped "set me up." Boy, howdy did they, because I don't know how I could have put together all that Ikea furniture, and done that car shopping, and gotten groceries by myself. Except some people do. I guess the effect of living in your hometown while you go to school is maybe that you can hold on to a piece of your adolescence a bit longer.

And, siblings of mine who may be reading this, it's not just that I'm the spoiled youngest. Students nationwide are more connected with their parents. Students at Michigan called home an average of 13 times a week (and this article is almost complete negative about it). Myself, I've never really been a teenage rebel or trying to assert my independence. I like help when I need it.

So I thought it would be really hard to come out here are try to do things on my own, things I never had to do in Provo, like try to make an entirely new set of friends (aside from my roommate, with whom I communicated by email, I didn't know a single person under 50 in Austin) or be The Mormon. Granted, this is day 1.5, so I may not be able to assess my ability, but I'm doing okay for myself. I bought contact solution at the SuperTarget. I got down to campus for a book discussion by myself (and a GPS, I'll admit). I went to dinner with my roommate's old mission buddies and we talked until 10:00 or later. Things are okay so far.

But I wonder how so many freshmen manage to do this so young. Newfound admiration.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Runs

This summer my sister and mom and I had a goal to run a 5k every month. We've done okay, but for August I had to sign up for a "virtual run." May's run was a benefit run for Now I Can! an NGO for kids who need physical therapy. June was the Weight Watcher's run (if you ever want a feel-good run, it's this one--every one gets a certificate of completion!). July's run, though, was just heartbreaking.

It was called Conner's Run. The Conner in honor of whom the run was named was three or four years old in August when, after swimming, he decided to warm up by lying down on the hot asphalt in front of his house. His aunt, who I guess feels worse than I can imagine, backed over him. There was nothing the EMTs could do. Instead of just blaming each other, the family decided to make the anniversary of Conner's death a date to honor the emergency response departments. Besides the run itself, there were firetrucks with the ladders raised and a lifeflight helicopter and half a dozen carnival games at the start of the run. Along the way there were hand-made signs encouraging us to give high 5 to a cop or hug a fireman, but there were also these tragic pictures of a little blond boy dressed up like a pirate, or in his Sunday clothes, or with balloons. We ran right past his house, and his family was all standing outside. It was a good show of support, and one of the most community-oriented things I've ever seen (Mom asked someone where the finish line was located and they said, "You know where Sandy Fisher lives?"). Everyone was there for love of the family.

Now as much as I love this, I think: this family had money. And friends. And community. What about all the kids who die needlessly and get no memorial at all? I can't fault Conner's family for arraigning a lovely tribute, but I guess I need to remember that it represents a lot of mistakes, a lot of accidents, and a lot of tragedy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Very Provo-fect Week. (ha)

This has been my last week and a half in my hometown of Provo (for 4 months, anyway), so I really rocked it. Check out all the Utah-y things I did:

1) Hiked Giles Ranch up South Fork Canyon.

2) Bean Museum audio tour.

3) Ran in a charity 5k (more on that later).

4) Ate BYU Creamery ice cream--Graham Canyon.

5) Went to a Peter Breinholt concert.

6) Threw a little apartment-party.

7) Walmart pedicure.

8) FHE cabbage ultimate frisbee (actually, I just watched).

9) TRC at the MTC where I lied to missionaries in Russian.

10) Provo temple trip.

11) Bought a BYU bumper sticker.

12) Visting teaching with Dunbabin.

13) Bike ride downtown.

14) Thai Ruby for lunch.

15) Movie at University Mall.

16) Long walk with dog by river.

17) Pioneer Day activity in park.

18) World-record water balloon fight.

19) Parade in Spanish Fork--lots of tractors, lots of trucks with little kids on the back.

20) Just lie in the hammock and look up at the trees of the backyard of my home.

If you can think of quintessentially Provo things that I missed, that's okay; you can tell me, because I am coming back, but I'm still very pleased with my Utah adventures. I'll let you know soon about my forthcoming Texas adventures.