Classique

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hanging Out on the Moab Rim


I remember being afraid of heights as early as kindergarten.  At the top of the playground slide, I chickened out.  No amount of coaxing or encouraging from my teacher or classmates could persuade me to slide down what was really a very high slide (especially to a five-year old).  Eventually, every child awaiting their turn to slide on the rungs below me had to back down so I could climb down the way I had climbed up.  That is why the predicament I found myself in as a teen-aged girl one hot summer day was so unlikely. 

Let me explain that I was a very foolish teen.  I was also a very prideful teen and that plays into what happened on this particular day on the Moab Rim high above my hometown, Moab, Utah when a small group of friends and I decided to hike up to the ruins of an old Indian fort that sits back in behind the rim. The Moab Rim is a tall Navajo Sandstone formation that runs along the South and West side of the Moab valley.

I had first visited what we referred to as the “Indian Fort” when my mother hiked a group of us (my siblings, cousins, and me) up there several years earlier.  Mama had fond memories of hiking to it as a young girl and wanted to share those memories with us.  Once we had visited the old Indian Fort, it became a favorite destination for us.   It is not an easy hike.  The ascent to the top of the Moab Rim is basically straight up though you can get there on a trail without ropes or other equipment.  The trail starts near what was my grandmother, Etholen Holyoak’s home which was nestled up against the foothills just below the Moab Rim South of Moab along what is now Highway 191.  

There were four of us making the trek that day.  Our group was a small one comprised of myself, my cousin Holly, and our friends Jeanine and Theresa.  In order to get an early start, we had slept over the night before at grandma’s house.  We had spent a fun night listening to 50’s and 60’s music, talking about boy’s, eating our favorite snacks, including some of our favorite goodies baked by Gram (as we lovingly referred to her).  We did have another friend Dixie, who also attended the slumber party, but whose mother declined to allow her make the hike with us.   She would later say she felt her mother was inspired not to allow her to go with us.  It may have changed the outcome of what was to happen that day.

We arose early the next morning.  Gram had made us wonderful, fluffy pancakes that we quickly wolfed down.  After breakfast we were ready to make our trek up the Moab Rim and back into the Indian Fort.  Our provisions were our canteens filled with cold water and two additional partially-filled gallon bottles of water which we had frozen.  I think we each packed a peanut butter sandwich to eat for lunch. 

If my memory serves me right, we were taking turns carrying the gallon jugs of water as we made our way up the mountainside.  On the way up those bottles of water became heavy and we eventually cashed (found a place to stash) them.  That meant the only water we would have would be in our individual canteens.  Each time we cashed our water supply, we refilled our canteens as best we could and hid the gallon jugs in shaded areas behind red rocks which are so abundant along the trail.  We rationalized that the cashed water would come in handy during the late afternoon when we would be making our descent.

The hike to the top, though difficult was uneventful.   Once at the top, we made our way back to the fort on flat ground.  By the time we got to it we were somewhat rested from our grueling ascent.  It was a hot day.  We began to regret that we had left our extra water.  But we climbed up through a slit to the flat top of the red rock formation where parts of the ancient fort remained.  I remember thinking those ancient Native Americans were smart to build the fort where they did.  By the time the enemy had stormed the rim, they would be too exhausted to fight.

We were joined by another friend, Jeff, who came up a different way.  We had invited him to come join us, along with another guy friend who did not come.  It was fun to have Jeff visit, but feeling quite outnumbered as the lone guy, he soon left us and was off.  I can’t remember when we decided it was time to make our way back.  We knew we needed to get home before sundown.  Because we had exhausted our water supply and it was a hot summer day, we eventually decided to find our way back to the place where we would make our descent into the Moab Valley and Gram’s home where ice cold water and possibly a treat would be waiting for us.

The cashed water was really calling to me as I made it down the hill, with my three companions.  When we were about a third of the way down, I decided there was likely a shorter more direct way down, and I determined to find it. The others were leery of this, and smartly stayed with the known path.  Their attempts to convince me of my folly were to no avail.  I separated from them and went on what I thought would be a straighter more direct path down the mountainside.

The rest of the group kept calling out to me to make sure I was still all right.  I resented their lack of trust of my climbing abilities, but begrudgingly kept replying.  At one point, I got down on the seat of my jeans to lower myself over what was a small rounded ledge.  A small rock was wedged between two pieces of slick rock.  As I put my foot onto the rock, it moved slightly as it lodged itself even more deeply into the crevice between the two large rocks.  I attempted to remove it thinking it might be dangerous to anyone else traversing the same terrain.  In attempting to dislodge the rock, my empty canteen became detached and fell down the mountainside.  I was shocked at how long it took for my canteen to hit the edge of a ledge below, (which ledge I was attempting to get down to).  It was a lot further down to that ledge than I realized.  The canteen barely hit the edge of the ledge before it fell further down the hillside never to be seen by me again.  The closer ledge, which I did climb down onto, was much more narrow than I had perceived it to be.  As soon as I made it down to that ledge, I quickly determined I was in trouble.   I could not go up or down safely.  I swallowed my pride and called out to my friends.

It was my cousin Holly who came creeping cautiously along the ledge below me.  When she saw me perched precariously on the ledge above her, she turned white.  “Gem,” she commanded very sternly, “don’t move.  We will come up to get you.” 

I pondered my situation.  As I mentioned, I was a very prideful youth.  I was also worried that in trying to rescue me, one or more of them would fall to their death or serious injury.  That fear, coupled with my pride, were the reasons I determined that I must get back up over the top of the rounded ledge.  I turned around on the tiny ledge I was on and searched for foot and hand holds. 
Not sticking to the trail had been a big mistake for me to make.  Deciding to disobey my cousin’s commands to stay put, turned out to be another serious mistake.  In attempting to get back up, I lost my footing.  I am not sure exactly how it happened, but instead of falling, I found myself clinging to the little wedged rock that I had previously tried to get rid of.  It was all that was keeping me from a fall to almost certain death!  My heart was beating wildly in my ears.  I must have had to jump some to reach the rock I was clinging to, because the ledge I had been standing on was now within only tip-toe range of my feet.  That was my situation when the group reached me.

When they arrived to find me in my predicament, the girls above me began talking among themselves about what they should do.  I shared with them my fear that I would dislodge the rock I was clinging to.  Eventually, they decided they would form a human chain, anchored by a large red-rock sandstone boulder perched near the edge of the rounded ledge.  It was so large they reasoned, that it was not going anywhere even if all our weight was on it.  One of the girls, Theresa, got behind the boulder, straddling it.  She extended her right arm to Holly.  Holly reached toward her with her left arm and hand.  Teresa and Holly interlocked wrists.  Holly and Jeanine likewise interlocked wrists.  Jeannine, then extended her leg down over the edge for me to grasp.  It took some maneuvering, and some coaxing (remember that I was worried I would pull the girls off the cliff with me), but I eventually did reach my right arm up, and grasp Jeanine’s ankle with my right hand.  I kept my left hand holding tightly on the wedged rock which had thus far saved me.  I braced my feet against the face of a slick-rock formation which I found myself up against.  The tip of the toes of one foot were barely touching the narrow shelf I had been standing on.

It was very uncomfortable being in the position I was in.  My back especially was in a considerable amount of pain.  I would attempt to put more weight on my feet to ease the spasms in my back.  Though I was in excruciating back pain, my arms and hands were numb.  I could not feel my arms and hands well enough to determine how firm my grip was.  I feared that I would relax my hold on Jeannine’s leg and the rock.  I kept asking Jeanine if I was holding tight enough.  My friend kept assuring me that I was.  I’m betting she had quite a bruise on that leg when our ordeal was over. 

We were all extremely thirsty.  My mouth felt like it was filled with hot, dry cotton balls. I am sure the other girls felt the same.  We regretted cashing our water, which was now below us on the trail.  We should be enjoying that warm, wet liquid which would hardly have been refreshing but at least would have helped re-hydrate us.  The decision to leave most of it, had been our first mistake, and for the other three girls, their only mistake.

My companions kept calling out for help, in the hopes that their voices would carry down the mountain and get the attention of someone.  “One, two, three,” one of them would count, and then she would be joined by the others with, “HELP.” 

Eventually, we did get the attention of a young man riding his horse on a trail below us.  “No thanks,” he called up to the pleas of my companions.  He and his horse had a few years earlier come to the rescue of my brother who was having a difficult time getting down off of the mountain, due to a medical condition.  Even though that young man refused to come to our aid, I believe he may have helped us by alerting someone (perhaps my grandmother) to our strange predicament. 

As the sun sank lower in the sky, my friends noticed my father’s car pulling up into the driveway of my Uncle Dan whose property adjoined my grandmother’s.  According to my companions, two figures emerged from the car and began making their way swiftly up the trail.  Being so far away, they were unrecognizable.  One of them stopped and remained stationary, in a little sagebrush clearing.  That person, according to my companions was wearing a white shirt.  I determined that person to be my mother Genevieve Johnson. “She’s praying,” I stated, emotion welling up inside me.  If I could have produced tears, I would have begun to cry.

It soon became apparent that the other figure was my father, Loren Johnson.  Dad wasted no time climbing up to us.  His long legs and the adrenaline that must have been rushing through his veins, had likely given him the strength to practically run up the hill.  I was fearful that he would die of a heart attack trying to reach and rescue me.  As he approached us, he removed his belt and hooked it back together again so it formed a circle.  He crouched down low at the rounded edge of the cliff and extended the unhooked part of the loop down to me, holding tightly with each of his hands to the belt on either side of the buckle.  He instructed  me to grab it one hand at a time.  At first, I was fearful of letting go of each of my strong holds, but I knew I had no choice.  As soon as I let go of Jeanine’s leg, and grabbed onto the belt, the girls quickly backed away from the edge. I was relieved that at least they would be safe.  When I had one arm through the belt, and both hands locked around the opposite wrist, Dad pulled me to safety. 

Violent sobs racked both of our bodies as we hugged each other.  “You’re okay now,” comforted my father between sobs. I think I can count the times I saw my father cry on one hand.  Then he called out to my mother, “She’s safe now Genevieve.”  We all waved down to the white-shirted figure who arose and began to make her way back to her childhood home to inform anxious family members that the danger was over.  My mother’s prayers always seemed to be answered, and this time was thankfully no exception. 

The sun was swiftly dipping behind the Moab rim and we had no time to waste in making our descent the rest of the way down to my grandmother’s home and the nice cool water and treats she had made for us.  I don’t think we even took time to search for our cashed water.  I remember being very shaky and needing Dad’s strong arms to steady me.  I kept whimpering, and the others kept comforting me.  Over and over, I apologized to them for what I had put them through.  They each assured me that they were just glad it had ended well for all of us. The four of them (my father, my cousin Holly, and my friends Jeannine and Theresa) will always be my heroes.  They saved my life and I will be forever grateful to each one of them.

As I descended, I kept looking back to the site where I had been, suspended on the Moab Rim on a slick rock formation.  Daddy kept urging me on because we had no time to stop and look back.  Many years later, I can still identify the spot where I was.

My father never talked of the incident to me again. 

Years later as my aunt Berdene Gramlich, my grandmother Ruth Johnson and I we were driving North out of the Moab valley, to attend a relative’s funeral in Provo, Utah, I remember my paternal grandmother professing her love for Moab.  “I love every red rock in this valley,” she ardently proclaimed.  I think I can echo my grandmother’s sentiment.  But there is one rock I have a special fondness for.  For all I know, it may still be wedged in the crevice of a slick rock formation on the face of the Moab Rim.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Reflections on Christmas 1982 (Jenae's First Christmas)


I am remembering this day (December 25th) 36 years ago. Two days earlier, I had given birth to our fourth child (and fourth daughter). We had named her Jenae.
Jenae was a beautiful little baby with a cute little turned up nose, black hair, dark eyes, and yellow skin. The yellow skin was due to jaundice. The pediatrician was concerned that it had come on so early. She needed testing, and she needed photo therapy to break up the bilirubin. I was still hopeful that we would be able to go home in time to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my husband and our three oldest daughters. But it was not to be. My doctor released me to go home, but Jenae's numbers were not good. She would need to stay in the hospital under the lights. I determined to stay in the hospital with her.
Camie, aged six, had been marking off each December day on a calendar she had been given at school. She was anticipating the visit from a certain “jolly old elf” that was to deliver gifts to her and her siblings on Christmas Eve. Jerry explained the situation to Camie who then wrote her second letter to Santa, explaining the situation and requesting that he delay his visit by one day.
Christmas day was very quiet and peaceful. Jenae was brought to me in a Christmas stocking with a red bow (in lieu of pink) pasted in her hair. I snuggled with her when she wasn't under the lights, and listened to the music of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I reflected on the birth of my Savior so many centuries earlier. Christmas 1982 will go down as one of my most special Christmas memories.
The next day, Jenae was still not ready to go home. She would need to stay at least one more day under the lights. With a somewhat heavy heart, I released my tiny infant to the capable care of the nursery staff at Medical City Dallas and left the hospital with empty arms.
We had a wonderful "Christmas Eve" and "Christmas Day." Santa honored Camie's request and delivered Christmas gifts to all of us (albeit a day later than normal). The nurses at the hospital called to give me frequent updates on Jenae.
On December 27th, Jerry drove Camie, Alyssa, Kindra, and me to pick up our newest family member. This time I exited the hospital with a cute little bundle. She was our best Christmas gift ever!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

CHRISTMAS EVE, 1971

The most memorable Christmas Eve of my youth almost didn’t happen.  Let me start by explaining that I was the eldest of eight children.  Being from a large and relatively poor family, meant that many of the Christmas gifts we were given were hand-made gifts.  Luckily my parents were talented, so these hand-made gifts were quality gifts.  Some scrap lumber may become a lovely child sized dish cabinet.  A large empty laundry box, covered in contact paper might be re-purposed to become a wardrobe for a new fashion doll.  Pretty much every year at least one or two of us got something made with a little more love than the gifts received by most of our peers.  This particular Christmas Eve when I was half way through my senior year in high school was destined to become no different.

“I’ve found every single one of my gifts except one,” confided seven-year-old April to me as I was urging her to bed that night so that Santa Clause could come.  It was no secret to any of us that April peeked at her gifts before Christmas.  She would none-the-less act very surprised as she opened each gift Christmas morning.

“Oh,” I asked,  my interest piqued, “what gift are you expecting that you haven’t found?”

“A doll like Julie got last year,” was her answer.  After tucking my young sister into bed, I approached my mother with the sad news that Mrs. Santa was one gift short of her next-to-the-youngest child’s expectations.

Mama was alarmed.  “I wish I had found this out a few days earlier,” she remarked, (but I could already see the wheels in her talented head turning). 

We went to Mama’s store of fabric and she started rummaging through it.  The year before, she had made a Raggedy-Ann doll for Julie, who was two-and-a-half years older than April.  Luckily she was able to find enough red yarn for the hair of another doll.  Between the flesh colored fabric left over from last year’s project and an old sheet, we had enough for the body.

“We will have to make the doll fairly large,” explained my mother.  “We don’t have time to make it a dress too, so it will need to fit one of the dresses we already have.”  Mama found just the right dress.  It was probably even one April had worn as a toddler (before passing it down to our youngest sister Marvelee, of course).

“I don’t know what are going to stuff her with,” said Mama.  “I will have to think about that.”  I became concerned.  I had visions of all my treasured stuffed animals being robbed of their innards.  This was happening in Moab, Utah, after all.  There were no stores open to cater to late night shoppers who needed just one more item.  Then Mama hit on just the right stuffed toy.  A large toy dog, which had certainly seen better days, was earmarked for extinction, (and it was not my dog)!  I breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing in my collection would need to be “sacrificed.”

My sister Marlene, who was two years younger than me, was enlisted to help. So it was that three of us set about to make one little girl’s Christmas dream come true.

We came up with a pattern (which mostly came out of Mama’s head), and began cutting.  As the head was being cut out, Mama began threading a needle and set about embroidering a face on the doll.  I sewed the doll as Marlene began stuffing the various limbs.  I remember this Raggedy Ann somehow had the trade-marked stripped stockings and black shoes. 

As the night wore on, we became giddy with laughter (which Mama tried to contain so as to prevent us from awakening the household).  This was the most fun I had ever had on a Christmas Eve!  As the dog, shrunk, the doll grew.  We had just enough white fabric to fashion a pinafore and an hour or two before sunrise, a beautiful Raggedy-Ann doll was placed under the tree, and Mrs. Santa and two weary “elves” stumbled off to their beds.

We were awakened about an hour later by shrieks of delight as an excited little girl discovered her new doll.  “I just knew I was going to get this!” exclaimed our little sister.  “Now tell me,” she queried, “just where were you hiding her?”

“Santa brought her,” was the only answer that came to mind.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Our first Thanksgiving as a Family

It has been 41 years since Jerry and I welcomed our eldest child into our home.  She was born on a Sunday afternoon, November 21, 1976 at about 2:30 PM.  She weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces and was 19 inches long. We named her Camie and we fell instantly in love with her!  She had black hair and dark eyes (which soon went brown).  She was a tiny Spanish beauty even though only a quarter of her ancestry is from Spain

My aunt, Alice Johnson, was in attendance at her birth.  This was not planned.  She was the head nurse in the nursery at Utah Valley Hospital.  When my attending nurse became extra ornery, my husband marched her down the hall to the nursery and informed her she was trading places with my aunt.  The hospital for some wonderful reason allowed this, and Aunt Alice stayed with us.  She was not a labor and delivery nurse, but she was a vast improvement over the nurse I had and was very professional.  She timed contractions was very comforting and calming.  I remember that she marked the time of birth.

As soon as Camie arrived, we began calling to announce to our parents that they were grandparents.  For my parents, this was their first grandchild.  For my maternal grandmother, this was her first great grandchild. Both our families were in Church, so we couldn’t reach anyone to tell them this most exciting news.  It was a couple of hours before we were able to let them know they had a new granddaughter/great granddaughter/niece.  Of course, they were overjoyed at the wonderful news.  My mother immediately began planning to make the 200 mile trip to come and welcome her first grandchild.

Aunt Alice warned us that Camie was an “angry baby” when she would bring her in from the nursery for her feedings.  Camie immediately began experiencing colic. She spent her first night at home sleeping on her daddy’s chest, where his heartbeat lulled her and allowed us to get a few hours rest.  When Grandma arrived, she spent hours carrying Camie around, trying to soothe her.  After we had spent several sleepless nights, Jerry called on my mother to say the family prayer.  I remember some of the words of that prayer.

“Heavenly Father,’ she pleaded, “we all need some sleep, especially Camie.  Six o’clock would be a nice time for her to wake up.”   Camie slept through that night.  She awakened, crying at exactly 6:00 AM  to the second.  We learned many lessons from my mother.  One of those was to be specific in your prayers.

I remember feeling guilty that my mother was not in her home in Moab, Utah cooking Thanksgiving for the family there.  I was the oldest of eight children and most of the rest were still at home.  I am sure extended family pitched in to help with the family in Moab.  Mama cooked a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for the four of us there in Provo, Utah.

As soon as she was able, my Grandmother Holyoak came up from Moab to see her first great grandchild.  She was quite elderly and had really looked forward to having great grandchildren fearing that she would be gone before getting any.  She may have been just as excited as my mother to have Camie born.  Just before the family arrived for this visit, I accidentally stuck my infant daughter with a diaper pin while changing her diaper. Every time Camie looked at me she would start to wail remembering her injury. I remember worrying that they (the family) would think I was an incompetent mother.

I received some good advice from my grandmother on child rearing.  She said, “They never feel well until they have had their bath.”  She advocated bathing Camie first thing in the morning.  Her baths seemed to calm my fussy daughter.  Now the advice is different, but back then, that was good advice and it worked for all eight of my babies. 

I was also worried about spoiling my daughter.  Grandma told me that was nonsense.  “You can’t spoil a child under a year old,” she informed me.  “You can easily un-spoil them,” she continued, “but it’s hard to make up for lost attention.”

I was worried that Camie wanted her feedings too close together.  Grandma emphatically told me.  “You don’t tell her when she SHOULD be hungry; she will tell you when she IS hungry!”

When Camie was about a month old, we made the trip out to San Jose, California so she could meet her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousin out there.  I remember Grandma Martin giving her the first tub bath in her sink. It was so fun sharing her with them.  We had a fun Christmas there with them. 

So armed with some sage advice on the part of her grandmothers her great grandmother, and Aunt Alice, we muddled through the first few months and year.  Camie had no time for cuddling.  She was too busy learning and doing, to waste time snuggling.  When I would try to cuddle with her, she would stiffen up and look over my shoulder.  She began walking at around 10 months of age.  About that time she became much less fussy.  She was a bright little baby who seemed more like an adult, trapped in an infant’s body.  Her first word at around 10 months of age was “flower” (“wow-uh” as she would say).

When my mother was born, her mother had crocheted some baby shoes for her to be blessed in.  I was also blessed in them as was Camie.  I gave them to Camie when she was pregnant with her oldest son (before we knew she was having a boy). So today, she will be here for Thanksgiving dinner with her husband Spencer and their five children. Their youngest is a daughter who was blessed in the shoes her great, great grandmother crocheted.

Jerry and I have many wonderful blessings we are thankful for.  Not the least of these is our wonderful, beautiful, oldest child.  So glad you got to make our first Thanksgiving together so wonderful Camie!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Remembering the Account of a Murder/Kidnapping Near Moab, Utah in 1961

When I was seven years old, my parents let an unemployed man named Abel Aragon, from Price Utah, camp out in our peach orchard.  Mr. Aragon, a decorated WWII veteran was looking for work in Moab, Utah where we lived.  According to Mama, he was somewhat disgruntled that he had sacrificed for his country, but was unable to find  the employment necessary to support his family after he returned.  Mama seemed under the impression that he had some mental problems which she attributed to his war experiences. I am not sure how my parents became acquainted with Mr. Aragon, but they felt sorry for him and did not feel he posed any danger to their family.

I do not know how long it was after he left our property, that Mr. Aragon held some tourists up at  gunpoint near Dead Horse Point State Park and shot a woman and her companion.   The woman, Jeanette Sullivan died at the scene. Her companion, Charles Boothroyd, was left for dead, but survived to tell the story.  The woman’s 15 year old daughter Denise was in the car when her mother was shot and attempted to drive away.  Denise had never driven a car before and Mr. Aragon was able to force the car she was driving off the road.  He then forced her into his car, kidnapping her. 

Three days later on July 7th, Able Aragon was stopped in a road block at Crescent Junction, Utah (about 40 miles north of Moab) where he fatally shot himself in the head.  He was alone at the time.  The whereabouts of Denise was not known.  She is presumed to have been murdered by him.  To this day, her body has not been recovered. 

My parents did not talk much about this incident within my earshot, but I was aware of it.  I began having nightmares and was noticeably more anxious than normal during the day.  Mama began to question me in order to determine what my problems were.  I confided to her that I was worried about being kidnapped.  I remember her assuring me. “You don’t have to worry about being kidnapped; your parents are poor.”

“Hallelujah, we’re poor,” I remember thinking.  I immediately felt more secure, wrapped in the protection of our poverty.  Mama did not tie the reason for my fear to the kidnapping of Denise Sullivan, who was likely taken because she was a witness to the murder and attempted murder.  It wasn’t until I was several years older that I realized I could be kidnapped for reasons other than ransom.

To read more about the incident, read the account of the Deseret News reporter who won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting of this story:

www.deseretnews.com/article/640192066/Dogged-pursuit-of-story-paid-off.html

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We Get a New Baby Sister

Although over half a century has passed, it seems as if these evets happened yesterday.  I am thinking back to this time of year in 1966. There were seven children in the Loren and Genevieve Johnson family at that time.  The four Johnson girls and three Johnson boys had a contest of sorts going on. It was not a contest where we had any chance to influence the outcome, but the debate was a very heated one, nonetheless.  If the new sibling we were expecting any day was a boy, then the boys and girls would be tied at four each. If our new sibling were a girl, then the girls would be the winners and would outnumber the boys by two!  Each side was certain they would win. 

We were living in a small community called Fairview, Utah.  Fairview is in Sanpete County.  Sanpete County is right smack dab in the middle of the State. It was and likely still is an agricultural community.  The hospital where the baby was to be born was located in another small neighboring town named Mt. Pleasant.  At last the day arrived and Daddy took Mama over to the hospital.  The details of this are quite fuzzy.  I think this happened during school.  It was Wednesday, September 14, 1966.  I cannot remember for sure, but it seems we school-aged children walked home to find an empty house.  I am not certain where the younger children were, but I think a friend of Mama’s had them. Daddy came home to give us the good news.  It was especially good news for the girls in the family.  We had a new baby sister!

Mama stayed in the hospital for about a week.  During that time, Daddy went to visit Mama and the new baby often.  Back then it was not a hospital policy to allow children (with their possible attendant germs) in to visit.  Dad would come home with reports of how cute our new sister was and give us messages of love from Mama but to the younger children especially, there was no tangible proof this baby sister really existed.

At 12 ½ years of age, I was the oldest of the brood so I had added responsibilities at this time.  I was pretty much in charge of the household when I was not in school during that week. The other children who were old enough to have chores, did them. I remember thinking that we had the “cleaners” and the “messers.”  Mark (7), Julie (5) and April (2) were the designated “messers.”  They may have tried to help, but their best way to help was to don their jackets and go outside and play.  April who was just a toddler at the time needed quite a bit of tending.  I was already used to taking care of her a lot and she was a delight to tend.  I remember telling her she was, “my little friend,” and she seemed to like that designation.

Bud (Loren Jr.) was in charge of all the outside chores. He was just barely 11 years old at the time.  He along with George (the fourth child and second son—age 8) gathered in wood and coal for our fires. Bud had the added responsibility to chop the wood. The boys never had to help with the inside work because it was “woman’s” work and they had enough tasks to keep them busy outdoors. Marlene (the third child, and second daughter—age 10) and I did all the dishes.  By far the biggest chore was the laundry.  To make matters worse, we had no clothes dryer. The clothing had to be taken outdoors and hung on the line to dry.  It was an overwhelming task that never seemed to end.     

Daddy was always the one to do the grocery shopping.  Mama did not drive back then.  Getting groceries was Daddy’s responsibility new baby or not.  I think we had things like hot dogs, frozen fish sticks, frozen chicken pot pies and Campbell's Vegetable Soup for dinner.  We were used to being spoiled for breakfast.  Mama was like a short order cook.  She always had some type of mush (oatmeal, Germade, etc.), cooked.  If we did not fancy that, she would make bacon, eggs and toast for us.  We often had pancakes.  During that week she was in the hospital, we ate cold cereal for breakfast.

So the eight family members in the small home we were renting, muddled through in the best manner we could without Mama.  Always before when a new baby arrived, there were grandmas and aunts to help.  In Fairview we were away from family and on our own (with daytime childcare help for the preschoolers from one or two ladies from our church who were friends of Mama).  After what was the longest and most difficult week of my life up until that point, Daddy went to fetch Mama and our baby sister. We scurried about making sure the house was presentable for them and waited in eager anticipation to meet our new sister.

Mama was such a welcome sight as she stepped across the threshold.  We were all excited to see our new little sister, but I was most happy to see Mama and turn the job of running her household back over to her.  She “rolled up her sleeves” (so to speak) and immediately set about doing laundry. Years later, as a young mother with Mama helping me welcome my newest baby into my home, I realized how overwhelming it must have been for her, and I apologized profusely for letting her do the laundry that day.

“Oh Gemie,” she told me.  “I was so tired of lying around in bed for a week, I was glad to have something to do.”  Right or not, it made me feel a little less guilty.

Mama had always wanted to name a little girl “September.”  She had given up on having a daughter born in September, and had named her previous baby (a girl born on April 2, 1964), "April." 

“No Mama,” I remember arguing with her over her choice of name for my baby sister. “People will think you got tired of choosing baby names and just started naming them after the month they were born in.”  Mama reluctantly agreed that this was true.  I think, however, if Daddy had really liked the name "September," that would have been our new baby sister’s name.

A periodical, The Church News, came every Saturday in The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper (owned by our church) which my parents subscribed to.  I was reading the most recent copy and remember seeing an article with a picture of a young lady who lived in Hawaii.  “What do you think of this name Mama?” I queried as I shoved the article in her face.  A young woman named Marvelee Soon was pictured and identified in the article.  Mama and Daddy both loved the name.  I was proud that I was the one to find Marvelee’s name for her.  Unfortunately, as she was growing up, Marvelee was not very fond of her name.  Years later in another Church publication Marvelee (Johnson) found another article which had a Marvelee Soon Tahauri in it.  We think it was the same person, now married.   

Marvelee was such a good natured baby.  Mama confided to me how grateful she was that Marvelee was so content to just sit in her carrier and watch her work.  I remember that I tended her a lot. It was my job to dress her for Church every Sunday.  One Sunday I accidentally closed the car door on her hand as we were getting in it to leave for Church.  Her tiny fingers were bent at a 90 degree angle backwards!  I was horrified!  It was very painful to her, but the hand seemed to recover quickly from that mishap.

Marvelee has always held a special place in my heart. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Grandpa Milton Johnson and the Sacrament

My grandpa, Milton Edwin Johnson was blind the last ten years or so of his life.  In reality, he was my step grandfather, but he was the only grandfather I knew and so my entire concept of “grandpa” is the kind and generous man he was.  I don’t think he ever tried to learn Braille, but Grandpa became quite adept (with the help of Grandma and others of us) at accessing information with his “talking books.” A lot of those books were on Gospel themes.

Our family attended Church with my grandparents every Sunday and we sat together most of the time.  On this particular Sunday, I requested to sit by Grandpa and was given the privilege.  Why we jostled for the opportunity to sit by Grandpa and not Grandma, I will never know, but it made him feel important (and I think Grandma was glad we made a fuss over him). 

Due to his blindness, a specific protocol had to be followed for Grandpa to take the Sacrament.  Grandpa would hold his right hand upwards on his lap.  When the emblems (bread or water) arrived for him to partake, you were to tap his hand so he would be ready and place either the piece of broken bread or the tiny cup of water in his hand in such a way that he could grasp it. 
   
On this particular Sunday, my mind must have drifted during the Sacrament.  I would like to imagine I was thinking about the Savior, and what I planned to do during the upcoming week to follow His example better; but my teenage girl mind was likely thinking about my latest crush.  At any rate, I was not remembering whom I was sitting by or that a special protocol must be observed. When the tray of bread arrived, I took my piece of bread, grasped the tray by the handle and offered it the person sitting next to me on my right (who happened to be my blind grandfather).  When Grandpa did not take his piece, I gently nudged him with my elbow.  As his thumb and forefinger closed in on a single piece of bread, I realized whose hand it was and felt immediate guilt that I had not followed the protocol.  I silently chided myself.  I remember thinking that I was very lucky that he did not knock the tray out of my hand sending the pieces of bread everywhere. I was very careful to follow the prescribed protocol when the water arrived.

Later that afternoon, I went to visit my grandparents.  I found Grandpa listening intently to one of his talking books.  His face lit up in excitement when he heard my voice.  “I was hoping you would come!” he said.  He then explained why he was so excited to see me.

“I saw the bread!” he exclaimed.  “I could not see your hand, but I saw the tray and the bread.”  He then went on to say, “It makes me think we take the Sacrament way too much for granted.  It is a lot more important than we realize.”  He explained that he was using his talking books to learn more about the Sacrament.  I wish I could remember the book or article we were listening to. Grandma must have helped him find it before she went down for her nap. That Sunday Grandpa and I gained a greater testimony of the ordinance we call the Sacrament.  The Spirit also bore witness to me that my Grandfather was truly worthy to partake of the sacred emblems, or he would not have been able to see the tray with the bread.  I often reflect on this incident as the emblems of the Sacrament are blessed and passed to the congregation each Sunday.