An Eager Journey: from Missouri to Utah- Guest Author Trish Hopkinson

 

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In Kansas, something happened that
would change the path of my life forever. Missionaries knocked on the metal
door of my parents’ trailer—Mormon missionaries. Mom had always been somewhat
religious and a little coaxing was all she needed. We received the lessons right
in the living room of our mobile home and soon my parents were baptized, the
Folgers in the kitchen was replaced with Postum and I was no longer asked to
retrieve beers from the fridge for my dad or uncles.

The missionaries coming to our
neighborhood were just the trigger for a change to our family’s future. The
buckshot was the eccentricity of my paternal grandmother or “Grandmoo” as she
was called—a name she had been given by some other unknown child relative, whom
I never met. Before she adopted my father, Grandmoo flitted about within the
high society of Missouri as a journalist in St. Louis. I know little of her
life and have never seen anything she wrote. She inherited a large trust fund
from her governor father, which she used to support her unusual
lifestyle—including suddenly buying our family a home in Utah. She told my
father that since we became members of the Mormon church, we should live in
Utah where the Mormons live, or something to that effect. Shortly after, she
purchased a historical home near downtown Provo and suggested we move there.
So, off we went to Utah, like so
many Missourian Mormons who had come before us. (It’s funny, until the law was
rescinded in 1976, it was still legal to exterminate Mormons in Missouri. My
parents became Mormons that same year.) We packed our belongings, filled the
U-Haul truck and our vintage Corvair van, and started making our way across the
plains. The van had just one vinyl bench seat in the back and the only way to
open the door from inside was by using vice grips, permanently affixed as a
makeshift handle. My parents had thrown down their double-bed mattress on the
floor and all four of their children sat, slept, ate and lived on that mattress
for the week it took us (with some stops along the way) to drive to Utah.
I don’t remember many of the
details from our pilgrimage to Utah, but I do remember our descent into Salt
Lake Valley via I-80 in the middle of the night. I was asleep on the mattress
in the back of the Corvair when Mom woke me in an excited voice, “Patty! Patty!
Look at the mountains!” I groggily got up on my knees to look out the side
window, expecting to see some purple mountains in the distance, but was astonished
to see the great rockiness rising up just beyond the shoulder of the highway. I
couldn’t see where the mountains ended and the night sky started. It was
certainly not what I expected. It was then I first became eager for this new
place and a new life. I decided that when I started school in Utah I would go
by my full name Patricia. The nickname I’d had since birth was often used
against me—kids came up with things like “Patty Perfect,” “Cow Patty,” and
“Peppermint Patty,” all of which I loathed.

                  Grandmoo’s
idiosyncrasies were not only the reason we moved to Utah, but crept into our
family life in other ways as well. I don’t know if Grandmoo was a religious
woman. She seemed to think all Mormons should live in Utah and I’m not sure if
it’s because she wanted to exterminate us from Missouri or if she thought
religion would help her adopted son make better decisions for himself and his
family. She was an unusual looking woman, with sagging skin and white hair
turned yellow from cigarette smoke. She was a chain-smoker, and always used a
plastic filter, like Hunter S. Thompson and the women in old movies. She was
known to have a cigarette burning in an ash tray in each room of her house at
any given time. She didn’t like cold weather and only took baths in the summer.
She kept her stained hair up in a bun type twist, was condescending and hard to
talk to, and intimidated me like no other person has since.
                  I
became more familiar with her odd behavior once we had settled in Utah. She
owned several homes across the country and had started a strange sequence of flying
to one, checking her mail, buying a car, driving to her next home and checking
the mail there, and so on. She seemed to acquire a great many odd things in her
travels and apparently liked to stop in Utah and fill the back apartment of the
house with boxes of bizarre items. The two small 10’ by 10’ rooms were packed
so full with boxes there was hardly room to squeeze through. The boxes were
full of sewing related items, skeins and skeins of yarn, and dozens of foam
pillow forms―she didn’t seem a domestic-type and had probably never sewn a
stitch in her life. The most curious thing we found was cases and cases of pink
printed boxes. The boxes were filled with individually wrapped packets of
powdered douche mix. Apparently, someone who only bathes in the summer needs
some form of personal hygiene.

                  Though
my father seems to have much pride in his family’s history, I actually know
very little about any of his ancestors, including Grandmoo’s father. I only
know he was the governor of Missouri, a portrait of him is displayed in the
Missouri capitol building, and one anecdotal story about Grandmoo as a child.
When she was a small girl, she attended a press conference with her father and
when the journalists started taking pictures, the bulbs were such back then
that each flash made a bang, not unlike that of a gunshot. She was frightened
because she thought the photographers were shooting bullets at her father. She
told me this story the only time I remember having a conversation with her at
the kitchen table in our house in Utah. She delivered the story with a bit of a
smile, mocking her own childish naivety. It was then I envisioned my
grandmother youthful and child-size, wearing a sailor dress and t-strap patent
shoes, clinging to her father’s slacks—eager and proud.
 

Trish Hopkinson loves words and digs poetry slams. Her
mother tells everyone that she was born with a pen in her hand. She has been
published in several journals, including the Chagrin River Review and
Touchstones, the latter in which she won second place for poetry twice. She
recently placed fourth in the Poetry on Canvas competition and received an
honorable mention from the League of Utah Writers for her poetry anthology,
Emissions. She is a project manager by profession and resides in Utah with her
handsome husband and two outstanding children. You can find out more about Trish at

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