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Some of the happiest times for me would be when we would have quilting parties at home. The women from the community would spend the day at our house, quilting around a big frame. Stories and gossip were shared, there was a lot of food, and the children all had a chance to play together. Quilting parties were the one time we had breathing room.

Once I was playing with dolls with my cousin under the quilt when I heard my aunt Elaine say, "I was so scared the other day. Ray Dee was playing out in the yard with her brothers and sisters. Some people from out of town stopped in front of our house. All of the other children ran into the house screaming, but Ray Dee stayed outside and talked to the out-of-towners."

Aunt Elaine was beside herself that her daughter had spoken with outsiders. We were taught that outsiders were "agents of the devil" who wanted to kidnap us and take us away. They were seen as evil people who wanted to destroy the work of God. If they could get access to the children of God's chosen, then they would try to hurt or destroy us.

Our community was so isolated it was rare that we ever saw anyone from the outside. Most of my cousins only left the community to go shopping with their mothers and had almost no sense of the outside world. I still had memories of our happy lives in Salt Lake City, where we even had a TV. (My parents also had a coffeemaker; coffee was strictly forbidden in the Mormon Church.)

As my mother's depression worsened, she spent more of the day in bed. She neglected the house until the day before my father came home and then went into a cleaning frenzy. My father wanted his house spotless. One night he came home and we were all in our pajamas, clean and ready for bed. The house was immaculate. But my father walked over to the refrigerator and ran his finger across the top. It was dusty. He lit into my mother and said she had to do a better job of cleaning. My mother began screaming at my father to go to hell. She'd accuse him of not caring how hard she worked to keep up his home and care for his children. If he didn't like the way she cleaned, then maybe he should take over the job and raise his children by himself.

Our home became a battleground, at least when our father came home. He and Mom would be going after each other within five or ten minutes after he walked through the door. The house was tense, the atmosphere ugly. But the spankings stopped when our father was home, which was a relief. For the most part, Mom avoided hitting us then, although she made it known that our behavior was expected to be perfect.

But there were days when Mom was happy and didn't want to die. She loved to play games with us when she was in a good mood. One of our favorites was the Three Little Pigs. Linda, Annette, and I were the pigs and Mom was the big bad wolf. We'd build our playhouses of sticks and mud and she'd come and blow them all down until we made the brick house, which was stronger than she was. We also spent happy hours listening to Mama read fairy tales. She rarely read us religious scripture and, to our delight, much preferred the fantasy world of fairy tales.
FROM: Polygamy in America: Lisa Ling Reports
Published on January 01, 2006

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