Monday, September 15, 2008

Why You Wish You Lived in My Neighborhood

I don't know how to even begin. I've started this post four separate times, but each time, the words fail because how can you describe such...unity? Purpose? Community? Love? Belonging?

When most people think about "Utah Mormons" and especially "Utah Valley Mormons", they think about the self-righteous, culture-saturated, ignorant Republican gun-totin'-bigots. And for the most part? They are dead wrong. Dead wrong. It's a reputation that I've tried many-a-time here in this ol' Blogger world to rectify, but people are set in their own prejudices (oh, how the kettle meets the pot!) and won't be "fooled." They lived in Utah once, or their sister's cousin's daughter's best friend told them all about it. I'm sure there are some good examples and some truth to the rumors (or how would the rumors have started?), but for the most part? It's fairly inconsistent. There are things about Utah that I don't particularly love, but let me be the first (or the twelfth) to tell you that the prejudices against Provo Mormons would not exist if their owners had lived in my neighborhood.

Imagine this:
We have to set up chairs and tables and booths and signs and a stage and a sound system and a Clavinova (piano) and flags and decorations outside in the church parking lot, near the pavilion at 7AM on a Saturday morning for our Neighborhood Picnic. Brandon promised our committee that we would have at least 15 youth show up to help, but we didn't get 15 youth to climb out of their beds on their only day to sleep-in --we had almost 30. And not just the youth. Several adults, and many 11 year old kids showed up to help. Of course, there was the promise of breakfast, made especially by our Bishop's wife, and it was good! But that was to come when the job was done, and it was done within 2 hours. Two hours! One of those youth volunteered to watch my kids while we were setting up; another volunteered to watch them during the afternoon so I could finalize all the details while 80% of our ward/committee was at the BYUvUCLA game. One young man, after bringing me some needed items from his mother, stayed and helped us prep food.

When 5:30PM rolled around (the time the Picnic/Extravaganza started), everything was in place, everyone was at their stations, and the neighborhood began to arrive. From a distance, you could see dozens of families walking to the Church; many carrying musical instruments and pies. The kids immediately ran to the cotton candy and popcorn booths on their way to the fish pond, ring toss, face painting, and bouncy house/slide. Others chose to start at the pony and hay rides. After the opening prayer, lines formed to get hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, watermelon, pie/ice cream, and chips/salsa (which was provided by a fabulous Hispanic family in our neighborhood who own a couple of local restaurants). Many sat and listened to our local talent on the "free stage" while they ate, and later enjoyed a small and simple Patriotic program, reminding us about 9/11 (the whole reason this neighborhood gathering began in the first place).

Many generations of neighbors were in attendance. Children who had grown up in our neighborhood came back to attend the picnic and brought their own children. For some, it was a reunion! New friends and neighbors were introduced, old friends reunited, and neighbors of different faiths and paths ate, talked, and played together for many hours.

[I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't mention that many came exuberantly happy because of the BYU game (holy cow!). And knowing that the "chain gang" (the older guys who hold the "down" measuring-stick-thingy-ma-jingies on the sidelines), Max Hall, and Austin Collie are in our ward. Oh, yes. Yes, they are! Go Cougars!]

But the best part of the event? Besides people thanking us profusely for a fabulous event even though there weren't enough displays or antique cars and one of the bouncy houses nearly fell over because the teenagers got a little too slap-happy and should have been doing their Rip-stick course and playing water balloon volleyball instead of jumping around on the kids' bouncy slide?
At least a hundred people stayed to help clean up without being asked. Everyone was home by 9PM, and the event didn't end until almost 8PM. Oh! And a few YW took my kids and went to put them to bed (one was the same that had watched them that afternoon) and then refused payment. Refused payment for the entire day!

I live in a neighborhood with some of the most Christ-like people I have ever met. Their desire to serve each other in a myriad of ways never ceases to astound me, and this neighborhood event is just a small taste as to what life is like here. New people move in and within a few weeks they talk about how they never want to leave; many don't. Many stay, and so do their children. And their grandchildren.
[And to be clear, we're not just talking about Mormons, although it is true that 98% of our ward consists of LDS members. But our neighbors of other faiths also love our neighborhood and never leave, so, I think that says a lot of the people here, don't you?]

When we left back in March of 2007 to live in California, I was devastated to leave; but at the same time excited for a new adventure. I found myself landing in a ward that was not quite unlike the one I left here in Provo. The people I met and associated with in CA were the greatest, and I will never forget them (how could I ever forget people like Katie and Janelle?). I'm so grateful for the things they taught me. In fact, if you remember, dear reader, I was quite upset at having to come back to Provo. I wasn't ready, you know. But I have since made the adjustment back into our home, our neighborhood, the ward, the school, and Saturday night proved to me how much I love this place.

neighbor: Cheryl, we are so glad your family moved back!
me: Aw, thanks!
neighbor: Don't ever leave again, okay?
me: Ha! No promises; but I will tell you this, if we do, chances are we'd come back again, you know. How could we not? This is home.

Unless we move to Seattle, you know. That place is freakin' awesome!

What is your neighborhood like? Your ward? Have you ever lived in a place like this? Would you want to?


Amanda D said...

Oh, Cheryl, I am so glad that it went so well! I would have been like the kids and ran straight to the cotton candy machine. It sounds like such fun.

Are the Ayala's in your ward? Is that the fabulous Hispanic family?

Cheryl said...

No, it's the Rubio's. :)

Cristy said...

Yay! I'm glad it all went down awesomely! And yes, your neighborhood is pretty cool! We forgot to come up and drop by. :( We were a little slap happy ourselves after that football game! Go Cougars!

Rachel and Nathan Fisher said...

I would love to live in your neighborhood! Instead, I live in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of big beautiful trees and kind, caring neighbors none of whom are LDS ... or interested in becoming LDS. But, it is a wonderful chance to prepare my 3 boys to be missionaries, because every day we are missionaries here. It is hard, and we certainly miss out on the AWESOME events like you described (although our ward and Stake are great, and when we get together we know how to have a good time - it just isn't that frequent because we are seperated by hours) but we know that this is where we are supposed to be right now - may be someday we will be supposed to be right next door to you! It sounds like that would be pretty great (I'm especially jealous of the great babysitters - that's a rarity out here!)
Aren't you glad now that you didn't move out here to Boston!!

Susan M said...

I think Utah would be a disaster for us.

I've lived in a small town and it's still my favorite of the places we've lived. Not many Mormons there, though, and it was great.

I live in Orange County now and we so totally don't fit into our ward. It's hard to look around and feel so out of place, sometimes.

Cheryl said...

You should have come! Ah, well. The game was pretty crazy, eh?

No, no! I didn't say that! I would have loved to have lived in Boston; I still would love to live in Boston. The only thing is that I feel conflicted; I adore this place and these people, but I want to live everywhere and see everything and travel the entire world over. Does that make sense? To want to stay put and leave all at the same time? It's hard to describe...

Actually, I think you'd be surprised at how well you WOULD fit in here. Despite our location, we have an amazing sense of diversity. Not necessarily according to race, but to personalities. I have a feeling you would fit in quite nicely, and people would welcome you with open arms. And they would never make you feel bad for missing ward activities or going to doom metal concerts. Although, now that I think about it, there aren't many doom metal concerts around here, so maybe THAT could be the disaster you refer to. Not enough venues for metal enthusiasts such as yourself. Hmm.
I would love to have you around, though. :)

TaLaisa said...

That does sound awesome!I'm glad all your hard work paid off and that everyone had so much fun.

Our ward is fantastic. We lived in this ward until I was 7, moved away and then we moved into my grandmother's house, in the same ward. Lots of people remind me that they knew me best when I was my boys ages.

Cardalls said...

I do not live in a neighborhood like that--one of the downfalls of Vegas is that people are not overly friendly. However, my ward IS like this and we are so grateful to be a part of it. We had a fabulous time this past weekend camping with really wonderful people. I would like to live in YOUR neighborhood even though I have said many a time that I don't know if I want to live in Utah again (and I am FROM SLC and both families are still there). Sound like a blast---way to go on making it happen!!

TaLaisa said...

I forgot to tell you, you won something!! Go see the bead drawer for details!

Ann said...

I did live in your neighborhood! :)

Alison Wonderland said...

Sometimes I think I would live that. I know I would love a neighborhood like that but I'm not so sure about the ward. Maybe that's a weird thing to say. Hmmmm.

Anyway, I am always jealous of a good block party.

Anonymous said...

We don't have that kind of neighborhood or ward unity, so I'm a little jealous.

I'm glad your party turned out so well. And the best part--it's over!

Leslie said...

Congratulations on not only having your big event finished, but having such an amazing event! How very cool. I have also tried for years to convince people about who Utah Mormons really are...Speaking of that...the most unified ward I ever lived in was in Orem, Utah. I loved that ward and the people in it.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I'm so incredibly happy to hear that the party went well! You're awesome. And what a great neighborhood. As for me, I don't really need a reason to move to your neighborhood more than the fact that YOU would be there!

Julie said...

I'm late...
But I love that you had such a successful party. As for me, I like living in my neighborhood where we have neighborhood parties, but not too often and never very extravagant. I'm not saying yours doesn't sound fun...because it does. But I'm enough of an anti-socialite that I might get a little overwhelmed at a party like that. Especially if I was in charge of it!