Updated: Oct 3
My feet smacked the asphalt on a day too hot to be barefoot. It was October and the Inland Empire sun scorched 103 degrees. At 5pm, my dad yelled for us to come home. A call never to be taken lightly, as the last one home would get a swat. I ran like my life depended on it. Every breath felt like my last in a sauna, paralyzed by the sun.
When we got inside the house, my parents were unusually quiet. Andrew, Brittany, and I sat on an 80s loveseat in awe of the silence. In a rare moment, our family was calm. Dad: “Kids, your mother and I have news.”
Mom: “We’re moving to Utah.”
Brittany: “Where’s that?!”
Dad: "Don't ask questions. We're moving. Get rid of all your shit."
Me (to my mom): He’s not talking about my toys, is he?
I was so mad.
I spent 80% of my childhood screaming on the inside. I wish I had a say! I wish my parents listened. I wanted to do more. My life was like a lifeboat floating in the debris of their Titanic. My dad was both the iceberg and mad captain at the helm.
The more I heard about Utah, the less I wanted to go. My parents ordered a packet of information about the state, and repeated: “It’s 90% white and 95% Mormon. And that extra 10% is Tongan Mormon.” My Grandma Mimi said, “Those white folks will never accept you.” I naively responded, “Grandma, it’s the 90s. Tan skin is all the rage!”
Secretly, I was scared.
A week later, missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints knocked on our door. “Mormons”. My dad took one look at the boys in a white button up shirts, and tie and asked, “What are you selling?” They were selling Jesus. They bothered my family. They bothered my neighbors. To my dad, the missionaries were naïve. A little too inexperienced to tell a man like him who or what to believe. Ultimately, the missionaries left us with a VHS tape on The Family.
The missionaries timing was ironic.
Did they know we were moving to Utah? How did they find us? We only knew one Mormon family in our lives (down the street), and they had 6 kids. Did they tell the missionaries?
My family gathered around the TV and watched the Mormon video tape. It demonstrated a family having "Family Home Evening". A night where everyone in the family spends time together. The dad said a prayer. The mom taught a spiritual lesson. The brother made up a game, and the little sister made popsicles out of ice cube trays. Her craftiness made an impression on me. To be quite honest, I liked watching their interactions. Every one cared for each other in a way I’d never seen before.
The VHS ended.
No one said anything.
I liked it. I thought: Of all families, ours needed a lesson on “the family”. I had siblings stealing pop-tarts, mom throwing dishes, and an angry, mean black dad. I felt a peace in that video that I never felt at home.
The families in our neighborhood, “Christian” they claimed, were plagued with divorce, drugs, and abuse. My parents weren’t as bad as the neighbor who killed his wife, or the next door tweaker on meth. I was grateful for that much. In comparison, they were angels, but in my 7-year-old mind, I couldn’t help but think, things should be different.
I was at the whim of two people who decided to have a family, and I wasn’t convinced they even liked each other or agreed on anything. Now, because they decided, we’re moving. These assholes were moving our family.
We all had different opinions about the move. My dad was excited to be the only black man in Utah besides Karl Malone. My mom was relieved to shave two hours off her daily drive time. My brother was fine. My sister was emotional. I wanted to live with my Grandparents. My parents said, “No.”
To ease the move, Grandma Mimi took my sister and I shopping at COSTCO. I got 32 Pop Tarts, 72 bagel bites, and 90 airheads. Mimi even got me a cute outfit for the 1st day of school! A cream corduroy jumper with a maroon turtleneck, cable knit tights, and metallic silver boots. Mimi and Noonie dropped us off @ LAX.
I was scared.
My life and everything I knew was about to change.