We are now in phase 2 of our East Coast Culture Shock.
We are shocking New Jersey.
Okay, we're not shocking, but we are 'out' in terms of being a peculiar people.
There is one other active LDS family in our town. When they moved here from California, it was hard on the kids because they were the only LDS kids in the entire school. Lots of questions, lots of pressure to show what a Mormon was and they were all alone in their faith. It's a big change from a school out West where there are always enough LDS youth in any school to fill a lunch table.
They handled it with grace and I couldn't be more amazed by those kids.
And now, the Olsons are here with their 9 passenger SUV covered in BYU and Romney 2012 stickers.
(Okay, there is only one of each and I did take off the giant stick figure family but it's still pretty obvious.)
It took about 3 days for the entire school to know Zane was ....a MORMON.
And they really don't even know what that is.
They know Mitt Romney is one of those Mormons and that's the biggest issue their parents have with him. They know all those Polygamists were Mormons and they live in compounds and don't believe in birth control or electricity. They know we all marry 13 year old girls and wear dresses with high collars.
They know it's one of those weird cults.
Sweet Bethany has had to explain over and over what a Mormon is and is not. Zane now gets to help because the kids at school can't stop buzzing about how there is another Mormon at school. The first wave of rumors was that he was Bethany's brother. Yes, her brother who didn't go to school and lived in hiding for a year and who is one month younger than her.....No, not her brother.
If he isn't her brother, what is he? Ah, he goes to her Mormon church with her.....Yes, he goes to church, but he goes with his own family, they just happen to go to the same services.
Yesterday, he had a counselor come up to him and say "you're from Utah, right?"
"All I know about Utah is mountains and they have lots of wives."
"They do have mountains, but not lots of wives."
In one class they watched a video on diversity and the question was raised "how do you learn more about other cultures?" The kid in the video said "I learned about the Mormon culture when I visited Utah." The kids in the class turned to stare at Zane to see what he would do. He sat there and kept taking notes.
I went to my back doctor yesterday. I had seen him last month and told him I'd just moved here from Salt Lake. He told me he loved skiing there and all the good places to visit in New Jersey, then we talked about my back.
Yesterday, he came into the room with a resident who was shadowing him all day because it's a teaching hospital. He walks in and says "and THIS is my Mormon patient. She's a real Mormon. My Mormon patient, the only one I've ever had. She even wears that Mormon underwear."
I shook hands with the other man and said "Hi, I'm Chris and, yep, I'm a Mormon."
His eyes bugged out a little, I think he was looking to see if I sprouted horns or pulled some sister wives out of my purse.
And it wasn't exactly appropriate, but appropriate isn't high on the priority list for the people of New Jersey. They say what is on their minds and would rather talk about it than be polite and wonder. I find it refreshing, even when it's a little startling. Romy is thriving here like you wouldn't believe. She fits right in with these Jersey kids who say what they think and blurt everything out.
(Free snow cone to anyone who gets this joke)
In gym class this week a kid walked up to Zane and said "you're from Utah?"
"Did you come from one of those Mormon colonies?"
"Um, there's no such thing as a Mormon colony."
"Huh.(laughs) Did I just make that up?"
"You might have."
Well, Springfield New Jersey, we're here and we're not going anywhere anytime soon.
Ask away and we will answer. You'll find that we are not what you may have seen on TV when the crazies get airtime. We're just normal people. No smoking and drinking and the kids don't go out to play on Sundays. We're not intolerant bigots, not all Republicans and we all have our own set of ideals and morals. Plenty of us on the pill, drinking Diet Coke and watching PG-13 movies. We're just like you, only we say "Oh my Heck" and "Gosh" unless we're stuck in traffic. Then we try to repent......at every intersection sometimes. (Drive through the Holland Tunnel on a Friday, you will understand.)
Next month, they are actually having an activity at church called "Meet the Mormons."
It's very different from Utah where everyone knows who we are and we're encouraged to not even use the nickname "Mormons." We're "Latter Day Saints" in Utah.
In New Jersey, we're THE MORMONS.
And in our town, the schools just doubled their Mormon population with our moving here.
How is Zane handling it?
Well, yesterday he wore his blue and white BYU rugby jersey to school. Greyson also wore a Cougars t-shirt to school this week and Romy chose her BYU shirt to use as her P.E. shirt.
I am proud of them. They handle to scrutiny in a way that doesn't put other kids off, they answer with confidence and they don't take it personally when asked if their dad has more than one wife. They don't think "uniformed" is the same thing as "ignorant." They are expecting some kids to not be as curious and nice about it, and they are okay with that.
They're firm and I am thankful for that. It helps that they have the Ralston kids there as well, kids who have their backs and who really did the hardest part of this kind of transition.
As the people react to the new Mormons in town, I am feeling blessed and proud to be associated with these kids. I know your Father in Heaven is so proud of you, too.
You're doing your Mormon Colony proud, I'll meet you on board the mother ship after school.
We have cookies.
(Thanks, byumemes for every single picture in this post.)