I had just finished a roughly twenty-four hour studying gig and had quickly fallen into am,ost blissful sleep on the sofa in my living room when i was most abruptly awakened by the ring the doorbell. i tired ignoring it, but the ringer
was most persistent, and it eventually reached the point that i suspected i was going to be hearing the doorbell ring until I developed a full-blown migraine.
I made my way to the door in my pink and black dotted Swiss satin nightshirt and with un-matching black leggings, looking like the very antithesis of a fashion statement. God only knows now my hair might have looked. I was doing well to have brushed my teeth and washed my face.
When I put on a bit of makeup very strategically and actually comb my hair, I still don't quite look my age, but i can at least pass for someone who's nearly finished with high school if not even older. When i'm wearing pjs and no makeup, i probably look 14. AS i opened the door, I saw two female Mormon missionaries standing on my doorstep. Their identity was apparent because of the name tags LDS missionaries wear at all times, but even had they ditched their name tags, I still could have identified them as Mormon missionaries in a nano-second. In a visual sense, they positively reeked of Mormon Missionaryanism. (Pardon me for coining my own words.). How in hell they got inside our gated complex is anyone's guess. I suppose God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. (For those of you OCD-type readers out there: "He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm." )
The apparently older of the two missionaries -- the female missionaries can be as young as nineteen now -- spoke first. Ihe asked if my mother was home. i answered that my mother probably was home, but that home for my mother was hundreds of miles away from our present location. "Then you're 'Sister Rousseau," the older, more verbal, and apparently senior of the companionship spoke. missionary responded. "You look like you're about thirteen." This I considered very much an insult, in part because the removal of my braces had done much to give me a more age-appropriate appearance, and also because i prided myself, even on a bad day, in looking at least fourteen.
"Thanks," i muttered sarcastically. The sarcasm was lost on both of them If my reading of facial expressions is even close to as perceptive as i believe it to be.
"The church has you on our membership records," the loquacious missionary continued.
"It's a mistake," I disputed her allegation. "I'm Catholic and have been for my entire life."
"The church doesn't make those kinds of mistakes," the big-mouthed missionary countered. Then she glared at the seemingly younger girl standing slightly to the rear in what seemed an attempt to hide behind her senior companion. The senior companion then pulled the younger girl's arm so that the other girl could no longer hide behind her. "Say something, " the assertive missionary hissed at the reticent one.
"I know the church is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that we have a true and living prophet, Thomas, S. Monson, on Earth today" the younger missionary recited as though it was a line she had memorized from one of those annual Primary Sacrament Meeting programs in which the children sing inane songs and recite canned lines dreamed up by the great braintrust in Salt Lake City. and about as convincingly as one of my classmates had spoken the previous day when he had answered a particularly difficult question concerning the technique of harvesting cardiosphere and cardiosphere-derived cells in a post-mortem exam with with having done neither the required reading nor having paid attention to anything that was said about the subject in the preceding minutes.
The sensible thing for me to have done would have would have been to politely [or otherwise] excused myself and closed the door on the lady missionaries. I've been known, however, not to act sensibly on the odd occasion, and this was one of those occasions when failure to think in a logical manner got the better of me. Something about the younger missionary looked not quite right to me, She looked maybe homesick and definitely hungry. I thought the very least I could do was to throw together a sandwich for the poor girl who was probably younger than I and probably at least a thousand miles from home. Against my better judgment, I invited them into my condo.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with the protocol of LDS missionaries probably believe I was basically asking to be killed by a couple of ax murderers in my own home. In any event, I know a Mormon missionary when I see one - male or female - and they were not going to bind me to a chair with an electrical cord and torture me until I begged for death. In a physical sense, i couldn't have been much safer. Those of you who are familiar with Mormon missionaries probably think it was committing figurative suicide of an entirely different nature. Once these people had gotten a toe-hold into my doorway, I might have gotten them out of my condo that afternoon, but I'd never truly be rid of them.
I do, unbeknownst to many of you, have an ace in the whole in terms of getting the lady missionaries our of my apartment when i consider that they've worn out their welcome. What I have is a brother who can be a bit crude at times, though he is, by all accounts-- I can't see it because he's my brother -- growing increasingly handsome by the day. All I need is to ask my brother to show up when the missionaries are present -- ideally shirtless [ my brother, NOT the lady missionaries -- and grab a beer out of the refrigerator right in front of them, downing it in one gulp. He would then reach for another beer, at which time he could then sit down and attempt to make conversation with them. That would either scare them witless at the very least and hastily out of my condo if not out of the entire mission and back on the next plane home. Conversely it could paradoxically have the opposite effect. A shirtless Matthew, with rippling pecs and biceps, and a full six-pack, courtesy of his spending as much time at the gym as he spends studying, in full view of a couple of young women who have been admonished to turn their hormones off for the next eighteen months, might possibly cause the girl missionaries to rethink their commitment to the gospel and to their missions. Either way, I was covered.
They accompanied me to the kitchen I asked if grilled ham and cheese sandwiches would be OK. i think missionaries are taught not to reject something so vile as boiled worm souffle when they are served such as guests in anyone's home, so they eagerly agreed that grilled ham and cheese would be just fine. i turned on the oven to preheat it because i keep cookie dough in my freezer, mainly for late-night study sessions when I might not otherwise be able to remain awake, but also for impromptu socail situations. I wouldn't exactly classify this as a social situation in anything but the most literal sense -- they were people, hence making the small gathering inherently social, and it most definitely was a situation.
I took white, wheat, and sourdough bread from the freezer, and removed deli ham, the butter, and a couple of types of cheese from the fridge. We each assembled our own sandwiches and tossed them onto this cool bobby Flay grill that my mom picked up at [I think] Kohls. As the sandwiches grilled, the smell of the baking oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies wafted from the oven, causing me to realize that I really was hungry -- may not as hungy as i was sleepy, but hungry, just the same.
In a token acknowledgement to nutrition, I even threw a quick tossed salad together, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, a few cucumbers, and croutons (no sald without croutons is worth eating, in my opinion.) I grabbed a couple of bottles of salad dressing and placed them on the kitchen table, along with plates and silverware.
I offereed the missionaries the option for for one or the other of them to say a prayer of blessing upon the food. The senior companion quickly jumped on my offer, although she kept it short and to the point. I've been present where LDS relatives prayed for so long that the meal got cold before we could eat it, so I appreciated her brevity.
I offered my guests a choice between all the non-alcoholic beverages in our refrigerator, which included Lemonade, chocolate milk, 1 % milk, Grape Crush, Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper, orange juice (which Matthew drinks by the gallon; he miraculously had yet to attack a recently purchased plastic jug of the stuff) and Pepsi. The look on the senior missionary's face when the younger girl requested Pepsi rivaled any look Faye Dunaway, portraying Joan Crawford, would have given to the actress portraying her young adopted daughter Christina in the movie Mommy Dearest. This was most uncalled for, as the church has clarified its previously rather murky stance regarding which forms of caffeine a were and were nor allowed per Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, otherwise known as "The Word of Wisdom." Pepsi had been most definitely give the green light.
The more timid girl, to her credit, didn't back down as i placed the chilled blue can in front of her, along with a glass filed partially with ice. The girl didn't even bother with the glass or ice. She popped the can open and practically inhaled the fluid, almost in a manner I would expect that a cocaine addict might line up and inhale his or her first line of cocaine in a week or two. Color, which had previously been absent from her ghastly, wan, and week-looking countenance, almost instantly materialized upon her skin. I quickly grabbed a second can of Pepsi, placing it in front of her. She drank this can more slowly as she consumed her meal. The poor girl had probably been suffering from an extreme case of caffeine withdrawal.
I learned in talking with the missionaries -- the junior conpanion became infinitely more talkative following the combination of Pepsi infusion and food intake -- that the younger of the two, following two weeks in the missionary training Center, had been in the actual mission field, i.e. our area of norhtern California, for less than a week. She was homesick. The combination of Pepsi, food, and non-churc h-related conversation seemed to temporarily relieve her of the worst of missing everything that was familiar to her - she came from a one-horse, one gas station town in Montana. Our urban section of northern California had to have been a major source of culture shock to her. just allowing her to talk about home seemed to help. Her senior companion seemed at first reluctant to allow her to go on about her home and her previous life in Montana, but loosened up after her third grape crush, her second sandwich, and don't know how many cookies. i wasn't counting. Despite having been out in the mission field a bit longer than the other girl, she , too, was probably both hungry and homesick despite having been in the mission field for ten months.
While I'm typically loathe to defend the LDS church on many counts, i will say that it's not necessarily its intent to starve the missionaries. Their food budget, however, is barely adequate, primarily with the assumption that church members would invite the missionaries to their homes and would orovide dinner for them. This sometimes happens as intended. At other times, the invitations don't come as planned, and money intended for lunch and for essentials must go toward providing ramen noodles and other cheap meals. Even worse, sometimes dinnner invitations are extended, but when the missionaries show up for dinner, their hosts are nowhere to be found. Consequently, missionaries are perpetually hungry. Sometimes they may even appear a bit chubby (neither did in the case of my two dinner guests) but their bodies probably are still deprived of many essential nutrients. Ramen noodles can only do so much for maintaining one's health.
Inevitably the subject of religion had to inject itself into the conversation. i told the young missionaries (the senior companion was all of twenty-two) the stories of my having been blessed without my parents' knowledge and of my having been baptized for the dead despite not having undergone an actual Mormon baptism on my own behalf because neither my uncle the bishop nor my uncle the stake president believed me when I told them I had never been baptized Mormon. I went through all the details of being dunked upwards of one hundred times because i was so light that I didn't tire out the man having to dunk me, until i finally got the man's attention and begged for a chance to catch my breath. The missionaries -- even the senior companion, who had previously seemed utterly humorless -- laughed as though I Stephen Colbert in a particularly hysterical comedic routine.
I sent the girls with another batch of cookies for each of them, plus a frozen lasagna my aunt had thrown together, a few assembled sandwiches wrapped and ready to be grilled, a loaf of sourdough bread, and pound of butter along with a few Pepsis and Grape Crushes.
I suspect i'll see more of these girls than i would care to, ad not really because they want to eat my food. i wish it was just because they needed a good meal. That I could give them. What they most want -- for me to "come back" to the church even though i was never really there in the first place -- is something that isn't even negotiable. i will feel as though I'm leading them on, as when i have a few spare moments, such as on Wednesdays, once I've completing my studying for the day, as I have no classes on Wednesdays, I'll probably let them in and feed them when they show up on my doorstep.
i suppose there's another way to view the matter, which i hadn't previously considered. Maybe missionary work goes both ways. Despite the facetiousness of my earlier comments concerning my brother with his exercise-defined upper torso leading the lady missionaries astray, there may be some seriousness to missionary work, Matthew notwithstanding, going both ways. Maybe i can show these two young women that it's possible to lead a happy, productive, essentially debauchery-free life without being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Even if they never find their way out of the churhc -- and my goal isn't for them to find their way out of Mormonism if such is what truly makes them happy -- just maybe they can learn, as many members of their faith could stand to learn -- that everything isn't black or white, good vs. evil, or Mormon versus Gentile. Perhaps Mormons can learn to be a bit more accepting of those who are not members [or practicing members] of their faith. It isn't beyond conceivability that I could help to bring about such change, even if only one or two Mormons at a time.
|Thank God it isn't I.|