In Kansas, something happened that would change the path of my life forever. Missionaries knocked on the metal door of my parents’ trailer—Mormon missionaries. Mom had always been somewhat religious and a little coaxing was all she needed. We received the lessons right in the living room of our mobile home and soon my parents were baptized, the Folgers in the kitchen was replaced with Postum and I was no longer asked to retrieve beers from the fridge for my dad or uncles.
The missionaries coming to our neighborhood were just the trigger for a change to our family’s future. The buckshot was the eccentricity of my paternal grandmother or “Grandmoo” as she was called—a name she had been given by some other unknown child relative, whom I never met. Before she adopted my father, Grandmoo flitted about within the high society of Missouri as a journalist in St. Louis. I know little of her life and have never seen anything she wrote. She inherited a large trust fund from her governor father, which she used to support her unusual lifestyle—including suddenly buying our family a home in Utah. She told my father that since we became members of the Mormon church, we should live in Utah where the Mormons live, or something to that effect. Shortly after, she purchased a historical home near downtown Provo and suggested we move there.
So, off we went to Utah, like so many Missourian Mormons who had come before us. (It’s funny, until the law was rescinded in 1976, it was still legal to exterminate Mormons in Missouri. My parents became Mormons that same year.) We packed our belongings, filled the U-Haul truck and our vintage Corvair van, and started making our way across the plains. The van had just one vinyl bench seat in the back and the only way to open the door from inside was by using vice grips, permanently affixed as a makeshift handle. My parents had thrown down their double-bed mattress on the floor and all four of their children sat, slept, ate and lived on that mattress for the week it took us (with some stops along the way) to drive to Utah.
I don’t remember many of the details from our pilgrimage to Utah, but I do remember our descent into Salt Lake Valley via I-80 in the middle of the night. I was asleep on the mattress in the back of the Corvair when Mom woke me in an excited voice, “Patty! Patty! Look at the mountains!” I groggily got up on my knees to look out the side window, expecting to see some purple mountains in the distance, but was astonished to see the great rockiness rising up just beyond the shoulder of the highway. I couldn’t see where the mountains ended and the night sky started. It was certainly not what I expected. It was then I first became eager for this new place and a new life. I decided that when I started school in Utah I would go by my full name Patricia. The nickname I’d had since birth was often used against me—kids came up with things like “Patty Perfect,” “Cow Patty,” and “Peppermint Patty,” all of which I loathed.
Grandmoo’s idiosyncrasies were not only the reason we moved to Utah, but crept into our family life in other ways as well. I don’t know if Grandmoo was a religious woman. She seemed to think all Mormons should live in Utah and I’m not sure if it’s because she wanted to exterminate us from Missouri or if she thought religion would help her adopted son make better decisions for himself and his family. She was an unusual looking woman, with sagging skin and white hair turned yellow from cigarette smoke. She was a chain-smoker, and always used a plastic filter, like Hunter S. Thompson and the women in old movies. She was known to have a cigarette burning in an ash tray in each room of her house at any given time. She didn’t like cold weather and only took baths in the summer. She kept her stained hair up in a bun type twist, was condescending and hard to talk to, and intimidated me like no other person has since.
I became more familiar with her odd behavior once we had settled in Utah. She owned several homes across the country and had started a strange sequence of flying to one, checking her mail, buying a car, driving to her next home and checking the mail there, and so on. She seemed to acquire a great many odd things in her travels and apparently liked to stop in Utah and fill the back apartment of the house with boxes of bizarre items. The two small 10’ by 10’ rooms were packed so full with boxes there was hardly room to squeeze through. The boxes were full of sewing related items, skeins and skeins of yarn, and dozens of foam pillow forms―she didn’t seem a domestic-type and had probably never sewn a stitch in her life. The most curious thing we found was cases and cases of pink printed boxes. The boxes were filled with individually wrapped packets of powdered douche mix. Apparently, someone who only bathes in the summer needs some form of personal hygiene.
Though my father seems to have much pride in his family’s history, I actually know very little about any of his ancestors, including Grandmoo’s father. I only know he was the governor of Missouri, a portrait of him is displayed in the Missouri capitol building, and one anecdotal story about Grandmoo as a child. When she was a small girl, she attended a press conference with her father and when the journalists started taking pictures, the bulbs were such back then that each flash made a bang, not unlike that of a gunshot. She was frightened because she thought the photographers were shooting bullets at her father. She told me this story the only time I remember having a conversation with her at the kitchen table in our house in Utah. She delivered the story with a bit of a smile, mocking her own childish naivety. It was then I envisioned my grandmother youthful and child-size, wearing a sailor dress and t-strap patent shoes, clinging to her father’s slacks—eager and proud.
Trish Hopkinson loves words and digs poetry slams. Her mother tells everyone that she was born with a pen in her hand. She has been published in several journals, including the Chagrin River Review and Touchstones, the latter in which she won second place for poetry twice. She recently placed fourth in the Poetry on Canvas competition and received an honorable mention from the League of Utah Writers for her poetry anthology, Emissions. She is a project manager by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and two outstanding children. You can find out more about Trish at