In April, 1985 I graduated from BYU. I had a degree in History and was itching to get to graduate school and pursue a PhD. After many twists and turns along the way, I was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It took a while to get all the move plans set, but in the summer of 1985 we hopped in our nine passenger Chevy Impala station wagon, which we bought for $500, and made our way east.
A nine passenger station wagon with Andrew, Karen, and me. We did have the car packed full with the stuff we felt we needed for that long trip is a young baby. Everything else we owned was in part of a larger truck that was slowly making its way to Chapel Hill. We had to get there before the truck and find a place or we would have to pay extra.
Before we left, we discovered what ward we would be attending and Karen called Bishop Joseph Scholes to alert him of our arrival. This is SMP (Standard Mormon Procedure). Sister Scholes (Lela) told us to call when we arrived and they would have dinner for us. This simple act of kindness was the start of our great adventure learning what it meant to be a Zion society and became a solid foundation for our future service in the church.
After a long, long trip and facing the South and all its idiosyncrasies, we arrived at out motel in Chapel Hill and decided to take the Scholes up on their offer. We called them, got the directions to their home and sheepishly made our way to their home. Well, I was quite sheepish. I do not do well in social situations especially when I don’t know anybody.
But having Karen and Andrew there made it perfect for me to hide if necessary. Karen could easily maintain the conversation and if I felt the need to get away, Andrew created the perfect excuse. I could simply say he needed attention and I could slip away looking more like the hero than the coward. Babies make for great excuses. Like if a meeting too long or too boring, you can always take the “fussy” baby out.
I learned this trick when I was a young teenager and Stacey and Rod were toddlers. We would attend our Stake Conferences up at the Interstake center in Oakland, CA right by the temple. Believe me, two hours a stake conference was nigh unto eternity. What made it worse was there were two sessions of two hours.
I was quite adept at smashing or pinching Stacey or Rod’s toes just enough to make the fussy but without my parents aware that I was the cause. As soon as they kids complained, I was the first one to volunteer to take them out. I missed a lot of stake conference being sneaky like that.
But back to the story…..
So we arrived at the Scholes’ home in the Parkwood community in the City of Durham. They had a normal looking house that was not perfectly clean. The fact that it looked so normal really set me at ease. There was no way Andrew could hurt anything in this house.
We met Lela Scholes first, as Bishop Scholes was downstairs in his office working. He was a CES employee and ran the Institutes and Seminaries for the Durham and Raleigh stakes. The Scholes had seven children and the oldest, Joseph, was probably at 13 or so.
As we sat in the living room, kids came in and out of the door. Once in a while one would stop and ask: “How long will you guys are staying in the ward?” I thought that an odd question but we soon learned that the Chapel Hill Ward was highly transient. Students would come from all over the country for programs that lasted 1 – 10 years. So, it was a valid question.
Eventually, Bishop Scholes came up from his office and introduced himself. He had a way of simply putting us at ease. He was kind, considerate, friendly, and quite funny. He was very interested in getting to know us and I don’t recall having to sneak away with Andrew.
In fact, as the dinner conversation went on, the children got up and did whatever they did after dinner and they took Andrew with them to play. Aaron, who is the youngest Scholes, was a year or so older than Andrew so he had a playmate. The only problem was that Aaron was the youngest of five boys and he was used to a rough and tumble lifestyle that Andrew was not. So it took Andrew a while to not be so scared. (To be honest, we were afraid for him as well.)
I can, to this day, still remember the dinner we had. Lela made Shepherd’s Pie and there was lemonade to drink. Now, why can I remember that so well? First, Shepherd’s Pie is filled with green beans and I hate green beans. I had to make a modicum of a good impression so I ate my plate full of Shepherd’s Pie.
My only saving grace was the lemonade. I love lemonade and knew if I could get the mouth full of Shepherd’s Pie in my mouth, I could quickly wash it down with lemonade. Unfortunately, Lela lost count of the cans of water she added to the lemonade and it was quite weak. So now I was trapped with yucky green beans and lousy tasting lemonade to wash it down.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to replay that evening with Joe and Lela and we all laugh at how I was trapped with food that would have made me cry as a child yet I bravely persevered.
As I mentioned before, the ward seems to take on the personality of the bishop. This was true with the Chapel Hill Ward. They were extremely inviting and kind. Within days of our arrival we had several dinner invitations, a team of people to help us unpack, and a crowd of people around our age eager to make us part of their community.
We spent the next eight years in this ward and still look back at our Chapel Hill experience being the best thing to happen to our marriage and our family. Plenty more will be said about this ward in later posts.