When Skylar moved to Utah in 2016, he basically had to take a Utah-immersion course just to understand basic life. He'd occasionally wander into the house and say things like "what's a CTR ring?"

So I'd explain it. And that would usually prompt more questions. Sometimes I would get defensive and be like "IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE TO YOU BUT IT'S NOT IT'S WONDERFUL" and he'd respond "no, I think that thing you just explained is terrific" and I'd be like "WELL IT'S NOT IT'S VERY WEIRD" and he'd be like "well, I guess it is a little" and I'd be like "HOW DARE YOU HAVE SOME RESPECT" because that's what it looks like to have complicated feelings about your former religion.

Sometimes his naivety is lovely. In Utah, the predominant religion can be polarizing. Most people who have lived here for very long have pretty strong feelings, one way or the other, about it. But Skylar has no dog in the fight. He's just interested. Nothing else, really.

A few years ago he came home all excited because he learned about an organization called "Encircle" which is an LGBTQ organization in Utah which was created because some of the other national groups weren't as good at understanding the unique dynamics of coming out in a very devout Mormon family and/or community. Educating and providing support to kids and parents who speak a very different language than most of the rest of society requires some special tools, process, and vocabulary.

Not really totally aware of the darker aspects of this history, Skylar heard about Encircle through a totally different set of ears than most people in Utah.

"There's this really cool place where all these families can go and hang out and get to know each other and it's so fun and it's like this cool club . . ."

I suddenly had this moral dilemma--like a parent wondering if it's time to ruin the magic of Christmas for their child--except I had to decide whether I should deflate his excitement over this "cool club" by letting him know it was created because the youth suicide rate is appallingly high in Utah.

He's evolved and learned and it's been fun to watch that process, though. Well, until recently.

It appears someone has decided I'm their enemy and so this person has gone about secretly feeding Skylar various Utah/Mormon phrases and telling him to start using them casually with me. In the last few months he has started saying:

"Remember who you are and what you stand for."

"Return with honor."

"My body is a temple and you don't have a recommend."

A few months ago he told me he wanted to start having "companionship inventory" and maybe even the occasional "PPI" and reader. I almost had a full on panic attack.

Last week he came into the house and said "what does 'the Holy Ghost goes to bed at 10:00' mean?"

I was like, "first of all, the Holy Ghost doesn't go to bed until midnight so whoever told you that one lied to you."

Then I found out how weird "Holy Ghost" sounds to someone who didn't grow up hearing about it all time.

Eli: You see, there's this ghost that's very sacred and it hangs out, like, in good places.

Skylar: Does it haunt people?

Eli: No! It follows them around and whispers things to them.

Skylar: That sounds like a haunting.

Eli: Well, whatever it is, the point is it goes to bed at midnight so kids don't need to be out after that because my mom always said nothing good happens after midnight.

Skylar: So, nothing good happens after midnight because, like, the sacred ghost gets tired?

Eli: I don't know--look, it's just something people used to say. It just means don't hang out late because you might make bad choices.

Skylar: Is that, like, written in the scriptures? About the going to bed thing?

Eli: No. Gah. Who is teaching you these damn phrases? It's not in the scriptures. All of our parents just made it up when we were kids because they were tired.

He dropped it after that, shrugging his shoulders a little and going back to studying.

I have no equivalent way to get back at him by tossing very specific cultural cliches his way. Unless, I guess, there's a catalog of hippie Portland phrases I can tap into.

The point is, please, whoever out there is doing this to me, I need you to stop. I don't think I have the emotional stamina to explain what "baptisms for the dead" are.

So innocent. So lovely. 

~It Just Gets Stranger