My Memoir Backstory:
Esther LeBaron Spencer de McDonald– Ma Meets Pa … Part 15
“Home isn’t home anymore.”
(from Olivia Newton John’s song)
We left off in last week’s blog where Daddy said:
“I couldn’t allow Eva to wear the pants in the family, pussy-whip me, and carry me down to hell with her ‘cause she wouldn’t abide by the higher laws of God and Joseph Smith. In this, Eva was evil: She was rebellious … not spiritual enough to follow her priesthood head, do what was right, and live the fullness of the gospel.
“Instead, she turned my kids against me! Even took out a Restraining Order to keep me from seeing them ever again.* So I had to divest myself of her in order to follow the Prophet Joseph Smith’s commandment to live ‘The Principle of Plural Marriage’ or be damned.
“Before I married yer ma, Eva had agreed to go along with my takin’ a plural wife. But she soon changed her mind, betrayed me … and went to the law to get me in trouble.
“Because of her treachery, I had to sell out and flee the country. And set up a totally new homestead in Old Mexico — though I knew no Spanish! As an American, wasn’t allowed to get a job and make a living there, either!
“Eva even had the Mormon church cut me off as an apostate! That was vengeful … traitorous! She couldn’t wait to get me into all kinds of legal fixes.
She ruined my estate. Due to her actions, I lost a lot of money. Had to sell, in too big a hurry, my home and almost everything I owned, to go into hiding in Old Mexico.
“Putting it succinctly, she was a revengeful ingrate. Her treachery and rebellion knew no bounds. It was unforgivable! She was, for so many years, my wonderful wife and helpmate — only to turn against me and do me in!”
Under these conditions, Daddy chose to stay with his new, twenty-years-younger-than-Eva wife, my Mama, Esther LeBaron de McDonald.
Mom said, “After he married me, he had far fewer migraines than he’d had livin’ with Eva. She was a perfectionist, an immaculate housekeeper … always pressured him too much.
“Yer pa could never please her enough. Her continuous and unending demands on him to make more money so they could live a better lifestyle stressed him out.”
Well, Papa got quite the opposite with Mama! She was a lay-back, easy-going creative and dreamer — never much concerned about what others thought of her housekeeping.
She lived in a dream world — believed she was high class and the greatest woman in the world … among other things. And above cleaning house and other such menial chores.
He must have missed Eva’s, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” for, in that way, Daddy was like Eva: He kept his shop organized and immaculate.
Born with the gene that enables people to organize things, each one of Daddy’s tools hung proudly and neatly on the wall in its own place when he wasn’t using it.
Not only that, his artistic placement of them formed a beautiful design, relaxing to the eye and pleasing to behold.
It was such a change from Mama’s disorganized, dirty home — which got increasingly worse over the years as she became more and more inundated and overwhelmed with the responsibility of too many children and all else that goes into managing a well-run household.
But to add to her distress and tiring, unending chores was, true to stoic Mormon fundamentalist ways, she was in a constant cycle of being either pregnant, nursing, or becoming pregnant again.
And to be sure, women’s work never ends! And Daddy never helped out in the house. That was “women’s work,” he believed!
What’s worse, no matter how Mother’s state of health and energies declined, she and Daddy believed it their fervent, foot-washing duty to God to put childbearing first.
Their family’s and their own needs and comforts were secondary when it came to bringing another little “fore-ordained special spirit” into their “righteous Mormon home.”
Mother and Daddy would give their life for any one of their yet unborn babies. That was Mormon fundamentalists doctrine.
I just wish they would’ve given their life — more attention, love, care, and money to the kids they already had. But Mama loved to tell people her dream was to have twenty-six kids or die trying! Instead, Daddy died.
But Mother remained ever the artist, as long as she lived … never much of a homemaker — though she designed beautiful clothes for us kids, curtains for the house, rugs for the floor — that sort of thing. She should’ve had servants, but we could not afford them.
But, after moving to Mexico, where labor was cheap, she would hire a cleaning lady, when the place got too dirty, the dishes, ironing, and laundry piled too high — and she couldn’t get one of her kids to do the menial maintenance work because they had grown up and flown the coop, or other such.
As for Daddy’s migraines, they generally let up, anyway, as people age. However, I’ve always wondered why Mother’s generally messy home didn’t give him a Full-blown migraine every time he walked in the door.
Actually, Mums would hustle us all into the house to quickly clean up messes, as much as possible, before Dad got home from work.
That helped keep him from flying into a rage because the place was a mess again and his meal was once more not on the table when he got home after a hard day’s labor in the fields, or doing construction, or handyman work, clock and watch repair — or myriads of other chores and jobs.
But what helped keep peace in the home most was Daddy knew Mummy was in love with him. And so proud of him and all his accomplishments, talents, and abilities. He could not have been more appreciated and valued.
And, since Mama believed she was the greatest woman on earth, it went without saying she believed he was the greatest man on earth — next to the Prophet! Papa liked that feeling of importance … of being cared for and honored — priesthood-Pappy … King of the roost.
On top of that, Mumsy felt rich due to how well Daddy/ Floyd O. Spencer supported her and her family. But “Rich” is relative.
I guess she was rich, in comparison to the dire poverty she and her indigent, scrabble-farming family grew up with in Old Mexico — Not to mention, the pitiful want and starvation she saw all around her among many of the poor Mexican peoples! So I’d like to say Ma and Pa lived happily ever after … but did they?
- Bear in mind that I’m trying to present Daddy’s point of view. To be sure, that point of view didn’t include such things as his violence – his physical and mental abuse towards Eva and their kids.
Violent, tyrannical Dad believed it his right to dominate and administer physical abuse when his wife or kids were in rebellion, made a mistake — or irked him.
But sadly, Daddy was probably following the example he was raised with, didn’t know any better, and was only venting his anger, frustration, pain.
This was certainly more than sufficient reason to provoke betrayed Eva to obtain a Restraining Order against him to keep him away from her and her kids … and off her property.
He was of the-old-country thinking: Thought it his position and right, as man of the house, to beat his wife into submission; i.e., to control her by “whipping her into shape.”
Mama was of this mindset, also! (She bent to her husband’s/ her priesthood head’s will, as good Mormon fundamentalist wives are taught to do … so she wouldn’t “deserve” his wrath.)
Daddy didn’t admit to his betrayal of Eva, nor the hurt he caused her and her family when he took on another wife and family.
Unfortunately, Mormon fundamentalists follow their early founders to the hilt – leaders who told them living plural marriage was God’s highest and most holy law.
Being Stoics, they believed they had to put aside their own feelings and needs … as well as the feelings and needs of all others involved … in order to live polygamy! Ridiculous? And how! But that’s how they believed.