Pt 31-B: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer,
The Mexico LeBarons, and Mental Illness
“As you work on your memoir, write with fidelity to your own experience while knowing that memory is fallible. Write with respect for your subjects, even if they come across as louts. And tell your story true, artfully, and with courage.”
My Ruby Slippers
(We left off on letter “E” in blog “Pt 31-A”)
Repeating what was said in blog Pt 31-A, both my mother Esther LeBaron Spencer and maternal grandmother Maud McDonald LeBaron believed the cause of mental illness in their immediate family was mainly due to the Mexican-Mormon townspeople of Colonia Juarez who severely ostracized and persecuted them during the twenty years they lived there.
But I believe people must look at what part they, themselves, played/ play in what happens to them and their offspring. Many things went into the Mexico-LeBaron mental-illness factor.
Let’s continue where we left off with what I believe caused the mental illness in my dear Mexico-LeBaron family:
F- Mormon fundamentalists/Fundies believed in beating the devil out of their children—as in Spare the rod, spoil the child. Force, physical and emotional abuse, brutality — these were only some of the control tactics my well-meaning, old-country, perfectionistic grandparents employed to keep their children in line in an effort to make SURE they were perfect little Saints bound for the the highest degree of glory in the hereafter-—as if one can force somebody back to heaven! (Wasn’t that Satan’s plan, according to Mormon doctrine? Jesus wanted to let us all choose for ourselves what we wanted to do.)
G- They stuck to many strict, stoic, fallacious beliefs—backward values and fears they lived by, taught, and ingrained in their children. These shaming, guilt-provoking, fanatic religious strictures were, alone, enough to cause mental illness—especially in highly sensitive kids.
H– Add to that the unstable life of moving back and forth from one homestead, town, and country to another during especially the older Mexico-LeBaron childrens’ lives.
I- Then, take into account that not only was their mother Maud absent much of the time teaching piano lessons to help support the huge family, but their father was also often gone months at a time. The oldest children, who lacked parenting themselves, were, nonetheless, left to raise the younger ones—if any of them got raised at all!
J- On top of this, in 1940 Grandmother Maud left Grandfather Dayer and went to live in the United States, taking her two youngest children with her—ten-year-old Verlan and thirteen-year-old Floren. She returned to Dayer in 1945. The separating of one’s parents is, in and of itself, a great emotional stress on children.
K- Now, add to this whole scenario the problems involved in dealing with polygamy, including two plural wives and all their kids living in the same house for seven years — and Maud being many years older than Onie.
L- And remember: These were the olden days. Hindsight is always the best sight. We have come a long way in understanding and knowledge since my grandparents’ day. Child-protective laws and much more have changed since then. At least we hope so.
I only know my grandparents had their sight set on heaven and the hereafter so were definitely trying to do what they believed was right. They thought if they did what God commanded them to do, He would take care of the rest!
(To be continued January 17, 2019)