My son Branson is starting his missionary training today in preparation to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am so proud of his decision to serve others and his willingness to put some of his other goals on hold. His entire life he has worked very hard hoping to receive a Division 1 baseball scholarship and was fortunate to receive one from Dixe State University. Even better, they were willing to put that scholarship on hold while he serves his mission.
I realize how hard this mission is going to be because; believe it or not, not everyone in the world is rushing to their front door hoping to find someone there wanting to share a religious message. I imagine everyone reading this blog can’t wait until they win the “door knocking lottery” and open the door to see missionaries standing there with big smiles on their faces just daring you to let them in (wink-wink).
Branson’s mission call reminds me of a story from my youth that I share in my book, The Unlucky Sperm Club, about my family’s experiences with religious door-knockers…
“My Aunt Peg, who lived at the top of the dead-end street, called to let us know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had just left her house. We could see them just walking off the porch as Roseann, who’d taken Peg’s phone call, passed on the alert.
They were two portly women in denim skirts, and they were eyeballing my gram’s house with its porch full of people. There are military drills that were not as rehearsed as what people did on my gram’s porch when the Jehovah’s Witnesses threatened. Everybody sprang into action. My aunt Roseann just kept walking after she gave us the news, like she was doing a drive-by.
My aunt Connie, who lived directly across the street from Gram, quickly shot up, grabbed two-year-old Gloria by the wrist, and almost skipped across the road to her house to fortify it against these noble adversaries. Aunt Darlene, who lived in the trailer behind Gram, was stealthier. She almost crawled out of her seat, using the flower beds as cover, as she made her way back to her house. My aunts Miriam and Sandy, who lived further down the dead-end street, worked in tandem, one keeping an eye out as the other moved off the porch, both issuing commands at each other under their breath. They followed my Aunt Darlene to the back of Gram’s house and then made their way to their homes via a secret trail through the backyards.
Gram, me, and my cousin John went through the front screen door, and then Gram barked orders to shut the front door and pull down the blinds. All of this took place in a matter of seconds. I wish someone had timed us. What once was a bustling front porch noisy with chatter about the day's gossip and comments on the two or three cars that went up and down the street was now an abandoned ghost town. The vacant swing rocked back and forth in the breeze.
Gram, as she always did while hiding behind a chair, motioned with her hands in a quick horizontal fashion, up and down, signaling to John and me to stay belly-down by the chair we were hiding behind. You would've sworn these two women in their denim skirts carried the bubonic plague—we barely breathed, let alone let out any kind of sound.
But these two women knew this porch had been filled with eight or so people just seconds before. This was not their first rodeo.
After one more series of knocks on our front door, they walked around the sidewalk to the back door. But this was not our first rodeo, either. One time, we hid in the kitchen that had a window to the sidewalk and the denim-skirt sisters saw us sitting at the kitchen table. That was the reason we were hiding behind the living room couch and chair. These women were not going to outsmart the Tresslers. We could hear their slow, methodical knocks at our back door, and our hearts raced. It was as if we thought they had a battering ram and were mere seconds away from attack. These women would teach us their religion whether we wanted it or not.
But this time, the suspense was too much for John and me. That, or maybe it was the fact that John had just farted the quietest fart in the world. It was one of those farts where it is just the sound of air being released into the wild. I started to laugh. Then John started to laugh, and Gram went into Navy SEAL mode, commando-crawling over to where John and I were. She clapped her hands over our mouths, trying to stifle the sound. This only increased the volume and the intensity. Before long we were laughing harder than we had ever laughed before, and we knew the jig was up.
The two women finally left our house and made their rounds knocking on all the doors on my Gram’s street. Nobody answered except for my uncle Ralph, two doors down from us. He would politely answer the door, let the women get out their speech, and then, in a matter-of-fact tone, tell them to, “Go sell crazy somewhere else.”
This scenario played itself out at least three or four times each year, and every time it played itself out, everybody got a little bit better at avoiding the denim-skirt sisters.”
Branson truly has his work cut out for him if he runs into any families as dedicated as the Tresslers! I am proud of my son and wish him the best as he dedicates the next two years to serving others.
I am curious if any of the readers have similar stories avoiding missionaries when they knock on your door. I would love to hear about them, please share your stories in the comments below. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Branson and his missionary friends, so they know where to find you...just kidding!