I was born August 20, 1979. I was chubby, and bald, but my mother still loved me. Being a mother and having children was her greatest desire and goal in life. It was her joy, her fulfilment. She told everyone she wanted to have at least 12 children. As a spindly girl growing up, she always had someone’s baby bouncing on her hip, and little children followed her around like she was a magnet. She was always happy around them, telling stories and playing in the dirt, or singing songs.
Our community was the FLDS religion, which practices plurality of wives and the early fundamental principles of Mormonism. Strict modesty, appointed marriages, and perfect obedience to the Prophet in the religion were required.
My mother, MarJean Cooke, grew up in a family of four mothers, one father, and many siblings, so many that I do not know them all. They were very close knit. Jack Cooke was her father, but I never remember seeing him. He was gone from the community by the time I grew up. Grandma Verena born my mother and 12 other children. Grandmother Caroline had about that many, as well as Grandma Eva and Grandma Shirley. The grandmothers had all married Jack within the same first couple of years, so the children were all about the same ages from each mother, and grew up skipping down the road together, hand in hand.
My father was Milton Otto Holm, son of Carl Otto Nathaniel Holm and Adaire Stubbs Holm. He grew up with 11-12 mothers and 60+ siblings. His father died when he was 14, and he was finished raised by his mothers. He had some really hard times, and started drinking when he was a teenager. He also had happy times in his big, loving family. All of my father’s siblings are happy and sweet by nature. My grandfather Carl was known in the community as an optimistic, always happy, kind, and willing to help anyone in need. My father was always kind to me and never abused me. I didn’t see him very often, as he was gone most the time.
My baby brother Jacob Otto was born just a year after me, October 26 1980. He was the happy, smily baby, while I was more sober and shy.
My first memory is myself and cousin Asenath (daughter of my father’s older sister Valerie) playing out in the dry red dirt. I was having a lot of fun digging. Suddenly, I noticed red ants all over my body and started screaming and panicking. My father’s teen sister Monica came running to my rescue. She grabbed me up into her arms and ran me into the house where Aunt Rosy (my father’s other teen sister) and mother were working and visiting.
They all yanked my clothes off and poured a gallon of vinegar over my head and body. They soon had me safe and sound and warm.
Aunt Rosy and Aunt Monica sort of spoiled me when I was little. They always made me cute little dresses and curled my hair. To me, Aunt Rosy was one of the most beautiful people I’d ever seen. She had long blond hair past her waist, a dimple in her smiling cheek, and a perfect build. But the most beautiful thing about her was her gentle, sweet disposition. Aunt Monica was happy and outgoing, with thick black hair, glasses, and a healthy build. They’d come help Mother once in a while.
We lived with my Grandma Adaire until Jake was a year old. Then we moved into our tiny, unfinished home by the mountain. Mother was happy to have her own place. She had two more children. Milton Nathaniel, born September 16, 1982, and Marjorie Verna born August 21, 1984. Nate was quiet and a peacemaker.
I was pretty excited that Mother finally had a girl, even though she was a whole five years younger. Mother let me help with the baby Marj, who had long black hair and big blue eyes. I got to help wash out the cloth diapers and choose out the baby’s clothes. It was fun.
I was still wetting the bed by the time I was 5 years old. One day, my father came home and told me if I didn’t stop wetting, I’d have to sleep with the neighbor’s pigs. He was only joking, but I was petrified of pigs, and tried really hard to stop wetting. But I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Every day, I got more scared and worried. The neighbor’s pigs were huge! They’d come into the yard and eat the garden. Mother would tell Jake and I to chase them home. I was so glad for a brave brother. He wasn’t scared of anything, and loved grabbing a big stick and chasing the pigs. Nate soon caught on to the fun and joined him in it, but I always just grabbed a stick and wandered a ways behind.
Almost every morning, I woke up soaking wet again. One night, I woke up as my father was lifting me out of bed. I was scared. He walked over to the kitchen window (basement), and set me out into the pouring rain. Then he turned around and walked silently back down the hall. I started bawling, and knew I’d wet the bed too many times and now I’d have to sleep out in the mud. The grassy weeds were up to my knees. The night was pitch black and I didn’t dare move.
After a few minutes, my father set my little brother Milty out the window, then 3 years old. I was five. “Did you wet the bed too?” I cried. He shook his head. I took his hand and we stood howling together in the rain and mud.
Pretty soon, Mother climbed out with baby Marj in her arms. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Mother, did you wet the bed?” I asked.
“No. The house is on fire and Dad’s looking for Jake. We need to pray he can find him. Now you guys stop crying and come over to the car.” Mother was always calm. I was so relieved that it was just the house on fire instead of me having to sleep with the pigs.
My father found Jake, thankfully and we cruised down the road to Aunt Tonja and Aunt Katie’s house. Aunt Tonja was my father’s sister, and Aunt Katie was my mother’s sister from Grandma Caroline. They were both married to the same man, and had children the same ages. We stayed there overnight, and I didn’t wet the bed anymore after that.