Long ago, but not too long ago, a man named Steven John Stark from Rupert, Idaho had a roommate, John Nelson. John took Steven to his home in Idaho Falls, ID for the holidays one winter. John had a sister named Lorrie Lou Nelson. They were both smitten with each other from the get go. So much that 6 weeks later they were engaged. (Side note: the night they got engaged Lorrie was supposed to be babysitting her two little sisters, but instead she and Steven went cruising in his car up to a hill where he proposed. LOL This story is very similar to my own engagement story which is saved for another blog:))
Steven and Lorrie were married July 12, 1968 in the Idaho Falls LDS temple. They lived in Idaho for about 1-2 more years, then moved to Provo, Utah where Steven was getting his Bachelors and Masters from Brigham Young University. Over the next 15 years they moved throughout Provo and then to West Valley City, UT. By this time they had 5 children, 4 boys and 1 girl, Carl, Monte, Neils, Lorretta, and Richard. One evening as they gathered around the dinner table the 3rd oldest boy, Neils, looked around and said out loud, "Ya know, I think have room for one more at this table." (Truest story ever) Later that year their youngest daughter and last child was born: Stephanie Joy Stark. I was born on Super Bowl Sunday at 7:11 pm. The family was thrilled to have their last child and that I was girl, hence the middle name "Joy".
Naturally, I do not remember anything about my super early childhood phase. I have heard stories from family that I was very blonde and that my mother would dress me up in puffy dresses for church and that my crib was next to the window and I would often climb up on the crib and run my hands down the closed blinds and make a lot of racket. My earliest memories began about my preschool age. That summer I was sent to a house in our small neighborhood for a few days out of the week. It was a short pre-preschool that was ran by a few Laurels from our ward, probably for a Young Women medallion project or something. I remember I liked Barbies and Velcro shoes because they were super easy to put on. I remember the day I lost my first tooth. It was just before my elementary preschool class, I had the afternoon session. I was eating a hamburger at home and I took a painful bite then pulled away to find my tooth pushed into the hamburger with spit and blood. I cheered and ran to my Mom to show her. Yes the tooth fairy came that night and most every other tooth after that was exchanged for a small amount of change. I also sucked my thumb longer than I needed to. My Mom had this yucky paste she would put on my thumb before bed. One evening she asked me which thumb to put it on. I looked and both of them and then back at her and then told her the opposite thumb I use, she was smarter than I gave her credit for and put the paste on both of my thumbs. No matter what Mom's know all. Seriously, some summers when we kids were home alone for a few hours out of the day and we did something bad or broke something we all swore on pain of death not to reveal what happened, but sure enough Mom and Dad would just know. Like they could feel it in the air or something. Not sure how they did it but they did.
I remember giving my older brother a near heart attack. I had this rad cabbage patch doll plastic tricycle. I would ride it up and down the sidewalk. One day I got to our house and just parked it in the drive way behind the car for a second to run inside and get a drink. I didn't think twice about it. While I was in the house my brother, not sure if it was Carl or Monte, came out jumped in the car and backed up into the tricycle and crushed it. They of course heard the crunch and panicked at what they had done, thinking they had hit and killed me they stopped the car and ran to look. Thankfully I was in the house. I was sad about the tricycle but okay once I realized it could have been a lot worse if timed out differently.
I had a cool childhood, I would run and play around the house and tag along with my Mom during all her errands and activities until I was put in school. She was involved in all my siblings activities, paper routes, PTA, our ward choir and other church callings. She also taught voice and music lessons to the locals so we constantly had visitors and were thrown out of the Living Room (piano room) during those hours and asked to play quietly somewhere else. I loved to play and had a huge imagination. I had lots of little toys and trinkets that I could spend hours with. Even if I didn't have a toy I would turn something into a toy for whatever bidding my imagination needed it to be. I also loved Lego's and creating things. I used to get frustrated when I had to interrupt my play time for chores or anything for that matter. One time, I had my entire play schedule planned out for the day, but then my parents asked me to babysit some kid so they could all go to an Amyway evening meeting. I was so annoyed with the request but my parents talked me into it and I hated the evening because it completely interfered with my plans to roller skate and then lock myself in my room with my toys.
We lived in a rad neighborhood. Our house was one of the first houses in the development. Our family grew with the development along with the rest of the other families that started out there. Today you wouldn't recognize it. When I lived there it was near a farm field and on Saturdays we would walk to the farm and pick various things and then head over to the plant to get some eggs. It was known then as the Fasio Egg Farm, now it is another development and a park. When I was there it was safe to run around freely without fear of any immediate danger. There were lots of other kids to play with and most evenings were spent running around the neighborhood on our bikes, skateboard, or roller skates, or baseball. We thought we owned the place and we would play games together. One of my favorite games we played was a made up game called, "To The Trees". This game is best played at night. Our house was right in the middle of the fork in the road so you can see all sides of the neighborhood and streets to the neighborhood from our front door. We would stand in the middle of the road in front of our house and as soon as we saw a car coming we would yell, "TO THE TREES, TO THE TREES" and run and hide into the bushes and trees in front of our house. We laughed and giggled as we hid and thought we were so clever. The game was inspired by Kevin Costners movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. There is apart in the movie where the Sheriff's armies surround Robin Hood's homemade village and one of the characters yells, "To the Trees!" and everyone runs to their station in the trees to prepare to defend their home. We thought it was awesome and the game was born from it.
There was a corner lot that never got sold and trees grew there. We would often shortcut through the small wooded area to get to the other road. We used to pretend it was a haunted forest sometimes. One day when I was walking alone through there on my way home from school, I was singing aloud as I always did, when I stopped suddenly under a tree because I heard a loud cracking noise that was interrupting my singing. Everything happened real fast but I very distinctively remember feeling someone push me out of the way. Seriously hands were on my back pushing me. I think I was out for a second and when I awoke next to the space I was standing in I saw a giant branch laying where I once stood, then I had a peaceful feeling come over me. That was the start of my testimony of angels and the Holy Ghost. I went home and told my Mom. I know without a doubt that an angel protected me from harm that day. (Almost like the angels from the Family Circus cartoon where they get tired out because kids are having fun). This was later confirmed by a passage in my patriarticle blessing that more or less stated God had given angels charge over me to protect me and at times I am aware of them and other times my life has been spared without me knowing. Crazy cool huh?
Being in a large family we had all the chores divided with our handy dandy chore chart. Dishes were one of the biggest responsibilities. We did not have a dishwasher until I was 12. During the weekdays my parents would team up an older child with a younger child to complete the dishes. Then on Sunday was Team C meaning Team Children, all of us together. My favorite part of doing the dishes was rinsing, I don't know why but it was. When I had to do the dishes by myself it would take me hours not because of the workload but because I would start playing imagination with the dishes and it would last for hours. I would lose myself in the fun and never stop until someone came into the kitchen only to find me 1/4 of the way done. (BTW Beauty and the Beast was my favorite movie then, especially the part with the singing dishes) My parent caught on to this and I think that is when they teamed us up to be more efficient and to teach me to stay on task.
I also learned how to cook early on from this chore chart. My Mom would assign each child a day to help her in the kitchen with dinner. I loved making Top Ramen, I thought that when you combined it with cooked carrots it turned it into Chinese food. My palette wasn't developed much then. I hated most veggies and fruits but loved bread and jam and grape juice. My family bottled their own jam and it was delicious. At almost every meal we had bread, butter, and jam. Every 5 minutes during the meal I would ask someone to pass me the bread until I became restricted and had to actually eat real food.
In our back yard we had lots of grass, a playground in a rock area, a shed, a small orchard with 6-8 fruit trees, a garden, strawberry and raspberry bushes. Every Saturday each of us had to weed an entire black garbage bag of weeds before we could go and play. The earlier you started the quicker your got done. I could never believe there was actually that many weeds each week, but my parents insisted. I cheated and filled my bag with dirt, but I would get caught. I got caught a lot. Another time I was tasked with vacuuming the Living Room, we had a two piece vacuum. I took just the one piece that actually goes over the carpet and didn't plug it into anything. I figured I would run it over the carpet and it would leave the marks so it would look like I vacuumed. My brother Monte caught me and asked what I was doing. I let him in on the secret and he just laughed. A few hours later my Mom asked me to vacuum for real. "Take pride in your work and do the job right the first time." This was a lesson that I constantly learned and is still burned in me today. I guess you can say that thanks to all those shenanigans I tried to play but never got away with I am the super awesome responsible adult I am today. Now I get annoyed when people try to cheat or lie with their work. Anyway, I don't really care for weeding today, but I do find a sense of accomplishment when I am able to plant something and keep it alive. I would love to have a little garden and orchard of my own and plan on doing so when we have the space. I prefer grass too. I love the smell of it and mowing it. I relished the day when my brothers all left on their missions because the task of mowing the lawn fell to me and I loved every minute of it. I would mow a lawn over weeding any day of the week.
My parents taught me to work, besides all these chores and school work we each had our own paper routes. These routes increased the older we got. I had a number of expierences during these routes, but I will save them for another time. They are so weird and I often use them for the ice breaker game 2 lies and 1 truth. (I will however clue you into some of them: thrown out of car, dead body, dead cat in car, Lifetime movie moment with battered woman, weird for a kid right?) When my brothers got real jobs us younger kids took over their larger route. This gave me some money to play with, but I mostly saved it because it wasn't much or I spent it on stuffed animals. One year my parents challenged us to save money for a plane ticket to FL. If we saved enough money by the summer they would pay for our tickets into Disney World. We all were able to go except for my brother Carl. It was the trip of a lifetime for a young girl and to this day we still talk about the trip and covet the Mickey Mouse picture album that my Mom made from that trip. Other family trips included driving up to Grandma and Grandpa Stark's home in Idaho, Bear Lake, Yellowstone, and lots of other fun camping adventures.
I went to Jacking Elementary. I guess it was a good school. I was active in all the things it had to offer like after school choir and theatre and sports. I had some good friends that I knew from early grades up to 6th grade. They were Marilee Riggs, Laura Hansen, and Emily McKenzie. At least those were the ones I remember the most and we did lots together. There were a few other girls from the ward but we hated each other until we got older I guess. I also had two or three short lived boyfriends in Elementary school. I don't remember their names, one was real short and the other was "the bad boy". I did have crushes on other guys, but I didn't think they liked me because I was weird. I like to think I was a good student. Getting my homework done so I could play came natural to me. I would, however, wait until the last minute to complete big projects and my Mom would stay up into the wee hours of the night helping me get them done. My parents were sure to keep our minds growing throughout the summer. My Mom would give us math, reading, and spelling quizzes and every Friday if we scored well enough she would reward us with part of a cute summer outfit. It is how we earned some of our clothes I guess. The boys would end up with matching shorts if they weren't careful to watch and see what the other one picked for their weekly accessory. LOL.
I learned a lot from my older siblings and have a lot of memories with each of them. Carl and I were the farthest apart so he moved out when I was 6 years old. But I remember he was really smart and into Star Trek. I remember watching Star Wars at home for the first time with the family, I think he helped introduce it. I fell asleep during it because it was too long for my mind to take, but I remember liking the Ewokes. Monte, or Monster as we called him (his basketball court name) spoiled me a lot. He would take me with him on dates with girls, not sure if it was to impress them or because Mom asked him to take me. I got to see the Nutcracker and other plays thanks to him. Monte also baptized me when I turned 8 and then went on his mission shortly after that. Neils will forever have a special place in my heart because he wished for me to be born. He took care of me a lot when I was sick and would feed me bread and grape juice. He is best known for making me laugh too. Whenever I was grumpy and didn't want to talk to anyone he would pull out his hands and shape them into a puppet that he named "Mr. Happy Face". I would only talk to Mr. Happy Face when I was down, he just got me. Neils always encouraged me to be my best and to hurry up with my chores so we can enjoy a fun family home evening together. I learned that I do have control over my choices and can always choose to be happy no matter my situation. My older brothers also had me clean and wash their cars for 50 cents, when they paid me they asked me what I was going to do first with the money. I learned from them how to be a tithe payer as they would help me count out what money that belonged to me and what money to give back to the Lord. Lorretta, (I would call her Netta until I learned to say the 'Lor" part) taught me how to ride a bike. I was so scared. I had only had a scooter and I didn't want to learn until I was forced too. My scooter broke and she gave me her bike but also helped me learn. We became better friends the older we got. Rich taught me how to tie my shoes, he gave me 2 Butterfinger candy bars, one for each foot, once I did it on my own. Richard was also my snow buddy. We loved to play it rough in the snow. We would do all the shoveling and we had a great system down. Then we would box, wrestle in the snow, and climb the snow mountains that were made from the plow at the church parking lot.
Us younger kids thought we had it good. We didn't get spanked with the wooden spatula as much as the older kids did. But we had our challenges too. We would team up against and sometimes with each other and often got separated. One time we found a bunch of cough drops and we used them as chips to play Poker or War. We never ate them, just made them into currency until we had Halloween candy for currency. We played a lot of board and card games together. Our favorites were, The Game of Life, Aggravation, War, Missionary Impossible, and the Prophet cards. We also fought over who the cat loved the most. If you could get the cat to come into your room then He loved you more. I like to think we had fun through my youthful years of 0-10. I wanted to be one of the guys and play with Richard and his cousins and friends, but I also wanted to be one of the girls and prance around with Lorretta mimicking everything she did.
So that is a summed up version of my early childhood. I would post pictures but they are still getting organized. My next memory post will contain everything from 10-18. Thanks for reading the memories.