The weekend after Christmas, we went to visit family in Virginia, where I grew up. On that Sunday morning, Jad, the kids and I attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Bailey Bridge Road, the church building I attended for most of my childhood up until I went to college.

I hadn’t stepped foot in that building in 12 years. When we drove up, I immediately was overcome with emotion. I spent so much time in that building growing up, with some of the best friends I ever had.

We sat in the chapel for Sacrament meeting with my cousin, Lisa, and her mom, Emiko (I call her Emi), who came to that service just to see us. I hadn’t seen Emi in years either, and it was so wonderful to hug her and talk to her again. She was a very special aunt to me growing up. It is always a pleasure to see Lisa, as well, and as often as possible (I had seen her the night before too).

This is Lisa, Emi, the kids and I in front of the church after Sacrament Meeting. 

I also saw Richard, someone who was a very huge part of my life and that of my siblings and parents. I believe he entered my life when I was about 10. He was my dad’s best friend, and he came to every birthday party and family gathering. He babysat us, drove us to church activities, came on vacations with us even. I hadn’t seen him since my first wedding reception in 2003. He still looks the same, and sounds the same, and has the same laugh and gives the same hugs. He has a beard instead of a mustache, though.

This is Richard, Teresa and I after Sacrament Meeting.

I would talk to both Emi and Lisa, and Richard and his wife, Teresa (who I had only met once or twice), more later on, after Sacrament Meeting. During the meeting,though, Kamren got fussy, so I took him out into the hall.

Normally I really dislike staying out in the hallway when I could be being spiritually uplifted, but this time I ended up being grateful to be in the hallway. I got to walk up and down the whole building, poking my head into the classrooms… and remembering my youth.

I want to share with you a few memories that came to my mind as I wandered those halls with my little one.

The chapel

I have so many memories of the chapel. My family always sat on the left side of the chapel, about halfway back. For many years my Nana was the chorister and my Granddad was the organist. I always loved hearing her operatic voice and sensing his emotional ties to the music. My favorite song he played was”Come, Come Ye Saints” because on the last verse he would get very quiet and slow, and then end the song with volume and vigor. Nana usually stayed up in the stand during the meeting, but sometimes I remember Granddad sitting with us. I loved holding his hand.

My first specific memory of the chapel was when the congregation sang “I am a Child of God” the Sunday after my baptism. I remember that I started to cry. I asked my mom why I would be crying, and she said I was feeling the Holy Ghost. That was a very special realization to me that I really had the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Other memories of the chapel are when I was up in the stand singing a musical number, accompanying a friend singing a musical number, like Lauren, sharing my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or even giving a talk in church. I remember one Sunday I had invited a good friend from school, named Scott, to come hear me speak, and I was so disappointed he didn’t come. 

 I remember my Dad sitting up in the stand while he was in the Bishopric. Sometimes he would nod off a bit.

I also remember doing piano recitals in the chapel, most specifically the one where I played from memory “Memory” and “The Music of the Night.”

At the beginning of my Senior year of high school, when we were about to start studying the Book of Mormon in seminary, our stake did a big program in the chapel where many youth sang songs from the musical From Cumorah’s Hill. I remember my friends Kristy and Lauren singing, and I did as well. A video also played of different youth sharing their testimonies of the Book of Mormon. I, as well as many of my friends, were also a part of that. It was a special day. I believe we did a similar program at the end of the year at Seminary graduation. I sang the same song again at that program. It’s a beautiful song called “I Never Stand Alone.”

I remember being a new member of the Singles Ward when I graduated high school, and seeing a familiar face, Michael, that made me feel more comfortable.

I remember singing in a huge Christmas concert as a member of the Richmond Mormon Chorale, where my uncle Danny was the pianist.

I remember announcing my engagement from the pulpit. That was one of my last memories in that room.

The couch outside the chapel.

Just so you know, the couch, chairs, lamp and picture are all the same as they were when I was a kid. It was so cool to walk in from the parking lot and see that it hadn’t changed a bit.

A lot of conversations happened on that couch. It was also a place where noisy, rambunctious children would have to sit until they calmed down and could go back to Sacrament Meeting. Sometimes that might have been me or my siblings.

That foyer area was a great place to sit and wait for your parents, talk to friends, or people watch.

The Primary Room

This room is where children sing and learn more about Jesus and His gospel. My newest memory of this room (which was probably 13 years ago) was taking my little sister, Mariah, to Primary.

 My oldest and most fun memories include learning the words to Primary songs I still love today, like “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” and “A Child’s Prayer.”

 I also remember giving talks and reciting scriptures in that room. The Primary Room was always a happy place.

This is me standing in front of the baptismal font.

See where I am standing? Those doors behind me open up to reveal a baptismal font – not just any baptismal font, but one that is very special to me, for on June 21, 1992, my father baptized me in that very font. Seeing that location through the glass of the door brought tears to my eyes. Being baptized was one of the best decisions I ever made. I still have a little framed poem that an older girl I admired, Amy, gave to me, as well as a bright yellow journal I got from a Primary leader.

The Young Women room bulletin boards, and the classroom for the young women ages 16-18 (Laurels).

I remember playing the piano in that room as another friend led the music. I remember the bulletin boards. I always liked to read the little spiritual messages on them. 
I also remember that part of the room because in that section, when I was 16-18, my mom taught my class. We had a lot of good lessons and discussions in there. I remember one story she read about bears and cake. I believe the moral of the story was to avoid temptation. 
The small hallway with two rooms.

I will never forget this hallway. It is so strange because it is short, and it has two rooms directly across from each other right by the Exit door. I once had a Sunday school class in the room on the right.

The gym

A lot of great times happened in that gym, mostly of a competitive nature. When I was a teenager, I played basketball with other girls in my ward. Though we worked really hard, we almost always lost our games. I think we won once against a team of four, and barely won at that. We always tried to have fun, though, and we did our best. Not all games would be played in that gym, but we did always practice in this one. I was a forward, and I was pretty good at defense. I was also good at shooting, but not under pressure.

In addition to basketball, we would play other sports like volleyball (especially when I was a young single adult), kickball, and broom hockey. The teenage boys and girls would do joint activities about once a month, and my favorite one was by far broom hockey. I remember once I shattered a broom on a guy named Brad’s, leg. I remember feeling really tough that day, and a little concerned, but mostly tough.

We didn’t always play sports. Sometimes youth would be able to conduct the activities. Once I had the group play a game I loved from theater class called 1776. I was really good at that game, and always loved playing it. I wonder if my peers liked the game as much as I did…

We even did a fund raiser for girls camp one year where we did a dinner/dance for the adults and auctioned cakes off. 

We also did really fun Halloween activities in the gym and surrounding classrooms.

I was Princess Leia at our church’s Halloween party when I was 14.

Also in that gym we would have youth dances, and when I was older, young single adult dances. 

Can you tell this was an 80s-themed dance? I was 18.

As a youth and young single adult, I participated in talent shows in the gym. I remember one of them happened during a youth conference. I am pretty sure I sang something from  Jekyll and Hyde. Another year when I was a young single adult, I sang “I Never Knew His Name” from The Civil War. My friend Jared suggested I sing that instead of “The Music of the Night” because it was a lot less scandalous. I remember saying that it was one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard, and even now, that song, and the musical it comes from, bring me to tears and fill me with chills.

The gym was a place for really fun times.

The stage

I remember five distinct occasions of using this stage as an actual stage. One memory was when our stake did a road show. Our ward’s performance was in the form of a talk show. Prince Charming was in a chair with Soaprah Winfrey, if I recall correctly. He was recounting his experiences with many princesses, and how they didn’t work out. I was Sleeping Beauty. Apparently, when I woke up to his kiss, I thought he was ugly and moved on. By the end of the show, Prince Charming meets Dorothy Gale, played by my friend, Rachel, and realizes she is the one for him. We got an award for best commercial, where the girls sang and danced about Mr. Sandman bringing us a ring. I was really annoyed by that award because we were the only show with a commercial.

Another memory is when I was in charge of a youth activity on modesty. I planned a fashion show where the participants would model modest clothing. Boys and girls were included in it. I was the host  for the show. I remember how hard it was to get material from some of the boys so that I could announce their ensembles. It actually turned out to be a fun, and even spiritual night, as one of my friends gave a little talk on the importance of modesty after the fashion show.

For a youth conference one year, youth were invited to perform a skit of the Good Samaritan. That skit was performed on this stage. I was one of the men who beat up the good Samaritan. I remember wanting to be a larger role (of course) but I couldn’t make the commitment because I worked often at CVS. I remember coming to one of the rehearsals on my lunch break even.

The Good Samaritan cast, one being my friend, Courtney

When I turned 18, I started going to the Singles Ward. At one of my first (or even my first) activities, we divided into groups and acted out different stories from the Bible. My group got the story of Hannah, Eli and Samuel. I  honestly and surprisingly don’t remember who I played. I do remember that my good friend, Shelly, was Hannah, and that Frank, who I met that night and was the first person I ever fell in love with (see the phone story), played Eli.

Also while I was in the Singles ward, we did a talent show. I was fresh out of high school and still in my actress mode. I not only sang, I did a monologue before my song (that I think I made up), and I did it in costume. What did I sing? My favorite musical at the time was The Scarlet Pimpernel. I am pretty sure I sang “I’ll Forget You,” and I even did it acapella. Yeah, I am pretty embarrassed by that now. I went a little overboard.

The stage was also a fun place to take pictures with good friends.

Kate Reynolds, me, and Shelly Witt

The water fountain and bathrooms.

It might seem silly to have a picture of this little area, but when you have church for three hours each week, you are bound to stop by the bathroom and/or water fountain. Many good conversations with friends (I am recalling one with my friend, Becca) would happen right there. 

The bathroom mirror.
I would spend a lot of time fixing my hair and lipstick in this mirror, either so the boys wouldn’t have any reason to make fun of me, or so I would look extra good for the boys at the dances or activities.

On a more serious note, I remember one day getting to church late when I was a teenager. I ran into the bathroom, trying to fix my hair. I had bangs then, and because of standing in the rain, they had parted down the middle awkwardly, and started to curl in random places. That had been a scary morning. My Nana and Granddad had picked my siblings and me up for church. There was a sharp curve not long after turning right out of my neighborhood. A car was driving in our lane, so my Nana moved into the left lane to avoid hitting the person, while at the same time the other driver moved back into his lane. That resulted in us driving into someone’s front yard. My Granddad, who was in early stages of Alzheimer’s, was pretty shaken up. I can still hear him crying out “Oh, oh” in worry. That was a sad day, but we were all okay.

A fun memory of the bathroom was when I brought a whole bunch of costumes (many of them being my mom’s dresses from the 70s) to the church for the young women to try on so we could all get our pictures taken by a wonderful photographer in the ward, Brother Clay. We all had to make sure we looked beautiful in the mirror before we got our pictures taken.

My little glamour shot. 

The changing table.

This is kind of a weird thing to have a memory about. However, the young women always used that table, and the area underneath, to store their purses for dances. I can remember girls always being crowded around that area to grab their brushes or powder to fix themselves up after dancing too hard and getting sweaty.

The phone with the insanely long cord.

That long corded phone is still there after all these years, and is the hallway just yonder of the bathrooms. I don’t have any stories about it, other than maybe calling a guy I was crazy about, Frank, who didn’t show up for a Singles activity. It was always in my view, though, for years as I wandered the halls of my church. Occasionally it would ring, and people passing would be confused, not knowing whether to answer it or not.  We didn’t get callers often.
The kitchen

This was a really fun room. When I was in Young Women’s, we would do a lot of activities in here. Imagine a bunch of girls together in one kitchen talking, laughing, and baking all at the same time. I remember decorating gingerbread houses once. We also did candy-making, and even served food for the ladies in the Relief Society when they had dinners.

The Relief Society Room
Everything looked the same to me when I peered in that Sunday.  I spent a lot of time being spiritually uplifted in that room as an early adult. We had Sunday School and Relief Society in there. I remember one Sunday sitting next to Frank, that boy I was head over heels for. I tried to get him to hold my hand, and he refused. He said, “Not a chance.” A little background information is that he and I were dating, but he would not show any affection in public.I didn’t like that much.
Going back a few years, as an 11-year-old, I remember having a daddy-daughter dance in this room. I had made a t-shirt for my dad that said “Really Cool Dadn’t.” My dad used to say things, and then say “Unt” after it to show that he was kidding. I didn’t know how to spell it then, so I did it as a contraction. That was a really fun night with my dad.

We always did our Activity Days in this room from age 8-11. The daddy-daughter dance wasn’t the only fun activity we did. I also remember one time learning how to do Spanish dances in big skirts from Sister Alarcon, and there were many other good times.  

The Young Women always had their New Beginnings nights and Night in Excellence nights in this room too. These nights were for reviewing our values, displaying our accomplishments, eating good food, and dressing up nice with our parents. 

A lot of other activities would happen in this room  when I was a single adult, like crocheting lessons (I still can’t crochet after going to a bunch of these type lessons) and Pictionary. 
The Relief Society piano
This piano is special to me because my first calling (church responsibility) I ever had as an adult was being the Relief Society pianist. I remember playing prelude before class started. More than once our Relief Society president would tell me to play more quietly. That was hard for me because I loved playing the hymns. One funny memory I have was of playing the introduction to “The Spirit of God.” I love playing that song, so I played the introduction way faster than we would ever be able to sing it. The chorister chuckled and said she would try to lead the song that fast. Everyone had a good laugh over that. I did too, while my face got really red. 

One other memory I have of this piano is watching my good friend, Jared, play by ear. He had been called to be a pianist for another group, and he told me that he couldn’t even play the piano. He and I always had great conversations.
The random water fountain.
I don’t remember why seeing this water fountain again made me chuckle and smile, but it did. It must have significance. 🙂
Jad and Rigel in the church hallway.
It was so cool to have my husband and children walk the same halls I did for so many years.

I really do love this church building. I hope I can visit more than once ever decade or so. It will always hold some of my most cherished childhood memories. 

The church has grown a lot since then, so many of the people I went to church with on Bailey Bridge Road attend a different church building now. When I visited that Sunday, I actually only recognized a few people, like the Crowthers, who were an important part of my youth. 

For those of you I grew up with, or became a young single adult with, I miss you. I hope you all are well and happy. Much love!

Thank you for sharing!

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