It’s General Conference weekend for members of the Mormon church. This happens twice a year, and gives anyone who is interested the chance to listen to talks by the president of the church and members of the council of twelve apostles, as well as other general leaders of the church. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs, crowds of people converge on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and the conference center fills up the 21,200 seats of its largest auditorium. Exciting as all this is, the most memorable parts for my youngest son (we’ll call him Ninja) are that we move the couch, and we go out to eat.
In bygone days if you wanted to attend the conference, you hitched your team up to your wagon and headed for Salt Lake City. Years passed, and it became possible to hear the proceedings via radio or television, if you lived in a place where your radio and television stations thought it worth their while to provide. LDS meeting houses throughout the world generally have satellite dishes that allow them to receive the broadcasts for viewing at the chapel. And for several years it has been possible to watch the conference on the internet.
At our house the computer in the foyer has a reasonable screen and enough space around it to accommodate the family, so that is where we gather. We haul the love seat from the living room into the foyer, pull up some other chairs, gather supplies for topic bingo for Ninja (a cup of cheerios or peanuts or chocolate chips and a board on which squares feature words we’re likely to hear something about: Jesus, prayer, families, temple, faith, prophets, scriptures, love, service, etc.), knitting and crocheting supplies, and snacks. For the last few years this weekend has been the designated time to rotate the snacks in our emergency kits (the sort of Go Bag you’d grab if there were a tornado warning and you had to leave in a hurry), so there is likely to be a basket brimming with 6 month old granola bars.
Why is moving the couch such a highlight? Maybe it’s the same reason that building a fort out of blankets and chairs is irresistible to kids. I just know that you can’t always predict the thing that they’re going to like most. Many years ago when our oldest daughter was about 2 we went to the Philadelphia zoo. In front of the gorilla enclosure with the option to ogle the large primates, she was entirely focused on the trash can off to the side, with one of those swinging lids that you can hit and it will flip in a circle. I imagine it would come as a disappointment to any of the hundreds of people involved in all the technical work of making the broadcast of General Conference available to learn that moving the couch trumps anything that Ninja sees on the screen. I don’t imagine the prophet would be disappointed–he’s got a sense of humor, and likes young kids a lot. He would probably understand.
The eating-out part, Ninja’s other favorite thing, began several years ago when my parents were living not too far from us. My dad decided we ought to go out to a local sandwich shop after the second conference session on Saturday evening, and so began the tradition. It’s not a fancy place, but we go out to eat so rarely that it became an event for our children. We can’t go to that sandwich shop here in Valencia, but you can’t swing a fallas bandana around here without hitting a restaurant, so we knew we could find something that would work.
Though we’ve had our eye on an Indian restaurant for a while, going out for Chinese food was the compromise we arrived at today. The restaurant is about a block and a half from our house, has on one wall a very cool sort of bas relief sculpture of the Great Wall of China, complete with slabs of slate forming cliffs along its length, and, we were sad to learn, indifferent food. We were the first ones there, which made us a little concerned, but it was probably due to the hour. We got there close to 1 pm. A lot of people had arrived by around 2 o’clock, which I assume is why it took forever to get the check. Long after we had finished eating, but long before our check arrived, we watched a family with a few young kids walk in carrying a baby seat and a basketball backboard and net. Their young daughter carried the basketball. It seemed like things might get interesting, but at that point I excused myself to go home to hang up a waiting load of clean laundry. When the rest of the family finally got home, they didn’t mention getting to see a game, so maybe decorum was preserved.
Our Valencia apartment has two couches in the living room. The only computers we have are laptops, quite portable themselves, but you can bet we’re going to move one of the couches anyway. We know the importance of tradition.