I opened the wedding note from my father’s cousins. In memorable extended Mormon family fashion, they bestowed a blue hymnal with our names printed on its cover in silver. With it lay a Family Home Evening manual. I delighted in the prospect of having small children gathered around me and my husband as we read the stories of Sally and Jimmy, the ones from my childhood, and the difficult decisions they encountered in life, like whether or not to give back the extra change the cashier gave them by mistake; whether or not to cheat on that test; or whether or not to share the last apple with their little and troublesome brother, Peter.
But the stories weren’t there. I hadn’t realized my father made all those stories up. He had repeated them year after year for the youngest children as they joined our large family. My sister and I, bored from hearing about little Sally earning money and paying tithing for the third time, sat across the room from each other and played the game we often played, a contest to see who could flip the other off in the most discreet manner.
But I had little children now. My father’s stories were poignant. I wanted them. I didn’t have them. And so I headed out on a pursuit that would span a decade, collecting all the must-haves for any effective FHE lesson.
Whenever RS Enrichment classes offered FHE packets I was there, signing the top line. I gathered 3-ring binders full of lessons, not thin flimsy binders—the sturdy ones. I hoarded gospel-themed board books and collected various forms of Mormon kitsch.
Surfing on waves of nostalgia I raided my mother’s closets. I gathered books full of both bad and gruesome art, collected boxes of pictures, flannel board stories, books of poetry, ideas for object lessons and quotes of the most random kind, cut and pasted on 3 by 5 cards. I called dibs on the ward house library’s leftovers. I dove into our meager budget and purchased cardstock pictures from the Distribution Center and spent hours cutting them out. And just to be sure they would last three generations, I laminated them.
Every week my email inbox reminded me that it was Monday night and bellowed a pre-planned lesson. Every week I contemplated all the resources at my disposal, and debated making trees out of candy bars in the spirit of the forest where Enos prayed; until I finally learned what my father knew all along, making it up as you go is the only way to do it.
Please note this post is not a criticism of what other families may or may not use in their own Family Home Evening lessons. For me, less is more. What works for you? Is less, more? Have you ever gone overboard like me?