Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get To Know Your Ward Members: Charlene Parmenter



by Bishop Higgins (bio)


The name's Charlene. Charlene Parmenter. Just moved into the ward about four months ago into the old Forsgren home. Funny, when I walked through with the realtor, I didn't remember it having this smell. So when I come to church smelling like gerbils, you'll know the reason why.

I'm not married, now, but I used to be. Married twice, actually. My first husband and I opened a store in Santa Barbara back in the 70's called "Classy Gal." We sold women's dresses and custom fitted braziers. My husband left me for my sister and they opened up a shop just down the street called "Sassy Gal," which is good they changed the name, because there wasn't anything classy about the two of them, although my husband did have a mustache. His name was Gordon and I know I shouldn't say anything bad about him, but he had large bumps on the back of his head and I felt like, shallow as it may be, those bumps kept me from truly loving him.

My next husband was a wonderful man. Much shorter than me, but I felt like finding a man to marry that was 5 feet one inch tall was like finding a four leaf clover or a good parking spot at a busy sporting event. He treated me like a lady. Unfortunately, he treated himself like a lady, too, and we parted ways.

Through this, I kept the Classy Gal store running. One day a woman came in for a pretty yellow sun dress and invited me to go to church with her. Told me she was a Mormon. Now of course I'd heard of Mormons, but I didn't know much about them. Truth be told, I kept confusing them with both the Amish and the Mennonites and the fact that this lady had a beard didn't help that mix-up. I didn't have much going on that particular Sunday so I agreed to go with her. I'd heard about these churches that have a Sunday brunch after their service and I was hoping the Mormons held just that sort of gathering. Casseroles or a potato bar is what I was hoping for. I do love a good potato bar. Who doesn't, really.

Well, there wasn't a meal, as I'm sure you could have guessed. But I did find going to church strangely appealing in a way I'd never felt before. People were nice to each other and seemed to genuinely care about what was going on in the other person's life. During the congregational hymn, people with absolutely terrible voices sang along those with decent voices, and yet no one laughed or pointed a finger at the awful singers to say, "Ha ha. You sound like a frog that's trying to play the trombone."

Funny thing about all of that is I didn't go back to church for another three years. I got busy with the store and decided to open up three more Classy Gal stores. Bette Davis was one of my best customers. So was Faye Dunaway and Barbara Eden. Goldie Hawn and Tippi Hedren. Still, I felt something was missing. Turns out, something was missing. My keys. For weeks on end I slept in the store because I'd lost my keys and had no way of locking up. And yet, something else was missing. One Sunday afternoon I drove past the Mormon church where I'd first attended three years earlier. The building had been sold and turned into a Mexican Restaurant. What the heck, I was already there, so I went inside and had Chili Relleno. I asked the lady at the cash register if she knew what happened to the Mormons that used to meet in that building. She told me where the new building was located and after I had my Chili Relleno and an after-dinner mint I tried to find the place.

I went in just in time, as it was minutes before the meeting was about to start. The lady that invited me three years earlier saw me and came to say hello. "Oh, I'm so glad you're alive" she said. "I heard you were in an iron lung for a while, then passed away. Oh, I'm so glad you're still alive." It was clear she had no idea who I was. I decided I wouldn't tell her.

A few months later I was baptized, opened a few more Classy Gal stores and had a pretty good life for a while. But for some reason I felt like I should move to Utah. I don't know why I'm here and now I smell like gerbils. But I have faith that I'm here for a reason, and that reason will present itself one way or another.

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