The Bolton Bunch: Faith, love, music constants for Craig family
December 17, 2011
Meet the Boltons …
• John Bolton, 43, Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School band director
• Teri Bolton, 41, substitute teacher in the Moffat County School District
• Sarah, 20, former University of Northern Colorado student
• Karen, 18, Colorado Northwestern Community College student
• Marie, 12, Craig Middle School seventh-grader
• Laura, 11, CMS sixth-grader
• Rachel, 8, Sunset Elementary School third-grader
• Carmen, 5, Sunset Elementary School kindergartener
• Bekah, 5, Sunset Elementary School kindergartener
Music is always playing somewhere in John and Teri Bolton's Craig home — faint, sometimes, but there nonetheless.
It drifts down the stairs into a cozy room where John, 43, and his wife, Teri, 41, are recalling their life together, with its allegros and adagios, its peaks and valleys.
It's barely audible when their seven daughters talk over each other, their voices melding like instruments in a symphony.
"Well, I was really good looking and kind of smart," John said, laughing, when asked what brought he and his wife together.
"He had big glasses," one of his daughters quipped. "… They were huge."
"Harry Potter glasses," another added.
But, music is a constant for the family, as real and present for the family as their bustling lives and at-times hectic schedules.
If you want to understand the Boltons and their children, who range in age from 5 to 20, music is the place to start.
It's how John and Teri met, shyly at first, at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
It's how John, Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School band director, earns a living for his family.
It's the language in which they voice their devotion in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It's as steady as their faith and commitment to each other.
And, on those rare occasions when the house falls quiet from the chatter and activities, the music plays on, a soundtrack in the background of life.
The Bolton family story starts around October 1989.
The romance began in band — in the wind ensemble, to be exact. John sat directly behind Teri.
Teri asked the question — one where many stories find their beginning — that fall.
"So," she said, "when are you going to ask me to marry you?"
About a month later, John made it official with a ring and a proposal. They married in June 1990, and later began thinking about children.
Although John and Teri had come from relatively large families — she is the second of 10 children, he the oldest of four — agreeing to have even one child was "a hard sell," John said.
The thought of having a large family was even more remote.
"We were poor and our upbringings had been tough and so we were just a little gun shy about big families," he said.
Besides, John was a "loner" in school, he said, a man who shied away from crowds.
Music — both directing it and playing it — helped him gradually learn how to function within a bigger framework than only himself.
"I've had to concentrate on a lot of other people for a long time now," he said.
After Sarah, now 20, came along, the thought of having another child came easier.
The next arrival in the Bolton family was Karen, now 18. Marie, 12, arrived six years later, followed by Laura, 11, Rachel, 8, and finally the twins, Carmen and Bekah, both 5.
Today, John is comfortable in his role as provider and patriarch of a large family. His voice can be firm, yet also quiet and kind. He's the calm center in a whirlwind of talk and laughter.
Yet a typical morning in the Bolton household — if anything about a family of nine could be considered typical — is anything but calm.
Teri, Sarah and Karen rise early to deliver their paper routes.
As the morning progresses, Teri and John work together to get the school-aged children ready for the day.
"The middle schoolers usually get themselves ready, maybe with a little prodding with a pokey stick," Teri said, laughing.
A rush follows — eating breakfast, brushing hair and teeth, and getting children's backpacks ready for school.
"It's kind of a whirlwind of activity," Teri said.
With seven girls in the house, time in the bathroom is a commodity.
"Use it before 6 or wait until 8," John said, reflecting on years of experience.
Planning around events outside the home is no less frantic.
When Teri, who has run and placed highly in several marathons, is training for the next event, the rest of the family steps in to fill gaps.
"We all were home to make sure to watch with kids and help with dinner so that she could go away and just be with the wind … and run," Sarah said.
When John and Teri were asked to perform as Rev. Shaw Moore and his wife, Vi, respectively, in the Moffat County High School musical "Footloose" this year, Teri sought the commitment of her whole family before they agreed to the roles.
"It's like a family effort," she said. "It takes our whole family to allow each member to participate in those kind of extracurricular things."
Karen likened life in the Bolton home to a theater. The actors must choreograph their movements and know where the other performers are on stage.
Sarah put it more succinctly.
"It's like the Bolton family musical," she said.
Consider, for a moment, a well-composed piece of music.
The tempo quickens to a galloping pace, then slows, allowing for a more pensive state.
In some places, the notes climb to new heights, clear arias. In others, though, the music descends into deeper valleys.
As it is in music, so it can be in the Bolton household.
Teri and John come from "tough family situations," he said.
"We've made a determination at the very beginning that … we didn't have options for the D-word," he said.
"And it's been hard. I'm sure there's been times in our marriage where the thought did cross our mind very loudly that this is just too hard."
But, they remained true to their commitment, he said, because they consider their family and marriage to be "fragile" and rare.
"Not that we're better than anybody," John said. "We just see that … what we have is a special thing, and not everybody got the benefit of having that in their home."
Hearing John speak of the family bond evokes strong emotions in Teri.
"Bekah, get Mommy a Kleenex," John whispers as Teri's eyes fill with tears.
She's thinking about who she was before John and before
"I was kind of this little spoiled girl," she said. "And, I think I grew up and started heading out to college pretty selfish.
"At times now, I look after having all these children, and just giving and sacrificing so much for my family — it's become my passion."
Teri grapples sometimes with finding a balance and tending to her own needs as well as her family's, she said.
Through it all, though — the allegros and adagios, the peaks and valleys — love, commitment and faith remain constant.
"I have just learned just deep, deep love," Teri said.
You can hear it now, those tender notes.
"I didn't know you could love so many people," she said, the words pushing through soft tears and laughter, both evidence of enduring and lasting love.
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