This post is part one of what is a three-part series about the BIG fun we had at my cousin’s wedding in Birmingham, Alabama. Family weddings don’t get any better than this one, y’all.
We received the Save the Date for my cousin’s wedding in February, so it wasn’t like I had no idea I would be attending a wedding over Memorial Day weekend. I knew. I also knew I would need a new dress for both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. I knew. In February.
Weeks before the big day, Ginny told me I should go online and order, “like fifteen dresses and try them all on in the comfort of your own bedroom. Then, send back the ones you don’t want. I do it all the time. It’s so easy.” I thought about it for a day or two and decided to try it her way.
For those of us who choose to worship in small churches, at least those in southwest Georgia, our responsibilities are clearly defined. There are so few of us, we all have to do most everything. Like – everything.
At Elmodel Presbyterian, at the corner of Georgia Highway 37 and Jericho Road, each woman who so chooses, whether a member or not, signs up at the beginning of each year to be the Hostess for a Month. Don’t get too excited. There is no plaque, or honorable mention in the church bulletin, or even a special monogrammed apron for the said hostess.
Jamie introduced our boys to the empire that is the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) when Colin was about two years old. Jamie isn’t really a devotee, but when he realized the children didn’t know who Andre the Giant was, he recognized the opportunity for education.
One Easter we took the boys to “big church” in Albany. I was a little nervous. This wasn’t our little country church. It was a fancy church with real liturgical colors and banners and a big choir and microphones. The Easter prelude that morning began with the pipe organ’s deep, full-throated bellow of a long, triumphant chord. Colin, who was three, with wide, excited eyes loudly whispered, “MAMA! It’s the Undertaker! He’s here!!”
I take showers in the mornings, a foggy stumble into the bathroom for a quick in-and-out of a hot shower and hair washing. In high school, I took a bath just before bedtime and had enough time for a little ritual.
Balancing my little black boombox with a cassette player on the towel rack, I’d put in a mixtape, fill the bathtub with hot water, and soak. Then, right before I got out of the tub, I’d slide down under the water, my hair floating around my head, knobby knees pointed to the ceiling. Underwater, the music sounded muffled and warped. I’d stay as long as I could stand it, and then I’d pop back up, and wash my wet hair under the faucet. Stepping out of the tub, my skin pink from the hot water, I’d dry my hair, put on my pj’s and climb in bed. It was a moment of calm and relaxation in what I considered a tumultuous senior year.
When I was teaching, there was a pervasive theory that if it hadn’t been taught by Spring Break, it would not be learned at all.
I suppose this theory is based on the fact that we have more in common with the animal world than we recognize. For it is in spring when animals wake from their long hibernations. Trees and flowers bud and bloom. The sun shines warmer and beckons all to come outside and sit awhile in longer days and pleasant evenings.
Children sense this change, too, and rush outside barefoot, playing into the chill of the evening, and only then coming inside with flushed cheeks and cold hands. There is expectancy in their faces. They know the restorative power of the changing seasons. They feel youth so deeply in their bones that they don’t recognize it until they get older and notice its absence.
Once when I was working a temp job in LaGrange, a co-worker remarked that my childhood sounded like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. He was right. It really was. Mama and Daddy did everything they could to make it so.
In the field adjacent to Nanny and Pops’ yard was a fire-tower manned by Mrs. Irma Collins. Miss Irma climbed the seemingly innumerable flights of stairs up to the tiptop of the tower, where she watched, mostly in the late spring and early summer, for forest fires. She carried a small cooler with her lunch inside and not much else. It was rare that she came down from the fire-tower until time to go home.
Trucks run awfully fast on the highway that separates our house from Nanny and Pops’. So, most of the time, Mama would walk me to the road where Pops would be waiting on the other side. If Miss Irma was working in the fire-tower though, I was allowed to cross the highway by myself, only after calling to her as a lookout.
Standing on the edge of our yard, I’d call up to the little office at the top of the tower, “MISS IRMA? MISS IRRRMMMAAAA??” She’d stick her head out the window, look up and down the highway for me and shout back, “Go ahead Little Un.” I’d run across the road to Pops waiting on the swing in the front yard.
Admittedly, it was a charmed life.
When I was teaching high school English literature, I tried to make the pieces we were studying together relevant – especially Shakespeare.
A quick rundown of the plot of “Romeo and Juliet”: an impetuous teenage boy falls in love with a teenage girl at a masquerade ball. It is only after they have fallen in love that they realize their parents are engaged in a generations-long feud. A feud so serious that on the day the play begins, the Prince declares the next person from either family to disturb the peace of the community with their senseless feud will be executed. Of course, as is typical of Shakespeare, multiple tragedies ensue shortly thereafter.
The back-to-school honeymoon we enjoyed in those fresh-faced few weeks of summer is clearly over. We are swimming in the deep-end now. We are in full-on homework agony. The scheduling squeezes of after-school clubs are putting a vice-grip squeeze on us now. The once sparkly-new, back-to-school tennis shoes have turned into worn-down stinkers that fill the mudroom with an aroma worthy of a Febreeze commercial.
Once the bridges were reopened in the early morning of September 12th, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove back to our little apartment in Alexandria. Lying in Jamie’s arms in our little bed, in our little apartment so far away from home, I whispered, “I just want to go home. Can’t we go home?” He answered back in the dark, “We aren’t going to let this change us, Elizabeth. This is our home. No matter what, we aren’t going to let it be taken from us. We cannot be afraid.”
I knew he was right, but I was afraid.
After Ginny and I were born, Daddy gave himself completely over to loving us, “his girls.” Daddy is a tough disciplinarian for sure, but we were never too old to be close. Even still, we sit close on the couch, his hand on the back of our heads. We hug each other hello and goodbye. Sometimes, we hold hands on the front porch swing.
Ginny and I used to tease Daddy about being overprotective. We didn’t understand why he would spend time thinking through the worst that could happen in any given scenario. We’ve decided it is likely a healthy combination of both genetics and the thirty-two years he spent as a probation officer.