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.
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.
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.
This morning at 11:30, I sauntered into our office cafeteria like a gunslinger in a Technicolor Western walks into a saloon: hot and dusty, spurs jangling, a band of sweat around my cowboy hat. I wasn’t kidding when I ordered my bourbon and Coke, but Miss Lucy thought I was and looked over her readers and teased, “Girl, do I need to call HR, or are you ok?”
If Miss Lucy had slid my 20oz. bottled cherry Coke down the counter, I’d have caught it one-handed. It had already been a long day. The kind of day that makes you start second guessing major life choices. The kind of day that allows that mean voice in your head to start hissing ugliness. The kind of day that makes you order bourbon and Coke at the workplace cafeteria.
When I was a little girl, Mama cleaned house by first opening all the windows to “air things out and let the sunshine in.” Then, she put a Broadway soundtrack on the record player.
I was of the age that chores were fun and helping Mama made me feel accomplished. She taught me how to starch and iron the dishcloths and pillowcases. Sometimes, she would let me wash the hairbrushes. I remember only bits and pieces of those days: how water would flick up into my face when I washed her round brown hairbrush or Daddy’s turquoise one with salt-and-pepper bristles, how the hot soapy water made the kitchen smell, the squeak of the bathroom mirror as I wiped it clean with newspaper wet with vinegar and water. I remember curtains catching a breeze and billowing out into the room.