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.
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.
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.
Just like nearly every other woman I know, tonight after I got home from my full-time job, I started my second full-time job. On this particular evening, in addition to the typical routine: supper prep, supper clean-up, laundry, and homework assistance, I also peeled 8 pounds of russet baking potatoes.
Loaded baked potato casserole is one of the essential side items requested for Colin’s birthday dinner. The menu also includes fish sticks with honey mustard on the side, steamed broccoli with homemade cheese sauce and something he calls ranch salad. The recipe for ranch salad for those who are curious: chopped iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing, and croutons. For dessert, he’s asked for a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I’ve got this.
Every now and then when Ginny and I still lived at home, Mama got a wild hair to clean out the tin house behind Nanny and Pops’ house. We didn’t have an attic, so we stored all the flotsam and jetsam of our lives in the tin house. At any given time the tin house stored: assorted Christmas decorations, a table and chair set Mama and Daddy had when they first married, some steamer trunks full of baby clothes. There were a couple of shelves for books, some records, and magazines. Always there were cardboard boxes of different size and shape. Daddy also kept old tax records and used checkbook stubs in nondescript black trash bags for safe-keeping. That’s right, safekeeping.
Cleaning out the tin house meant we dedicated an entire Saturday in the fall to hauling everything out into Nanny’s backyard so we could clean the inside of the storage house first. Then, we made a burn pile in an old rusty barrel and sorted treasure into four piles: dump, burn, dust and put back. I hated those days. It usually took us approximately forever to finish.
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.
Things were getting better. The initial shock was wearing off, and folks were busy with clean up, insurance, estimates, adjusters, livestock, crop evaluations. There was still no power, but we were all making do. It’s amazing how clean you can get with a bottle of water and a washcloth.
Out at Mama and Daddy’s the “Little House on the Prairie” camp was working so well, they reported they “lacked for nothing.” A friend had come by with a chainsaw and made fast work of the few trees still down, doing in 30 minutes what was taking hours for us to do with a band-saw and a hatchet. Now, Daddy’s primary concern was the pecan tree balanced on top of the gas tank in the backyard. “What if it explodes?” I asked. “Well, I guess we’ll find out,” he answered.
After settling the boys on the air-mattress beside our bed, I opened the windows in our bedroom for some fresh air. It was still raining, but the gusts were less frequent. Dark as pitch, I couldn’t tell how much damage had been done but knew when dawn broke things would be different.
After a while, it was cool in the bedroom. Paisley sat at the foot of our bed, something he is never allowed to do, but he knew something was different. His chin rested on his salt-and-pepper front paws that stretched out in front of him, but his ears stood at attention, guarding us.
Most of the time, Mama and Daddy answered endless questions from Ginny and me with thoughtful, thorough answers. There was nothing we couldn’t ask that they wouldn’t try to explain.
However, when I complained about the fact that something was unfair, Daddy’s favorite answer was, “When you meet fair in the road, come get me.” I squinted my eyes, wrinkled my nose, and let my mouth gape, not daring to respond with the bordering on disrespectful, “Huh?” His answer made as much sense to me as, “If you don’t quit crying, I will give you something to cry about.”
Everyone has a sacred space. A place that allows time for quiet and adjustment, a reset, a place to listen for God. It’s a deeply personal space and can be found almost anywhere: a bedroom, broom closet, inside the car on a morning commute. Some can even create space in their own minds, no matter where they are. Folks around here will tell you they find God on tractors, in gardens or front porches, even deer stands. One of my students wrote once about finding God in a duck blind on Christmas Eve morning when misty fog still covered the lake.
My sacred space is our century-old country church, the actual, physical building. Theologians warn that church buildings should not be so important in the life of a Christian. A valid argument is made that the church universal – a living, breathing congregation of like-minded people – is more important than a physical space. I understand the point and I agree; however, I also believe both can be true, especially in Elmodel.