Family, History and Love

Wanda and I have been discussing, of late, the need to set down in writing some portion of our family history so that in the future our children and grandchildren will have the stories and tales of our lives direct from the source. The technophile that I am, I choose to do this online so that the what we write will be accessible and available for comment to our wider family (though I reserve the right to moderate those comments).

To that end, I have repurposed this blog. In coming posts, we will endeavor to provide an abridged story of our life (hey, everyone has their secrets). We're writing this for our children and their children and those that come later so elements of these tales will be familiar only to our family,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Beginning

When Wanda suggested this endeavor (writing stories about our family and our life), I wasn't sure what form it would take. A chronological narrative would be boring to say the least, and I sure didn't want to spend hours writing something that would never get read. Additionally, I wanted to write tales that could be illustrated with images, if not of the tale itself, with images as least marginally related to the events described. My prose tends to be stiff, almost formal, and I guess that comes from years of writing technical procedures, business letters, and other engineering or project related documents. When I tell a story, however, I am much more relaxed and use more vernacular to spin the yarn. I can't say that I'll be able to write like that here, but I'll try not to be so formal and I'll definitely attempt to keep your interest.

In any case, I should like to start this series of narratives with the tale of how I met my wife.  In late 1972, my dad decided we should try a new church. Dad is a "preacher" in what he thinks is the only true religion—that being anything that wasn't associated with the Southern Baptists, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Mormons, or any other major Christian sect. I guess he most closely identifies with the Pentecostals in that he believes in "speaking in tongues," no shorts for women, and "spare the rod, spoil the child."

As I recall, we went to a lot of different churches over the years as he looked for a place where he could fit in with the congregation. Typically, he'd join a church for a few months or years then something would happen or someone would express a belief that he didn't share and he would go looking for another place of worship. Most times, we (his children) weren't given a choice as to whether we would attend or not. That's just how it was.

The structure in 2010 - now it's a store
So, in the early fall of 1972, my dad took us to a church on Bright Star Road in Douglasville, Georgia. I believe the name of the church at that time was Bright Star Old Gospel church or something like that. The church structure itself was a long, single story, white building that obviously used to be a warehouse, a feed store or some other industrial building. This was quite typical of the various churches we used to attend. The structure had a concrete porch that ran the length of the building, rusted metal poles that held up the porch roof, and a narrow, dirt parking lot that, like the building itself, ran parallel to the road.

I was always pretty nervous about going to new churches. In those days, I was pretty good at playing the piano, especially the gospel music the congregations loved to belt out as loudly and as off-key as they could during the service. My dad made sure I started piano lessons at age 6 and by age 15, I was a decent pianist. Well, I was good enough to accompany him on the piano while he sang for the church - that was the main reason I was brought along. Of course, playing meant getting up in front of all those strangers whether I wanted to or not, but eventually, this simply became routine for me.

Nonetheless, it was a new church, full of new faces, though dad did tell us that we would have some distant relatives there. I recall riding up to the church in my dad's "new" car, a bright yellow, Plymouth Roadrunner. We parked on the narrow strip of dirt, got out of the car, and went up on the porch where all the adults and elders had gathered. I can't remember if it was just me and my sister with my dad that night, or if my younger brothers were there as well, but I do remember it was still hot and muggy, and the cigarette smoke hung in the humid air and swirled around the small crowd as they puffed and gossiped for the requisite 20 minutes before the service. They would do it again after church let out, but it would be cooler then, and I could go sit in the car to avoid all the smoke and talk.

I think it was because of the smoke I decided to go on into the building without my dad. I opened the doors and looked for an open bench near the back, though I knew I wouldn't get to sit there. Dad would always insist on sitting near the front and we would have to sit with him.  I was fifteen at the time, and as anyone who has ever been a 15 year old boy would know, I was looking for the girls who were there. There was only one that I remember. There may have been a dozen or more, but I only remember one.

She was in the back, far corner of the room. She had long, wavy brown hair, a pixie's face, and was a tiny thing. She was with a little boy, obviously her brother, and was talking to some other kids when I walked through the door. I looked back at her and something about her struck me. I can't say what it was. I can't tell you that it was love at first sight. I can't tell you what she was wearing and I can't tell you that a spark jumped between us. I can't tell you any of that. But I can tell you that I noticed her and I noticed her noticing me. And I think that we smiled at each other.

I don't remember much else about that night. But, as clear as yesterday, I remember seeing her.

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