Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Serve me up a Porky Pig Platter Please!

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Recently I was asked to judge a Barbecue Cook Off for the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson – an outreach center which assists those in the community that need a helping hand.  It was an honor as I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to that delectable dish.     Barbecue means different things to different people.  To some folks chicken, beef, lamb, and an assortment of other creatures can be barbecued on the grill.  But to a real southerner, Barbecue has one meaning – pulled or chopped pork pit-cooked slowly, typically 16-18 hours, over hickory coals served up Eastern Style with a sauce of vinegar and peppers or mustard based.

No Porky Pig sandwich or plate is complete without fresh hush puppies, Cole slaw, and topped off with Banana Pudding.  When I was a little boy growing up in Rock Hill, my father, grandfather, and a South Carolina House of Representatives member by the name of George Petty used to attend most of the South Carolina football and basketball games. Win or lose, we found our way to Maurice Bessinger’s Piggie Park in Columbia for a Big Joe for the men and a Little Joe for myself and a couple of hush puppies for good measure.

My father, a USC graduate, spent many a day pouring over his studies with a plate of ribs, a side of slaw, and onion rings.  Sometimes he ordered the rice with hash, another great dish!  Rare do I tailgate for today’s Carolina Games without stopping by Bessinger’s.  I admit to an occasional run by Bojangles for Fried Chicken, but nothing says Carolina football more than a round of Big Joe Porky Pig Sandwiches and a gallon of sweet ice tea.  Yes, there are cocktails involved but it is simply not proper etiquette to drink your whiskey before a bowl of “Nanna Pudding” made with real Nilla Vanilla Wafers.  I once had someone try to sneak a Nanna Puddin’ by me made with those low fat off brands like Keebler.  I can tell the difference blindfolded, standing on my head, with a plethora of Gamecock Cheerleaders walking by – “Go Cocks!” 

Go Cocks!

Go Cocks!

When I was a chamber executive in the Low Country of South Carolina, I spent many a Friday lunch at Sweatman’s in Holly Hill.  Their mustard-based barbecue melted in your mouth – yum! In 1992, I was elected President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and it was tradition for the National President to host a cookout for the National Officers and headquarters staff.  I flew out gallons of Bessinger’s Barbecue from their Flying Pig service.  It was an experience those folks from Tulsa was sure not to forget.  I have to give credit where credit is due – it was my wife Melissa’s idea and it was a sure fired hit!

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

My Great Grandmamma Rosie Lee Feemster, whose granddaddy was Robert Byrd Lee, Robert E. Lee’s fifth cousin once removed, once told me the War of Northern Aggression or the Late Unpleasantness as her generation called it was fought because Union General Winfield Scott tried to steal Jeff Davis’s barbecue sauce recipe.  Scott, who was big as a house, didn’t fight in the war because he couldn’t mount his horse. Lincoln, rather than apologize for trying to snitch a southern dish, antagonized the Citdael boys until fed up with the Yankee chicanery, they fired off that damn cannon and started a war.  Who was I to argue with Great Grandmamma Lee!

Bessinger's Piggie Park

Bessinger's Piggie Park

So how can you tell a good Barbecue joint?  Well if they have quiche or a soufflé of some type, get the hell out of dodge.  Any good Barbecue House is going to have the green or red plaid vinyl tablecloths strategically placed on a picnic table or bench.  Shealy’s Bar-B-Que House in Leesville South Carolina even has a washing station (sink) on the wall as you wait in line.  No self respecting southerner would eat his hush puppies with soiled fingers!  If there is a picture of Jesus, Ronald Reagan, and Robert E. Lee – the Holy Trinity – on the wall, chances are it’s good pork.  A dead give away is a plump waitress or rotund cook in the back.  If they’re skinny – leave.  If they don’t eat it – you don’t want it either.

The North might have won the war, but as far as I’m concerned they can keep their beer and brats.  Give me a few ribs, a plate of pulled pork, and a side of hash and I’m a happy camper.  Throw in the hush puppies and bring on the puddin’ or pie.  Whether its peach cobbler or a slice of pecan pie – I’m in heaven, my oh my!

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August 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | 2 Comments

Lula Bell

Lula hiding from the camera - Garden City Beach trip 1975

Lula hiding from the camera - Garden City Beach trip 1975

Recently I was going through old family photographs when I stumbled upon a picture of a lady who used to help my mom, and before that, my grandmother with their housekeeping.  To say she was merely a housekeeper would be completely disingenuous.  When my aunt was a little girl, an African American lady named Lula Bell Wilson helped my Grandmother Russell around the house and kept my Aunt Terry until my grandparents arrived back home from work.

When I was three years old, I was by all accounts a precocious little tyke.  There is a good reason why my mom waited seven years to have another child.  My mom was almost a nervous wreck when my grandmother suggested strong reinforcements in the guise of Lula Bell.  Mama has always told me I had a difficult time pronouncing Lula’s name and instead called her “Wuda Bell.”  For the next six years, Lula kept me during the day while Mom and Dad were at work.  While I’m sure that many of the values and beliefs that I cherish today were no doubt passed on to me by my parents, I have no doubt that Lula herself also had a profound impact in shaping my world.

While I sometimes have difficulty remembering what I did last week, I can recall with clarity sitting out in the back yard with bologna sandwiches Lula had made us or walks up to the ice cream shop, roughly a mile round trip from our house on Carey Drive.  Mom said Lula would often pay for the ice cream cones out of her own pocket.  I was after all – her little boy.    I suppose it’s because of the time I spent with Lula that I’ve always had such difficulty seeing the contrast between black and white.  The differences between races, between those who have and those who have not have always been blurred for me.

Exchanging gifts with JCI Japan National President - 1993

Exchanging gifts with JCI Japan National President - 1993

In 1994, I had the chance to attend the Junior Chamber International Japan  Academy with students from approximately 80 countries. Over the next two years I would serve Junior Chamber International as General Legal Counsel and then Treasurer, traveling into Japan, Korea, Central America, and Eastern Europe.  It was a rewarding experience sharing ideas and appreciating the diversity and customs of other cultures.

This month the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce launches the first of its Women and Minority Business Development programs.  This is an opportunity to engage the diverse population that makes up our region.  Our hope is to create programs that strengthen us as a region, to open doors of opportunity, and provide resources for our citizens to help them reach their potential.  After all, we are at our best when we help others achieve their dreams. 

This past Sunday, I traveled to Rock Hill to help my dad on the farm.  On the way back to Huntersville, I drove to our old home where I grew up as a child.  I parked the car and looked at the little house on Carey Drive.  I stood in the drizzling rain peering into the back yard, beyond the little fence, where Lula and I would sit and eat our sandwiches.    I can still hear her laughing at my many antics.  She would put her hand to her face and laugh with a sparkle in her eye.  To me Lula wasn’t a black woman or a white woman, she wasn’t well off or poor  – she was my Lula and I was her little boy.  While she has passed on now, her laughter still warms my soul.  The days we spent together, four decades later, are etched in the memories of my mind and through the eyes of a young boy I remember.

May 27, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things I can do without!

The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter

The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter

I just returned home from a regional transportation committee meeting which is about as much fun as watching a PBS documentary on the mating habits of the east Tennessee snail darter.  However, given the choice between the two, Rocky Top could be home sweet home to me.  I admit to being in a somewhat agitated mood as the notions of increased taxes, vehicular fees, and roundabouts do have a tendency to set me off at times.

I’m not real crazy about the roundabouts to begin with and Davidson (NC) has two of them.  My 350Z always gets a little loose going around turn three and I want to automatically pull into that gas station there at exit thirty and get a wedge adjustment before I get to that next roundabout.

To compound my anxiety, I get home and heat up a plate of left over spaghetti and make a salad to find that the salad dressing in the pantry is Thousand Island Low Fat.  Now given I am really the only one who does the grocery shopping around here, I have to assume I purchased said salad dressing.  I can’t blame the shopping on either of my two dearly departed ex-wives.  And, no, for those who don’t know my social history, the wives aren’t deceased they just departed. I know I have poor eye sight these days and I’m quite confident I wouldn’t purchase it on purpose.  I absolutely abhor low fat stuff.  I’ve a notion the Good Lord didn’t intend us to have low fat items or else he, or (she …who really knows) would not have made fattening items taste so good.

I did eat my spaghetti and picked at my salad.  Finally, determining I didn’t really need the salad – much too healthy in the first place.  Now I’m sitting here at my computer frustrated that I wasted however much I paid for the damn Thousand Island when I really don’t intend to eat another spoonful.  Come to think of it –there’s a great many things I really don’t care for.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say not like.  That’s pretty strong language and Lord knows I don’t want to offend said Salad Dressing or the people who purchase the stuff.  But here’s a list of things I could simply do without:

Fat free anything, particularly the offending salad dressing, cookies, ice cream, popsicles, and pudding.  I mean get real – deserts are supposed to have sugar.  It’s like the food law or something.  I also abhor this salt that has no salt taste.  Who thought up salt without the taste?  My mother is cooking with that stuff now.  She raised me on fried foods and gravy.  Today it’s no sugar, salt, fried foods, or caffeine.   Decaffeinated coffee?  Just who drinks brown water?  Makes no sense to me.  While we’re still on the foods: Ketchup based barbecue.  If you cannot fix it eastern or mustard style, just don’t

a Rutabaga

a Rutabaga

bother.  Rutabagas!  I’m not real sure what they are but I know ‘em when I smell ‘em. My mama used to cook those too back when she used salt and sugar.  Hated the things.  I always knew when my dad was out of town because the house smelled of rutabagas.

Enough on the food – ready for this – Democrats west of the Mississippi.  Surprise!  Okay, you got me.  I need to throw in north of the Mason Dixon line too.  There’s a few down south that I can tolerate.  I particularly don’t have much use for the ones from Nevada and California.  I think I’d rather be water boarded or go duck hunting with former Vice President Cheney than spend ten minutes listening to their drivel.

Northern tourists who wear knee high black socks with their sandals at Myrtle Beach.  Holy cow!  Who gave them their fashion sense?  My great great great grandfather William Beauregard Russell spent four years of his life during the war of Northern Aggression trying to protect the beaches of South Carolina from the oppressing Yankee hordes who attempted to walk down Ocean Drive wearing the aforementioned knee high black socks with the sandals.  My great great great granddaddy had two horses and three Red Cross nurses shot out from under him during that late unpleasantness trying to protect the sanctity of our beaches.

Reality shows – Somebody explain to me why anybody would want to spend an hour watching “some other dude sitting on their couch watching TV” in a reality show.  America needs to get a life.  And this Tweeter thing is just as bad.  Listen – I don’t care what you were doing five minutes ago and I really don’t care what you’re doing now.  Just let me know when you’ve changed the face of the world and done something someone else said couldn’t be done to make things better.  Then tell me about it.

Sunrise at South Beach

Sunrise at South Beach

Fortune tellers. Don’t have much use for them either. I remember wandering into a fortune teller’s front parlor down at South Beach in Miami about five years ago.  Her business was between Finnegan’s Pub and the Royal Palm Hotel.  I asked one simple question: what’s the point spread gonna be in the Duke game tonight when they were in the NCAA tournament a few years back.  She wanted me to pay her fifty bucks and read my palm.  I can assure you, the score wasn’t on my palm and fifty bucks was far more than I was gonna win on the bet to begin with.  Really have no use for fortune tellers.

I guess I need to quit whining.  Maybe it all makes sense to someone else.  Me, I’m gonna grab a little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie and a tall glass of whole milk and go to bed. I need the rest.  There’s another transportation meeting tomorrow.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment

The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along the way

It’s hard for me to believe but in less than six months, I hit the big “5-0”.  Wow!  So, here are a few of the gems I’ve had to learn the hard way. The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along life’s highway:

 

1. In any of my relationships, there have been highs and there have been lows and just one single high in each is greater than all the lows put together.

2. The worst truth is better than the very best lie.

3. In my Jaycee career, our local chapter in Rock Hill was recognized at the National Convention as the #1 Jaycee Chapter in the Number #1 Jaycee State (South Carolina) in America for two consecutive years in a row. That didn’t suck.

4. You cannot be successful standing on the sidelines watching the game of life played without you.

5. I’m not afraid of dying. I would be more afraid of never having fully lived. I have.

6. The most spectacular sight in the world is to see the sun rise on the horizon at South Beach (Miami). If you are a late riser, you can still see a spectacular sight at 2 pm out by the pool.

7. I was sixteen years old before I found out that Robert E. Lee was not the third member of the Holy Trinity.

8. The greatest reward for a person’s toil is not what they gain but what they become by doing it.

9. There was a couple of girls in high school whose kisses could make the world stop spinning. Congratulations to the men that married them.

10. Why is it easy to say “I do” and so damned difficult to say “I’m sorry”?

11. Dogs love you unconditionally. Cats are another story.

12. We could have saved a great deal of national anguish if Lee and Grant would have just stepped out the back of the tent and settled things. Give Ulysses a fifth or two and then just beat the crap out of him.

13. Dixie isn’t a black or white thing. It’s a state of mind. And if you don’t get it, you’re not from Dixie.

14. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But try explaining that to the dead guy’s family.

15. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. However, you can sure as hell make him wish he had.

16 Love what you do, do what you love, and deliver more than you promise – and my apologies to Gene Martin for stealing that line I’ve used for 20 years.

17 Anybody who does not think I’m patient did not sit with me in the stands at Williams Bryce for two years when the Cocks went 1 and 21 over two seasons.

18 We weren’t born racists.

19 The innocence of a child is God’s gift to humanity.

20 Speaking of God, I’m convinced he made me a Gamecock fan to keep me humble.

Go cocks!

Go cocks!

21 If there is a hell, and I believe there is, I would share it with 82,000 obnoxious fans dressed in purple and orange watching their team play for a national championship over and over for eternity. And did I mention that damn song? Go cocks!

22. Democrats believe government can solve any problem. Republicans believe people solve problems.

23. Those northern folks who always made fun of my accent are going to be real shocked when they get to heaven, and “She say’s ya’ll come on in.”

24. I’ve been a winner and I have been a loser. Trust me. Winning is a whole lot better. Coming in second sucks.

25. Some of us reach maturity faster than others. Some have maturity forced on them. And then there’s the rest of us that have to be whomped on top of the head.

26. If you are around long enough, bad things will happen to you. How you respond to those bad things reveal your character.

27. And when those bad things happen, remember – God never allows anything to happen that he (or she) does not expect you to be able to handle.

28. Life is a brief candle. Burn as brightly as possible and be thoroughly used up when you die.

29. Live life such that your friends and family say when you pass, “The Good Lord gave him the talents and abilities to change the face of the world – and he did.”

30. There was a elderly lady named Mrs. Trumbell who used to teach bible classes in second and third grade at Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill before the courts said we couldn’t have prayer in schools. She gave us all little red Bibles and recounted all the Old Testament stories that kept us in awe and made our imaginations race. God bless you Mrs.Trumbell.

31. Between Jeannie or Samantha – I’ll take Jeannie. That is if I can’t have both. And oh yeah, Mary Anne.

32. I cried when Dale won the Daytona 500. I wept again when he died there. And I still get tears in my eyes when I think about Junior going to the front six months later. Try and convince me God isn’t a NASCAR fan.

33. I’d love to have five minutes with Osama Bin Laden. I think God would forgive me.

34. I have always loved my mama, respected my daddy, and I sure miss my grandmamma Russell’s biscuits.

35. and I still believe the only limitations we have are those we place upon ourselves.

There endeth the lesson.

 

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The greatest fire starts with a single spark

The lifeblood of any community is its engaged citizenship.  The very character of a community is shaped by its contributions, generosity, and compassion demonstrated by the residents that live and businesses which operate there.  I grew up in a family where my mom was active as a volunteer for March of Dimes, the local PTA, and the Jaycee-ettes.  Dad was president of the Jaycees, Kiwanis, United Way, Red Cross…and the list goes on and on.

 

One thing that I have learned over the years is that very often the individuals who provide so much might often go unheralded.  However, their efforts are never unnoticed. We may have no idea who contributed their time and financial resources to improving our lot in life, but the contributions are felt none the less.

 

Not long ago I was reading the story of Edward Kimble.  Few of us have ever heard of Edward.  He was a shoe salesman.  He never ran for political office and never accumulated great wealth.  I guess you could say he was just an ordinary guy with an ordinary life.  So, what makes him so special?  He was a Sunday School teacher.

 

Edward worked hard selling shoes during the week and one day, trying to get ahead, hired a young assistant.  Edward shared with the young assistant his passion for Christ.  They began to read the Gospels together during breaks from their work.  The young assistant became inspired, professed his faith, and became a Christian.  His name was D.L. Moody and he became one of the most well known evangelists up to that point.

 

Moody later inspired another young man, Frederick Meyer, who as a result of the encounter, started a nationwide preaching ministry.  A young college student by the name of Wilbur Chapman accepted Christ into his heart as a result of one of Meyer’s sermons and he too, went into the ministry.  Meyer started a crusade and hired a professional baseball player named Billy Sunday to preach the gospel.  Sunday became one of the most renowned evangelists of his time and scheduled a series of crusades throughout the country.

 

A group of businessmen from Charlotte, NC heard Sunday and decided to bring him to our region to preach the gospel.  At the last minute, Sunday could not come and he sent another evangelist named Mordecai Ham.  Ham’s meetings were really not well attended.  They were held just outside of Charlotte in a tent with sawdust floors.  However, on the last night of the meeting, a tall lanky farm boy named Billy Frank made his way up the aisle and accepted his Savior that evening.  You know him as Billy Graham, who has preached to more than 210 million people in 185 countries.billy-graham

 

In 1968, my church encouraged families to attend an independently filmed movie called For Pete’s Sake.  The movie featured Graham and while I cannot say I remember much about the movie, I recall vividly what took place after the feature ended.  I was nine years old at the time and it was playing at the Cinema Theater in Rock Hill.  After the movie concluded, a man came out on the stage and gave his profession of faith.  Sort of unheard of in today’s age, but I can still recall how quiet everyone was as this man talked about how Christ had changed his life.  Afterwards, members of the Billy Graham Association called anyone up that also felt the calling. 

 

Who knows why I went.  But I remember the kids I went with refusing to walk up the aisle with me.  A man up front handed me some type of book by the Graham Association.  I recall it was a paperback of some type.  I wasn’t much of a reader at nine but I did keep it in a drawer with other personal effects for many years. Six years later, I joined Bethesda Presbyterian Church as a member.

 

In 1996, I was fortunate to attend a Billy Graham Crusade in Charlotte, NC.  As the words of Just as I Am was sung and the masses flooded the aisles,  I thought of the little boy as he walked the aisle that Saturday morning in Rock Hill.  Leaving my friends back in their seats, I joined the countless others who felt compelled to come forward.

 

A single act by Edward Kimble, a simple shoe salesman generations ago, started a chain reaction, touching millions of lives, including mine.  Such is the nature of service to your community.  Sometimes the smallest act of kindness is replayed over and over again.  It is the smallest spark that creates the greatest fire.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , | Leave a comment

Requiem For a Friend

High School Class Photo

High School Class Photo

 To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “In every individual’s life, comes that special moment when he or she will be called upon to do something great, and what a tragedy it would be, if at that moment, they were unprepared for the task.”

 My grandfather spent his whole life preparing for this moment.  Not that he didn’t appreciate life.  He did.  But he looked forward to the day when he would stand at the door of his father’s house…with all of the world’s mysteries unveiled…and where he would be reunited with Glenn, Harry, Ernest, his mom and dad…and Louise.  

And I’m sure for the first time in several years he is hearing that familiar refrain we heard so many times, “Now Elie, you know that ain’t right!”   You see, on many occasions when my grandfather recalled an instance that happened in his past, my grandmother would reply, “Now Elie, you know that ain’t right!” and she would quickly point out the way it really occurred as she remembered it.  Perhaps in heaven my grandfather might actually win an argument…but I fear St. Peter has his hands full with “Bumba”.

Growing up as a boy, I would spend weekends with my grandparent Feemsters and with the Russell’s.  On Saturday night after supper, Granddaddy and I would sit on the backdoor steps where he would polish his shoes.  He would look over at me and ask, “Doc, you got those shoes shined up for church tomorrow?”  I would say, “Well, my shoes are already clean.”  Granddaddy would be quick to reply; “Those shoe’s aren’t polished.”

 

Granddaddy would spit on his shoes as he polished and bring them to a high luster…and I would spit on my shoes because that’s what granddaddy did.  Afterwards we would retire to the dining room table to do our “lessons”.  That’s what he called it.  I would rather watch TV but granddaddy said we had to study for Sunday School.  “But why do we have to read all that?” I would ask.  “We’ll be reading it again tomorrow.”  “You need to lead the discussion.” He would point out.  “You need to be prepared.”

 

In the twilight of his life, the grandchildren would stay with him on Sundays.  On one particular Sunday, I ventured through the house and peered into his closet.  Granddaddy did not own many suits.  The one tie I recalled him wearing often, I was told yesterday, actually belonged to my father, as did the shirt he wears today.   

 

If you walked through the house, many of the books you would find belong to my dad who reads about one a day.  The books that belonged to my grandfather can be found in the hallway in the bookcase and on the headboard of his bed. You would find they are study guides on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…the meaning of Revelations, a Biblical Concordance, and a Bible.

 

You see my grandfather was a simple man.  During his lifetime he worked at the bleachery I am told, at the JP Stevens Plant, drove a taxi cab, worked with the chain gang with my Great Granddaddy Will.  He was farmer who raised his own crops and cattle, served with the volunteer fire department, and served as a Sunday School teacher.  He was a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.

 

Throughout his life he placed God first, his family second, and his work third.  And he was a hard worker.  If he told you in the morning he had just a few chores to do, that meant he would be out till the sun went down. 

There’s a passage in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare penned, “And when he shall die, cut him out in little stars and cast him to the sky.  So that all the world will be in love with the night…and pay no attention to the garish sun.” 

 

 

Bumba and Elie - 50 Years!

Bumba and Elie - 50 Years!

Tonite, when I look to the heavens and see the stars twinkling bright.  I will think how fortunate I…all of us in this room…and the countless numbers whose lives he touched…how fortunate we were…to have known Elie Russell. 

Relaxing at home

Relaxing at home

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , | Leave a comment

Unanswered Prayers

001_1I am, as my favorite author Lewis Grizzard said, fortunate to be an American by birth and a Southerner by the Grace of God.  As a student of history, I recently ran across a prayer recorded from a Confederate soldier many years after the “War of Northern Aggression”.  Some times we all wonder why bad things happen to good people.  We wonder why God allows misery and misfortune to be a part of lives.  Why does he or she given your perspective not step in and improve our lot in life when we pray so hard for his intervention.  This prayer written so long ago really puts so much in perspective.  I hope you find it as enriching as I have:

 

I asked God for strength that I might achieve

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked God for health that I might do greater things

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life

I was given life that I might endure all things.

I got nothing that I asked for

But everything that I could have hoped for…

Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men most richly blessed.

 

On this beautiful day

 

God bless     

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , | Leave a comment

The ghosts from days that never were

     Not long ago while attending my 30th high school reunion, one of my classmates and I struck up a conversation.  We were talking about the good old days when he said with a little hesitation, “I kind of figured you and Lynn would get together.”

     Janet Lynn was perhaps my first real crush.  This picturesque southern belle had an infectious smile that melted boy’s hearts.   I was smitten from the first time I met her.

     We sat together at ballgames where I would sneak stolen glances. Often, she would sit beside me at lunch, snatching my soda, returning it after her sip with a smile.  The rest of the lunch I treated the chalice like the Holy Grail.

     In all that time though, we never dated.  It always seemed either she was dating someone steady or I was in the middle of a forgotten high school romance.  My mom often encouraged me to ask her out anyway.  Mamas’ tend to know how their kids feel even when words aren’t exchanged on the subject.

     Years later, Lynn saw me at a restaurant and we caught up on old times.  Looking down at the table, in a much softer voice, she sighed, “Too bad we never really dated.”  Then she abruptly looked up and said, “Hey, maybe we dispense with the dating and just get married.  What do ya’ think?”

     I nearly strangled on the drink I was sipping.  Struggling a quick laugh, I immediately changed the subject.  A little later I hugged her goodnight and placed a little kiss on her cheek.  The moment, her perfume, the warmth of her cheek when I embraced her, are the ghosts that haunt the memories that never were.

              I’ve often thought of what might have been.  Lynn and I were very much alike and chances are, had I asked her out, it would be just a teenage summer romance to remember.  Instead, I’ll always wonder what might have been.    Those memories are the ghosts from yesterdays that never were.

 

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

A Prayer to Keep

3rd Grade Finley Road
3rd Grade Finley Road

Not long ago, I picked up the paper to find that one of our regional towns was wrestling with the issue of an invocation before Town Board meetings.  In a majority vote, the town decided to observe an invocation or moment of silence before each meeting.

It comes when there seems to be so much controversy in our society about the role of religion in public venues.  Prayer in school, innovations at sporting events, and references to the Ten Commandments are being challenged by the ACLU and those who are offended at the thought of religion threatening their freedoms.  Separation of church and state is their battle cry.    I don’t claim to be an expert in constitutional law.  However, I do pride myself to be a student of history and from everything I have read I am led to believe the founding fathers envisioned a country based on freedom of religion…not freedom from religion.

When I was in third grade, a retired lady would visit our school once a month.  She would hand out little green Bibles to the children and spend half an hour telling Bible stories.  Our parents had to sign an approval form before we could attend her story telling sessions.  Those who did not want to participate could go to the back of the room and take a nap or play with some of the games and puzzles kept there.  Many of us chose to listen to Mrs. Trumbell’s stories of David and Goliath and King Solomon’s Mighty Temple.

Today, nearly forty years later, children do not have the choice between taking a nap and Bible stories.  Religious displays have been banned in public buildings and on municipal grounds.  Nativity scenes are not allowed but Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is still welcome.    I recently attended a meeting in which the discussion centered on the declining work ethic in today’s employees.  Last week I read about an offensive marketing campaign by a major retailer with strong sexual images in storefront windows.  We hear the news reports daily about heartbreaking stories committed against children by their parents.

The state of our workforce, our families, and our communities tell me that people like Mrs. Trumbell are sorely missed.  I agree you cannot legislate morality, however we as parents, community leaders, and volunteers can work with children and help them understand and appreciate simple values.  The education the children receive at home, through the examples set by parents, are stronger than any instruction they can receive at school.

The students educated today are the business and community leaders of tomorrow.  I applaud our elected leadership who insist God still has a place in our society.  To whom we pray is less important than the fact we should pause each day and give thanks for the blessings from above. We are so fortunate to live in a country founded on strong principles and paid for by the blood, toil, and sweat of the generations who came before us.  Let us never forget the sacrifices made by so many so that we could enjoy the privileges we have today.  Let us pause and give thanks while America still has a prayer.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment