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GROWING UP IN LOUISA; BIRTHDAYS & WEDDINGS!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

I don’t know what makes life so busy, but it seems that many of my activities are choreographed by a greater power with the purpose of keeping me tied down. I’m reminded that ‘idle hands are the devils workshop’ so maybe a guardian angel is at work trying to keep me out of trouble. It might take more than one to have any reasonable chance of success. I already miss my weekends, which is the hope of many working people. Those tiny oases are the only time left to adjust, rest, and prepare for the always upcoming work week. I’m talking about those dreary, but pesky week days that are already programed solidly into by cycle of living.

When I was younger we called them ‘school nights.’ The adults used that term to mean I was required to keep decent hours and to avoid ‘late nights,’ because I would be expected to rise early the next morning to make it to school on-time and in good health. Now, after becoming an adulthood, these days are called ‘work days.’ In other words, I would still need to get to bed early. Jobs/careers have taken the place of schools. No matter, I am beyond raising any opposing argument. Going to bed early is now so easy, and has become the real treat in any given day. Yes, in the past we all had a tenacity to live for Fridays (TGIF.) Today a new pattern has sneaked into my schedule. My life now is less about the time of day, the day of the week, or month, or even the ‘season.’ My memories are now framed around ‘events,’ such as the birth of another grandchild, a vacation, a reunion, birthdays of family members, or family weddings. Indeed, life has settled down to such a place that it is the upcoming ‘event’ that really matters. That, then, is the subject of this article.    

As I write this I am facing several activities planned for this weekend relating to the wedding of my youngest son, Jesse. He is marrying a fine girl, Jess, that Suzy and I have known and enjoyed knowing since he introduced her to us some time back. Of course, I wish them all the happiness in the world. One element within a long list of fatherly advice I intend to pass along, is that they should be prepared for a life together that will have its ups and downs. Roller-coasters of events and emotions will symbolize and define their life, even as they currently define mine. At first, since they are young, they will undoubtedly be heavily booked as ‘fun’ weekends. While they may look forward to those play-time activities, they will discover after the new wears off, they will begin to understand the value of that rare, quiet, and unplanned break. It is then that they will find that even then meals must be prepared, the grass will need mowing, the pet must be taken in for shots, and either a vehicle, or the plumbing will need attention. The point, ‘free weekends, aren’t.’   

As if to further complicate life, or as an attempt to simplify life, or maybe to honor someone, Jesse and Jess set the date of their wedding on my wife’s birthday. It is arguable whether Suzy should feel complimented or cursed, but from my point-of-view it greatly simplifies my life since I have fewer dates that I may, or may not forget. Hmmm. Maybe that is motive enough? Folks, this may be a universal solution to the conundrum that pops up when I wonder ‘why that string was tied around which finger,’ or why the calendar is marked with a ‘X.’ Combining events could provide more rest and help me avoid a figurative tailspin, providing men a safety-net of sorts. After all, I’ll remember the date, so now will merely have to remember why. I’m sure that many things will pass through my mind. It will be much like a child’s toy kaleidoscope that creates bright, colorful visions, while still denying reasonable interpretation. It remains to be seen if combining dates will save the dilemma that many husbands suffer.

Getting back to the subject of weddings, when I was a young child, perhaps halfway through my grade school years, I was scrubbed, dressed in my Sunday best, and dragged down to Hack’s Newsstand to catch a bus. It was explained that we were going to take a ride through Fallsburg, then on to Catlettsburg, and finally back to a small community named Buchannan. In that day, this was the only route except for passenger train. Even then, the train didn’t leave for places north in time for us to arrive to this special event. The small village is located along the railroad tracks just south of the Boyd County line in Lawrence County. There, in a small Methodist church, I watched my beautiful cousin Idella Walters, marry the handsome and very gentlemanly, Frank Wallace. This scene is barely remembered, although I do remember the cake. It was the first wedding I had seen in person, but I may have watched films of the one of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edenborough. The live one in Buchannan was to me much like a fairy tale. I knew they would be ‘happy ever after,’ and they remain so. The bride wore a fancy white dress with lace and a veil. I thought she was the prettiest girl in the world. She still is, and Frank remains her ‘knight in shining armor.’ I think Elizabeth has fared well, too.   

I know Frank and Idella’s union is blessed because on a recent trip back to Kentucky, Suzy and I I stopped by to see them. It was a pretty day, sunny and warm. This Sunday morning in a church in Raceland, I learned that Frank Wallace still continues to preach. While it is long after his initial retirement from his ‘home church’ along the Big Sandy, he presses on delivering God’s message. Several members of his congregation told me they couldn’t imagine that Frank would ever really retire. With his well-known sweet spirit, his advancing age does not in any way restrict him in his desire to serve and to help others know the Creator. During that Sunday, Suzy and I were honored to sit with Idella and listen to Frank as he delivered the sermon. Afterward, we were privileged to meet many of the adoring congregation and hear their testimonies. Likewise, when mentioning his name at reunions past, many of my classmates knew him, or were related to him.

I have to say that I never visited the Buchannan Church again, but I knew this was where Frank took on a life-long pastorate. When in high school I had played baseball on a lot next door. I also visited my pretty cousin and the kids at their home just a short walk away. The small community was also known to me because I attended school (LHS) with several classmates from there, many of them life-long friends.  For these reasons, the village still holds a special place in my heart.

Over the years as I grew up in the almost magical little town of Louisa. I watched the Big Sandy News and church bulletins to learn of other weddings of young men and women I knew. I saw pictures of many friends and family as they poured out of the church after the weddings. I knew and respected those people, even if they were senior to me. After all, I was merely a kid, but they represented the pillars of the town. Regardless, I took note of those weddings and wished the couples their own ‘fairy tale’ lives.

 Harry, Richard, Lois, Caudill, and Kay Party Harry, Richard, Lois, Caudill, and Kay Party Birthdays were another thing altogether. They weren’t as formal and usually didn’t attract multiple generations like weddings. They still had special meanings to those lucky enough to be invited. Getting an invitation meant that you were considered a friend, or a ‘peer.’ Therefore, it was a letdown to be overlooked and not invited. There were also times when I was invited, but was unable to attend. It was around this that we learned a little about grace and politeness and being grateful. My Great-Grandmother was keen to teach me manners, decorum, and protocol. She told me that social graces must be learned to be successful in life and to be liked. She had me relax by warning me that an occasional ‘let-down’ or social faux pas are a part of learning. That’s a good thing, methinks, for I have had my share of those.

Somewhere, perhaps on my hard drive, I have a picture of a birthday party I attended. It was very like the one I’ve attached, but it pictured me standing with many classmates including Kay Varney (Maynard), Johnny Bill Boggs, Ulysses Jones, Harry Richard Cyrus, and maybe others. The one shown has Harry Richard, Kay, Lois Caudill, and a girl I don’t recall. As always, we posed in front of a big birthday cake, which I assume I helped consume. It isn’t clear who’s birthday we were celebrating, or if the two pictures are of the same event. Clearly, we were looking forward to having the traditional ice cream and cake. We learn that one early in life. Most families provide opportunities for a one-year old to spread their cake all over their faces as they try to consume their share. Some is eaten, but a lot is left spread all around. Cameras snap and the moment is recorded. These will be used to pull out later to embarrass the teenager in front of a date.

When combining files in computer language it is helpful if at least one common field exists in both files. In comparing weddings and birthdays, we have a commonality that the celebrations are centered around that special cake. To a young attendee, it matters little whether we are talking wedding cakes with the small figures of a bride and groom placed on center, or a grouping of candles reflecting the age of the one honored by the occasion. What matters to a kid is the taste and the size of a given portion. You see, the question of fairness and equality is sure to rise in the hearts of those who visually measures the slice passed to them, as compared to others. They will at once feel slighted and develop either anger, or self-pity. Many these days don’t make a cake, but share matching cupcakes. Those are equal in size and are usually reasonable portions. This step allows equality to take place, and may allow for ‘seconds,’ for those requiring more.

As is the nature of humans, there will be die-hard dieters who will politely refuse partaking of the sweet, delicious offering, but with ample encouragement may give in to the natural urge to be polite and to gobble up whatever half-portion may be served. (or left unattended upon someone else’s plate.) You know the rule, of course, if it’s on another’s plate the calories don’t count. They go to the original, if temporary, owner. There are those who hope someone may offer seconds, but a timidity will prevent them from formally asking for more. The solution is to hang around close so when the apparent surplus comes to light, one might expect to be asked to clear up the matter. Left-over cake has no calories, either. I say this on good authority since my future daughter-in-law has her degree as a dietician. She stands ever prepared to find ways to do away with unwanted calories. Bless her.

While birthday parties often had grownups running organized games, the wedding receptions don’t and are focused around the couple, or more specifically, the bride. It is the bride who is the star. As part of the ceremony she passes the hope to another with the throw of the bridal bouquet. It is ‘her’ special day and the groom has only to remember the date for the rest of his life. Shame on he who forgets…

As for this weekend? I’m telling myself that I am but a pawn, lacking any material value at all. With or without me the wedding will go off smoothly, I’m sure. I will hide in the background, trying hard not to be noticed. I will be the ‘fly on the wall,’ hopefully, but not so busy buzzing that I might be swatted. I truly wish all the best to this lovely couple, my son and his bride. As the groom’s father, thank goodness, I have no real role to play. Please stand with me and wish them well on this, their life’s journey as true partners in whatever lies ahead. It is my wish that they will grow closer with each passing year, each day, and every minute, and that their love for each other be reflected brightly for all to see. May they live together, ‘happily ever after’ like the lovely couples Frank/Idella and Queen Elizabeth/Prince Philip.

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Comments  

0 #1 Bernard 2017-11-12 18:08
Two great articles Mike. Had no idea that Frank & Idella was related to you. A dear friend, he also liked his baseball & I still remember him & baseball @ Buchannon.
Tons of memories in these articles, keep them coming and as always, "thanks for the memories".
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