At a recent family gathering back in Tennessee where most of my siblings still live, conversation naturally turned to our teenage years. I brought up one of my younger-brother experiences as a freshman at our Catholic high school, the same year one of my brothers was a senior and football star. It didn’t hurt that he also looked like a young Tom Selleck without the mustache and Higgins. Of course his adulation from girls rivaled that of a modern boy band. This led to my being popular as well, but for all the wrong reasons. That year, a few weeks before the annual Sadie Hawkins dance, girls began following me like a pack of wolves, begging me to ask my brother if he had a date for the dance, or quizzing me to see if I thought he might be interested in going with them.
My freshman friends were impressed. How had I become so magnetic overnight, and with older women to boot? But I eventually got annoyed with the attention, as I had now essentially become my brother's valet. One sophomore girl even tracked me down daily after school to hand me lengthy love notes to deliver to my brother. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how dumb I was (being a dumb freshman) not to take advantage of the situation. What a golden opportunity to invent the “test drive date”—whereby I could invite my brother’s admirer out for a preliminary spin before formally introducing them. Or I could have been more dastardly telling prospective admirers that they should present my brother (big Beatles fan) a gift of the Bee Gee's Sgt. Pepper Soundtrack. Then she could explain to him how it is far superior to the Beatles' version. And John Lennon is no Peter Frampton.
Not to be outdone, my dad then told the story of when he courted my mother while she was enrolled in a Catholic college, back in the ‘50s. He sent a telegram to the local radio station dedicating her favorite song to her. (As my dad talked, there was a long pause as we all struggled with the concept of sending telegrams to radio stations.) Anyway, the day after the song dedication, the Monsignor at the college pulled my mother out of class to lecture her about staying away from my dad. Anyone who would publicly display affection like that was “bad news,” the Monsignor warned her. Apparently, the Monsignor listened to that bawdy radio station every night just to catch these wayward dedications.
My parents are still married 55 years later, in spite of the Monsignor.
As the stories, laughter, and maybe a few drinks passed, the greyness of the drizzly November evening faded for a few moments, and I came to realize a few things.
These are some of the stories we choose to remember from a time when we thought life was normal (if there is such a thing), back when we never thought it might double-cross us.
These are some of the stories we cling to when we take a kick to the gut so hard we can’t catch our breath and think we may never get back up.
These are some of the stories that remind us that there was once a time when days seemed to last for years, instead of years flashing by like a day.
These are some of the stories we cherish as we move forward and try to remember and believe that every short day lived is indeed a celebration.