My parents had several couples that they were close to over their
years of marriage. I mentioned my godparents in a story of their
having to testify in a court murder trial concerning a boy I knew
growing up. I also have two more stories that would be of interest
when examining life’s crazy foibles and love matters.
This story is about Amelia and Orrin. They met at Vacation Bible
School at age 11. This is special because their lives led away from
each other and then back to each other. I love it when there are no
perfect beginnings or endings; almost as much as stories with the
happily ever after right from the start!
My parents had this couple many times to our house and I reached
out to them when I was 16 while they were sitting in the living room
talking about some of their memories. I asked them, “When did you
meet?” When I found out they met at age 11, I was very happy because
I was still stuck on my most serious (second) crush ever! (I have
recounted my First Crush and Second Crush in posts.) I felt hope lifting
and rising in my chest as I sat enchanted by their love story.
When the two young people met, Amy and Orrin, they were as different
as night from day. Amy wore a long skirt and a ruffled blouse with her
sleeves rolled up. She had knee socks on, that covered the gap between
the skirt and her shoes. She wore plain black worn leather mary jane’s.
Some people may have had shiny black mary jane’s made of patent
leather for church. These were Amy’s only pair of shoes, along with a
pair of tan leather boots she wore with skirts for everyday wear.
Orrin was a tough and tumble boy who had been begged, prodded and
tricked into coming to Bible school by his grandmother. His parents
were having a “rough patch” and he was sent away with his younger
sister for a month. He had raggedy jean shorts that his grandma had
just cut from his pair of jeans this morning and he had a plain white
(at the moment) t-shirt tucked into his pants. His hair was slicked back
and he had a comb in his back pocket. Amy mused out loud during this
recounting the story, “I figure he must have seen an early James Dean
movie and took it from there!” (But James Dean was not yet popular!)
The Vacation Bible School was held at a Methodist campground and
once the kids loaded up at the church, they had a ride for about 20
minutes before arriving there. Amy sat with a friend that she knew from
her church and who also went to her school. She noticed the awkward
boy who did not seem to know anyone to sit with and watched as he
sulkily shuffled down the bus aisle and sat by himself.
Orrin was already regretting this but noticed his sister, Sue, was very
happy and chattering away with her newly found ‘best friend.’ He felt
a little tension ease from his shoulders and his heavy heart. He was
the oldest and felt compelled to worry a lot, especially about how his
parents would be once they went home later that month.
The first day, church volunteer members became teachers and the
bus load of children was divided into age groups so that there were
four groups. Sue was in the next younger group from Amy’s and
Orrin’s youth group.
The beginning of each day there was a big cluster of all the children.
They were asked to hold hands and join together to make the circle.
They would hear a prayer delivered by the minister. The songs were
easy, light church songs. One that Orrin and Amy liked, which they
mentioned to me, was “Morning Has Broken.” I was excited to tell
them that (at the time his name was this), “Cat Stevens sings that
song!” We all laughed at my excitement and rapt attention.
Do you remember family gatherings and someone older, a member of
the family sharing and telling stories of the past? I was a mature 16
year old who often would get these stories rolling, memories opened
and renewed. Maybe I was meant to write these down….
Anyway, as the week progressed, Orrin became the little troublemaker
or “class clown,” especially when the Bible was being passed around.
There was no way they would make him read that book aloud! His
thoughts were, “It is bad enough I have to listen, but would be so much
worse, if I had to try to read it!”
Amy loved to read and she made the words pour out fluidly and beautifully.
When it was her turn, Orrin paid attention and somehow, at age 11, his
heart started to care and melt for a young girl his age.
At the end of Vacation Bible School, a printed list of the children’s names
with their addresses and phone numbers was stapled together and passed
out. The minister said, “I have met some young people in my 25 years of
preaching that wrote as pen pals and stayed in touch. I would encourage
you to think about God, Jesus Christ and your fellow friends that you have
made this week as lifelong parts of a chain reaching from this city to
others as you grow, move and go off to college, possibly, someday.”
Those words sunk into Orrin’s head and he somehow thought about
Amelia at that time, too. Wondering if she had even glanced or
noticed him while he valiantly tried to stay awake at the camp!
On the last bus ride home from camp, Orrin turned to look back at
Amy and gave her a big smile. She had been chattering away with
her friend, only to look up at the toothy smile. Amy did what any girl
in their right mind would do, she smiled back!
There were only three weeks more to stay at his grandparents until
Orrin could go home and ask his mother what she thought of him
writing to Amy. He knew his father could care less and would not
give him good advice. His mother would listen, think, put a wrinkled
brow look on her face and then, agree with him that he should write
his new friend. He just knew that they would be able to communicate
better on paper than they had during the supervised, group setting of
church camp. He would need to use the dictionary or ask for help, but
it was on his mind even as his grandparents drove him the hour’s drive
back home. The house was all closed up, no windows open, but he could
see off on the farm field, his father on his tractor. Since the crops were in,
Orrin surmised he was probably bored and checking how high the corn
was up. His Dad would not be drinking this early in the day… yet.
When they got out of the car, their grandparents hugged and started to talk
at the same time, “Now if for any reason you want to come back to spend the
rest of the summer with us, just get your mother to call us!” Since their mother
was off working at the dimestore as a clerk, Orrin said, “Now you need to get
back on the road, no need to come in the house.” For some reason, he felt
compelled to tell his only living grandparents that. He wonders why now,
from time to time, remembering how mature he was at that moment.
When Orrin and his sister, Sue, went into their home, it was a house still
in turmoil. A month without the children had not repaired their parents’
marriage nor did it seem to have helped anything at all. The house looked
like a disaster and the children worked together to wash the dishes while
they waited for their mother to come home. They went into their rooms and
unpacked what little they had taken that was all nicely laundered and smelled
of sunshine and light. Granny had hung their clothes on her clothes line.
Sue came into Orrin’s room and sat on his bed. She had been talking in the
car to their grandparents about her friend, Heather. She had written a letter
already mailed from her grandparents’ mailbox. They had put the flag up and
seen it picked up one day while sitting on the porch swing. They were drinking
the truly delicious cold lemonade Granny had made.
This story is going to take a wide curve so brace yourself. I have told stories
with no forewarning to the readers that everything seemed all ‘hunky dory’ and
later, got a little worried about the comments of shock or dismay. (The one about
my summer friend I made at the park, called “An Existential Man,” is an example
that I gave no forewarning about its ending.)
Their parents had a horrible fight after dinner. So, just as quickly as they could,
Sue and Orrin slipped back to their rooms. They were lying in their own beds,
sadly worried. Not too long later, Sue crept into Orrin’s bed and he held her
with a big, warm hug. He could hear her whimpering and tears were getting
his pajama top wet where she lay her head. He had tried to intervene before,
almost 2 months ago. In a similar argument, he had been slapped soundly
across the face by his father, as a result.
When the night got later, their house in the country got very dark. There were
lots of stars in the sky but no moon that night. Sue fell asleep, not too long
after in the quiet of the night, Orrin fell asleep, restless and stirring from time
Orrin heard a car engine turn over, he heard the car glide down the cement drive
until it turned into a gravel road where the distant sound was a little crackly and
Orrin retold this part with tears in his eyes. He heard a loud resounding shot in
Orrin ran to the phone and called the operator, saying in a throaty scared voice,
“I am scared! Can you connect me to the police?” The operator asked his address.
She said, “Honey, don’t worry I will get the sheriff to come out that county road to
check on you and your family. You don’t know if anything has happened, do you?”
Orrin answered, “My Dad just shot his shotgun off, I have been hunting for over 4
years with him and I recognize a shotgun’s sound.”
Orrin made Sue sit on a chair in the living room, he did not really think about it
but handed her the Bible from its shelf. He said, “Read this and try to find the
passages from the Corinthians about love. Find something to get your mind off
of this. It may still be okay!”
In his running across the back yard and through the wet grass, Orrin felt a cold
shiver spreading across his shoulders. He reached the barn and the eeriest thing
was; it was pitch black! Darn, he would have to find a flashlight or lantern. He
managed to open the doors of the barn, front and back. Still not enough light
to see, he yelled, “DAD!!” Where are you?!”
It seemed like an eternity but moments later, the sirens of both the sheriff’s
and ambulance’s vehicles raised a cacophony of sound waves. The sheriff drove
right up to the barn door with his headlamps blazing into every crevice of the
Orrin’s father was hanging from a beam of the barn and below him, laying dead,
was his faithful hunting hound dog, Pepper.
After the funeral, Orrin, Sue and their mother moved down the street from her
parents’ house. They had found her a nice and neat little bungalow to rent, with
her first six months’ rent paid up from her parents’ savings. They said that once
the life insurance policy money came it would be needed to help catch up with the
bills that had fallen behind. Orrin’s mother became a waitress at a local diner
which was only 2 blocks from Orrin and Sue’s schools. Sue would be in 4th
grade and Orrin would be in 6th grade. Life had taken such a toll on these
young people but there was still a lot of love and caring going on.
Years passed on, Orrin applied for colleges and was thinking about University
of Cincinnati with pursuing science and the school of education.
While in the area of the young girl who he met at Vacation Bible School, he had
never attended church nor another Bible school camp. Despite his Granny trying
her hardest to persuade him to join Sue and her at church. He had felt he “lost
his faith in God.”
His sister had gone but Orrin was sure he was never going to pray again. Nor
would he need prayer since he would be a scientist or an engineer when he grew
Senior year at U. of C. Orrin met my parents. He was the same age as my Dad
who was the “punk” who kept harassing my mother from when he had spied
her across campus, wet red hair and fiery green eyes. Her sister, Amelia, was
studying with my mother to become a teacher. My mother became a Spanish
and English high school teacher. Her sister, Amy, became a high school Math
teacher. The two men finished their degrees, My Dad became a scientist and
engineer at NASA and my future uncle, Orrin, became a Science teacher to high
Amelia went on a “blind” date with Orrin as a double date with my parents.
You can do the math and put one and one together. Out of the tragic loss of his
father, Orrin grew stronger and more willing to help his mother and grandparents.
He learned to allow his sister, Sue, to bring a little giggling and happiness into his
heart. Orrin ended up being a very fine teacher, father and husband.
Orrin bought and lived in a nice country home with his wife, Amelia. Their house
was always filled with three girls’ (my cousins) giggles and laughter.
By the way, my mother was older and chose to be one of the counselors at the Methodist
Bible School that year that Amy and Orrin first met.
Their blessed, long lasting marriage started from what they believe, allowing the “root
of Jesus” to take root and grow in their young hearts.
And they lived “happily ever after!”