On behalf of my parents who are both gone now, I occasionally drive to Bedford for wakes or funerals of their friends. Russell and Maxine Johnson were our neighbors on Q Street until I was almost three. Russell died a few years ago and Maxine just this week. She lived all 97 of her years between Bedford and Oolitic. I am now older than they were when we were neighbors, which seems impossible given that they seemed elderly then. In the afternoon my mother penned my sister and me on the front porch and we watched for him to come home from work. He’d cross the street, lean over the baby gate and pick us up. We searched his shirt pockets for the stick of Doublemint gum which he tore in half for us to share. (We should have been a DoubleMint commercial!) He was the first to call my sister “Cacky,” the same name her grandchildren now call her.
My mother had a new baby three years in a row so we soon outgrew the house on Q Street and moved to Broadview Drive where most of my childhood happened. After that we only saw Russell and Maxine on Sundays, at First Baptist Church. I sat with them sometimes after I’d graduated to big church, him holding the hymnal low enough for me to see. Years pass in which I don’t think of them but every time they come to mind I smell Doublemint gum. I remember almost nothing else from living in that house but I remember standing at that baby gate and being lifted up on one arm, Cacky on the other.
Why do we remember what we remember? Why do we keep such old, small things and forget current, important ones? Maybe because we have no idea what is really important. I think I remember Russell and Maxine because they were the first people besides my parents to delight daily in my existence . . . and their delight laid an impression upon my memory that has lasted all this time. Because they loved me at church too, my brain attached their delight to the words, Jesus loves me, and linked that same sensation of delight to the feel of grandpa arms and the smell of Doublemint gum. Why would my self ever forget such needful things?
Now it’s not uncommon for me to feel elderly at the end of a long day in grown-up land. I like thinking that even as we bounced on the porch looking for him, he turned the corner onto Q Street watching for us - armed with the delightful hugs only babies can give.
Delight someone today, friends. peace & prayers, pastor annette