THE GRAY HALL
They told me I was a cry-baby and a mama's little girl. I remember as if it were only yesterday how our neighbor, a young woman named Laling, asked my Mother if it was okay for her to take my sister Ruth or me whenever she went to the store. She didn't want to go alone and felt safer and comfortable if she had one of us along. My Mother saw the wisdom of her request, and it was granted. My sister and I were so excited over this proposition. It was agreed that we would take turns going with Laling.
Laling was an attractive woman, and we wanted to be with her. She carried a big, fat purse with neat things in it. She used powder on her face, and she wore makeup and jewelry. And, oh, she wore the most delightful smelling perfume you could ever smell.
My sister went with Laling the first time. Oh, when she came home, she was as high as a kite. It was as if she had gone to heaven and came back. And no wonder... My eyes were big as saucers when I saw all the goodies that Laling had brought her. I wanted to have goodies too. I could hardly wait for my turn to come to go with Laling.
Before anyone could say Jack Rabbit, my turn came. I was so excited, my joy couldn't be contained. Ruth was envious and wishing she could go again. I was dressed up in my best, had socks and shoes on, and my hair was neatly combed. Laling came to pick me up, and I could tell she was pleased with the way I looked. She took my hand, and we headed out the door.
We had not gone long when all of a sudden the lure and attractiveness of this trip with all the treats that I would get all melted into oblivion. I missed my Mother and started screaming for her. Laling tried to comfort me, but I couldn't be comforted. Needless to say, she took me back home and never asked my Mother for me to go with her ever again.
One time, our neighbor was sick and my mother went there to see what she could do to help. I did not know about this, and my older brothers took advantage of the situation to harass and torture me. Instead of telling me that my mother had just gone next door (next door is half a mile away), which I probably would accept and be satisfied, they lied to me. They told me that my Mom had gone to visit my uncle in Talofofo, a town that was situated a ways from us. To my point of view, Talofofo was as far away as China. I would never see my mother ever again!
I was heartbroken that my Mother had left without me. I couldn't understand why she did such a horrible thing. I felt hopelessly abandoned. I reasoned that she did not love me or she wouldn't commit such a horrible crime. If I died from crying my heart out, she wouldn't care. She wouldn't miss me. She wouldn't cry. All these crazy thoughts were going on in my little brain, and I believed them to be true. I felt like it was the end of the world. I cried and cried. I crawled under a bed and cried myself to sleep.
I didn't outgrow the crying spells I had as a child. In Typing Class in high school, the students were supposed to bring the money for their typing workbooks. I, and some other students, forgot to bring our money. The teacher listed our names on the board and titled it in big capital letters: ABSENT-MINDED STUDENTS. I looked at the board and was mortified. I was labeled an absent-minded student! How could my teacher do this to me? I was a good student. I was a fast typist. I made good grades. How could she label me absent-minded? It wasn't fair. I started crying right there in Typing Class.
Mr. Russell was one of the most lenient teachers in the whole school. You could do just about anything in his class and get away with it. One day my classmate, Elizabeth, and I had a heated discussion on religion at lunch time. We didn't finish the discussion, and we continued it in the back of Mr. Russell's Tenth Grade English Classroom. Elizabeth was arguing in favor of Catholicism, and I was in favor of Protestantism. She won the argument, and I felt so badly, I wanted to die. I felt like I had lost, not an argument, but my ticket to heaven and paradise. I cried and cried, and Mr. Russell looked up from his desk at the front of the room and wondered what was going on at the back of the room.
The school bell rang, and we were dismissed from the sixth period class--the last class of the day. By the time I got my books together and walked out of the classroom, Ben, my boyfriend, was waiting to walk me to my school bus. There were at least 15 to 20 school busses waiting to load students and drop them off their respective districts. The bus drivers usually waited 10 to 15 minutes before leaving to make sure every student was picked up. Usually Ben and I would just take our time walking to the bus. However, on this particular day, we decided to go to the drinking fountain first then go to the bus. We must have miscalculated the time the bus would leave or we got carried away talking, for when we got to the bus area, the bus I was supposed to be in was gone. When I realized the bus was gone, I panicked. How was I going to get home? Ben had his car and I could have gone home with him, but the unwritten rule at our house yet understood by everyone who lived there was that under no circumstances were we to come home by any other means than the school bus. Ben and I went to the Principal's office. Before I could explain my situation, I was sobbing my heart out. The Principal took pity and offered to take me home but not without first checking that Ben and I had not skipped our sixth period classes.
My sister Ruth and possibly my younger brother Joe were in the bus and realized that I had missed the bus. When they were dropped off (about three or four miles from our home), they didn't want to come home without me. So they waited and waited and waited by our neighbor's house half a mile away hoping that somehow I would show up. I didn't. They waited some more. I still didn't show up. Finally, they accepted the reality that we were all in trouble. They reluctantly headed for home bracing themselves for possible disciplinary actions for not watching out more closely for their sister. They were not in the house long when the Principal and I showed up. He was a jewel of a principal because he explained to my mother what had happened.
I have always been a stickler of wearing seatbelts. I heard a safety lecture at my work about the importance of wearing seatbelts. When the speaker, a top ranking officer in the Police Force with 30 years experience, stated that he had never unbuckled a dead person, I resolved in my mind that wearing seatbelts was the way to go. When I married John, I noticed that he was not a seatbelt person. It took me at least a year of gentle and sometimes not too gentle reminders before John finally caught on and accepted the fact that he had to wear his seatbelt.
One day, my team leader at work, I and another girl drove to Mayport Naval Station for our project assignment. I had a pile of manuals, my purse, and my lunch that I was carrying in my arms when I entered the van that my team leader was to drive. The bundle I was carrying distracted me from my habit of automatically buckling up when I first enter a vehicle.
We drove off with my seatbelt unfastened. Moments later, we were stopped by a Base police, and I was given a warning ticket for seatbelt violation. I, a stickler for wearing seatbelts, always preaching about the importance of wearing seatbelts, getting a ticket for seatbelt violation? This is ridiculous. What would John think about this? He would laugh me to scorn. Being a crybaby anyway, I started to cry.
We were on our way for our Family Reunion in San Diego. The year was 1992. My husband and I decided to leave earlier than scheduled in order to go the northern route to see the states that we have not seen before. We would go north through Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada then head out to good old California. One of the first stops we made on this memorable trip was Montgomery, Alabama, where we spent the night. We had planned to leave early in the morning to avoid the normal morning rush of the city.
We got up early, refreshed and raring to go. John started to load our things in the car making sure to get it more organized. He was good at organizing things for travel. We had a Sears cartop carrier on our car. I knew that we would not hurt for space because he would utilize every available space. John was busy loading and unloading things, momentarily placing stuff on the ground that he had gotten out of the car. Sometimes he would come in the room for something. For some reasons, however, it seemed that this morning John was taking longer than usual to do this task. I looked at my watch. We should have been out of here hours ago. Then, something happened that caused John to come in to the room in panic mode.
The electric guitar with the amplifier and speakers, which we were going to use at the Reunion, were gone. They were no where in sight. Instead of being the calm, collected and loving wife that I should, I started in on John. We can't lose the guitar! We're going to use it at the Reunion! And we need it at the nursing home! You should not have taken them out of the car... on and on I went making John feel more badly than he already was.
There were people upstairs who saw everything. Two young thugs were watching John the whole time, and when he left the scene for a moment, they sprang into action--grabbing the coveted items and taking off. Well, why didn't the people upstairs say something? Why didn't they yell to the thieves to beat it?
Then, it was my turn to get in panic mode. I got on the phone immediately and called the front office. I was crying so hard on the phone, it was difficult to talk much less be understood. The person on the other line, however, came in loud and clear. "Mother, Mother, what happened? Please, Mother, CALM down, CALM down!" Needless to say, I hung up the phone. Where one minute I was crying hysterically; the next minute, I was laughing uncontrollably.
We only have one old family picture that I can remember of. I don't know who in the family has this picture now, but it is priceless. In the picture there were my mother and father, very young and good looking with their children up to that point in their lives. I was probably around three years old. All my siblings looked good in the picture, except for me. Guess what I was doing? Yes, you guessed it; I was crying.
We're told in the book of Revelation that in heaven all the cries that we are familiar with in this sinful world--the despairing cry from childhood insecurity, the heart-wrenching, grieving cry from someone who has lost a loved one, or the silent, yet agonizing cry from a heart betrayed--all would never be known or experienced there for the heavenly promise is that '...God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' Rev. 21:4.
All will be glory in that land;
There'll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.
No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there,
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there,
No tears in heaven will be known.
Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder,
Where we shall spend an endless day;
There with our Savior, we'll be forever,
Where no more sorrow can dismay.
Some morning yonder, we'll cease to ponder,
O'er things this life has brought to view;
All will be clearer, saved ones be dearer,
In heav'n where all will be made new.
--Robert S. Arnold