Thursday, July 5, 2007

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

My grandson and his girlfriend roared into our driveway yesterday morning in a big U-Haul truck, sweeping into the house with the energy and exuberance that only come with youth.

Chase and Tasha are moving into their first house together. They had just come from Suzanne's; their contribution, a huge leather sofa and matching chair, sitting regally in the truck, and they swung by our house to pick up a dining table and chairs.

“I guess that’s it,” Chase said, jumping out of the truck and slapping his cap back on his head.

As I watched them cruise down the street, over the hill and out of sight, I was suddenly transported back in time to my first place.

It was August, 1959, and Chase’s grandfather and I were newlyweds. Just short of our 19th birthdays and students at Draughon’s Business College in Paducah, we were thrilled about our first home, a furnished, second-floor apartment at the corner of Harrison and North 6th Streets. It is now the beautifully renovated home and gallery of artist Mark Palmer.

Bobby Darin was belting out “Dream Lover” from our little radio as Carroll trudged up the steep steps with cardboard boxes containing our few possessions.

“Wish we had a television set,” he said, dropping the boxes on the living room floor.

“There’s no place to put it if we did,” I said.

The living room was not much larger than most bathrooms of today. It contained two green plastic armchairs, a tiny, low end table squatting between. A yellowed picture of President Roosevelt hung lopsided over one chair; it looked as if it had been there since the thirties.

As the Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” drifted through the apartment, we swept and mopped the cracked linoleum floor, and by the time we finished, we had joined the Shirelles in “Dedicated to the One I Love,” Carroll swaying from side to side and mimicking them in a high, squeaky voice.

Still giggling and snapping each other with dish towels every now and then, we unpacked our wedding gifts. I draped new, stiffly-starched doilies on the backs of the armchairs and placed our tall turquoise lamp, which sported a two-tiered fiberglass shade, on the spindly table. Although I protested, Carroll completed the ensemble with a giant orange ashtray, a wedding gift from his Uncle Bus.

A decrepit gas stove held court in the long narrow kitchen alongside a refrigerator similar to Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s in early episodes of “I Love Lucy.” Our chrome dinette set had seen better days; one leg propped up with a small block, and we surmised the landlord dragged our iron bed out of the city dump late one night when no one was looking. Rusty and wobbly, it sagged in the middle. When I tried to dress it up with our new green bedspread with a pink rose stitched in the center, several slats crashed to the floor.

We didn’t care though; we were young, enthusiastic, and embarking on our life together. It was only temporary, anyway. We were tired of small-town life, planned to move to Chicago after graduation. We had places to go, people to see. Bigger fish to fry.

John F. Kennedy was running for president and the United States was on the brink of the New Frontier when we graduated. Some of our friends were moving back to their hometowns, some were moving to St. Louis; others were staying in Paducah.

Carroll and I? Well, we packed our clothes in the big cardboard boxes, tossed them in the back seat of our red-and-white ’55 Ford, and headed for Chicago to seek our fame and fortune.

But that is another story. And I’m working on it.

So, as Chase and Tasha begin their life together in their new home, one of my favorite Irish blessings says it all for me:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley