I want to share something today that will require next week’s edition of my column to complete. As was revealed by the heading, it has to do with sharing some of the most unforgettable and important times of my life. These momentous and memorable moments that I will present to you are diverse in nature and capture times in my life of great joy, regret, extreme grief, embarrassment, and the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. If you detect that I am repeating something that I shared in previous columns, please do not think that I am being forgetfully repetitious. I have deliberately included these memories because I believe that they needed to be repeated to inspire and encourage those who have never read them. Most, if not all, of you have moments and special memories stored in the treasure chest of yesterday awaiting to be revisited through your reflection and recalling of past events. Join me on my journey and perhaps something that I share will rekindle a memory, a thought of an experience or event that was truly remarkable and momentous in your life.
The Sight of My
Mother Boarding the Northbound Train
There are few moments etched in my memory like the sight of my mother and two youngest siblings boarding the northbound train for Camden, New Jersey when I was around eight years of age. Due to some serious unresolved issues that existed between her and my father that threatened both their marriage and the family unit, my mother reasoned that if she left him for a while, perhaps he would come to himself and amend his ways and bad habits that had brought their union to the precipice of divorce or worst.
There was just one very serious thought that troubled her mind and burdened her heart as she waited for her day of departure, the welfare of her children. My mother’s oldest sister was the answer to the problem. Aunt Bertha agreed to look out for those of us who would be left behind with my father. My mother would take the two youngest children with her. My father tried to talk her out of her decision, but to no avail. Her mind was made up Her bags were packed, and it was just a matter of a few days when she and my two youngest siblings would be boarding the train for Camden, New Jersey. When the day of their departure finally arrived, I was fortunate enough to see them off. As we waited at the train station, a great sadness gripped my heart. I tried to be tough and not cry, but I was brokenhearted and crying on the inside. When the northbound train finally arrived on that Sunday afternoon, my mother, along with baby Cynthia and little Charles, boarded. I felt like my world was coming to an end. She had hugged, kissed, and told me good-bye. It didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t right, and I could no longer hold back the tears as I watched the train pull away from the station. “Bye-bye, Mama,” I whispered as the train disappeared from my sight, carrying the most important person in my life far away from me. Although she would eventually come back to us (back to me) in a few months, those were the most difficult days of my young life. As a true Mama’s boy, the absence of my mama was almost more than I could bare.
The Day I Wore My Mama’s Perfume to School
Perhaps one of the most embarrassing memorable moments in my life happened back in 1965. I was in the seventh grade, and up until that stage of my life it did not really matter to me about how I smelled. I was not concerned about putting on deodorant or perfume. I would just get up, wash up a little, and go out to school or wherever I had to go. However, at some point during the seventh grade things began to change, and I became more concerned about my appearance and my smell. It was probably my desire to impress girls – girls in whom I was becoming more and more interested. One morning before I left for school, I decided to dab on a little of my mother’s perfume. After all, I reasoned, if it smelled good on her, it would also smell good on me. I chose my mother’s perfume because my daddy was the kind of guy who never put a lot of emphasis or effort in smelling or looking good. He was big on taking baths and showers, but not on clothes and cologne. So I went to school smelling good – or so I thought. One of the girls in my class just happened to get close enough to recognize that I was wearing women’s perfume. “You sure smell good,” she said with a chuckle I did not know whether to receive what she said as a compliment or joke because of the tone of her chuckle. However, it did not take long for me to realize that people were laughing at me. Word got around about how I smelled. One very candid girl came over to me and said, “Do you know that you smell like a woman?” It never dawned on me until then that there was a vast difference in how a woman and a man smelled. I had made a serious mistake in putting on my mother’s perfume, and now I felt like the fabled emperor without any clothes. I immediately became very self-conscious at how I smelled. I did all I could to stay as far away from people as possible. When the last period of the day finally arrived and the bell rang to go home, I wasted no time in getting out of there and away from people. It had been a day of evasion and embarrassment, and I was relieved that it was over. I had prided myself in being very macho, but now I would have to live down the day when I smelled like my mother.
My Most Regrettable Memorable
If truth be told and personal honesty prevails, each of us can recall regrettable moments and incidences in our lives that are set in stone. Perhaps I speak for most, if not all, when I say that if I could go back in time and change the incident that I will share and conclude with today, I would. Ironically, it happened about this time of the year, fifty (50) years ago, during a football game on Friday night at the Dillon Memorial Stadium. We were engaged in a battle for bragging rights with Palmetto High School from Mullins, South Carolina. Palmetto had not beaten us in a football game in over eight years. Though they had moved up to the Triple A Division and were still a Double A team, it did not matter to us. We were the mighty Gordon Trojans and felt that we were going to dominate them as we had done for nearly a decade. However, Palmetto surprised us, perhaps because we had taken them lightly. It was early in the fourth quarter and they were ahead of us by the score of 6 to 0. I felt that the referees were cheating and favored Palmetto over us, even though we were playing at home. Then it happened… the most regrettable incident in my life. A player on the opposing team had been injured and was lying seemingly in a semi-unconscious state. Having lost all sense of fair play and self-control, I started kicking the downed and injured player. The umpire appropriately escorted me off the field for this idiotic display of being a sore loser and out-of-control football player. To my shame, I was one of the captains of the team. Coach Willie Fred Daniels had to plead with the district athletic committee to not disqualify me for the rest of the season and they capitulated, due to my unblemished record and the condition that nothing like this had better not happen again. Fifty years later, I still have serious regrets for that incident. If I could go back in time and undo it, I would.
Join me next week for Part Two of My Most Momentous and Memorable Moments.