Those things that resonate somewhere down deep inside, and you understand on some level that when your life story is written, these are the events that added color and texture to the tapestry of your life.
On a whim, I decided to list my top 10 life events. I guess I’ve lived a blessed life because distilling it into 10 things was difficult. I’m sure Jilda will read this and pepper me with 50 other things that I failed to include, but here goes my short list.
1. The gift of my first car — My first car was a 1947 Plymouth coupe that had belonged to my older brother Neil. My mom sort of repossessed it from him for non-pay.
She would have bought the car for him, but he wanted the flexibility to do with it as he pleased, so he elected to borrow the money from her.
When he started missing payments, he gave her the keys. He’d grown tired of it by then because he spent more time pushing it than he did riding in it.
Mother gave it to me for my 15th birthday. I know this is crazy, but I drove that car for a year without a license or insurance. I kept it until I got drafted and my dad sold it while I was in Panama. (I’m still a little miffed about that.)
2. My first flight on an airplane — When I was drafted into the Army, my first duty station was at Fort Monmouth, N. J. After basic training, I flew from Birmingham to Newark. That was on July 3, 1971.
The terrain was flat and uninteresting until the pilot went into a holding pattern which took us over New York City. I almost rubbed a blister on my forehead looking through the tiny portal on that flight.
3. Celestial event — When I was in Panama in 1972, a bunch of us from the barracks decided one night to do some star gazing. We headed to Fort San Lorenzo, which is an abandoned Spanish fort situated at the edge of the jungle on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic.
No one realized it before hand, but as we lay there drinking in the vastness of the sky, the show started. The shooting stars went from horizon to horizon in slow motion. I’ve seen meteor showers since then, but none have compared to the show in Panama.
4. Getting married — Jilda and I “ran off” to get married on May 5, 1974. We were heading to the beach but stopped at the home of a preacher friend in Brewton. We tied the knot on the front porch of their house trailer.
5. Our first cut — Jilda and I have been writing songs together since before we were married. We spent incredible time, energy and money pitching songs in Nashville.
After years of pitching, a record producer heard one of our songs and loved it. A short time later we were in a recording studio on Music Row listening to a young country music artist singing our song.
The memory of sitting in that studio listening to the sweet sound of our music flow through speakers the size of my pickup puts chills on my arms even today.
6. Our first house — We built our first house in 1984 and we moved in the second week of December. We spent the first 10 years of our marriage in a 12’ x 65’ house trailer with no air conditioning. That was one of the happiest Christmases I can remember.
7. Our first new car — After years of driving second-hand cars that had been worn out long before I ever sat behind the wheel, we finally saved enough money for a down payment on our first new car. There is no other smell in the world like the smell of your first new car.
8. Our first trip to San Francisco — We both, in the words of our good friend Joe, contracted scenic sclerosis as we took in the sights, sounds and smells of that city. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.
9. Our trip to Ireland — One of the high points in our lives so far was a sunny day standing on the Cliffs of Mohr, Ireland, looking westward toward America. The sound of the pounding surf, and the squawking of Guillemots (seabirds) are as fresh in my mind as the coffee I’m sipping as I write these words.
10. Retiring from MaBell after 33 years — Working for the phone company was not a bad job. Working there enabled us to do many of the things on this list. Also, I befriended people that are still important in my life. But since retirement, I’m doing the work I love, and I haven’t looked back.
Obviously I’ve had many life events that were less joyous, but the older I get the more focus I place on events that leave me smiling.