Friday, February 12, 2010

Folklife Fridays: Unrequited Love


It started on Decoration Day.

There I was, sunburned and peeling, in my new dress my mom made and a brand new pair of white, stark white high heeled shoes. Rather, they were white when I left home that morning, but by the time I made it to the spring, they were dusty and scuffed. I had strolled all morning up and down the road that connected the church house and cemetery, letting everyone know that I was there, hoping to impress some of the cool guys lounging on car hoods looking at girls.

The small church house was built on a rolling Tennessee hill. Its only source of water at the time was a natural spring at the bottom of the hill. The church had been there many, many years, and a well-worn path led one to the bottom for a drink of water at the spring. Rainfall, seeking its easiest path to the sea, had eroded the path into a gully, and the actual path was now beside the red clay gully, and one had to walk very carefully if one was wearing high heels for the very first time.

The spring itself was a thing of beauty. Someone had cut the top out of a sapling, making a handy place to turn a cup upside down. Everyone drank from this cup; I don't remember being overly concerned about germs or snuff juice. A huge oak had grown on one side of the spring, growing larger than most because of the available moisture. Years of erosion had washed the soil away from the biggest roots near the truck of the trees, and spread out on the hillside, these roots made natural seats. So all over the hillside, under the tree, the cool guys sat and stared at everyone who came to get a drink of water.

After a long morning of walking and looking indirectly at guys, my cohorts and I decided we would attempt a trip to the spring at the bottom of the hill to get a drink. We arrived there without incident, taking our time and holding on to one another when we started to slide. Everything got real quiet when we walked up to the spring.

A fellow, Donnie Joe, was sitting on one of the exposed roots looking at me. Apparently, he had fallen in love with me at first sight. Before this gets to sounding like something really romantic, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I did not fall in love with him, at first sight or any other way. There was absolutely no desire to share any of my time or DNA with Donnie Joe.

He sat there, bug-eyed (it was a natural thing, not caused by love), staring at me until I was even redder than I had been before. He was about seven feet tall and weighed around eighty pounds. His knees, prominent in his jeans as he sat on a root, was as big as his head, and the first thing anyone saw. His oil-soaked hair was combed straight back, and massive zits covered his face; some appeared to be moving, like a volcano just before it erupts. All the other girls had heard about him and avoided him, and now, he had picked me. He looked kinda like a baby calf; dumbfounded, pitiful,and very hungry.

There was some snickering, some snorting, some hiding of faces behind hands. I was quickly overcome with that sense we get when we know we are in a bad place and need to get out fast! Drinks forgotten, we struggled back up the hill, out of sight, and I thought that was the end of it. I was very wrong.

Donnie Joe hounded me for years. Everywhere I went, he was there. I stopped going to church completely, choosing to risk falling into the devil's arms rather than Donnie Joe's. The school bus was an hour of torture every school day. After boarding, I would quickly get on the front seat, surrounded by first-graders, where I was reasonably safe from having to talk to him, although I felt his piercing eyes on the back of my head. I could imagine my long stringy hair smoldering and igniting from the heat of those eyes!

After he started to drive, he would come to our house, pretending he wanted to visit with my older brother. My sweet brother, finding the whole thing hilarious and loving the power it gave him, consistently encouraged Donnie Joe. They speculated that I would come out of the house and join them sooner or later. It never happened. Trust me, it NEVER happened.

I fear that somewhere along the way, someone had erroneously suggested to Donnie Joe that he could have anything he wanted if he prayed for it long enough. Of course, God hears our prayers, but He chooses what is best for our lives. God had made plans for me to marry a tall, dark sweetie from Alabama long before I was born, and no amount of whining from Donnie Joe was going to change that (thank you, Lord)!

There is no doubt that Donnie Joe should have been rewarded for perseverance in impossible situations. He continued his quest to win my love, eternally optimistic, until that tall, dark sweetie started accompanying me everywhere I went. Before long, it became obvious to me, Donnie Joe, and the whole world that I had found my soul-mate, and nothing was going to change that.

After Hub and I were married, Donnie Joe finally realized that all hope was lost. He started dating someone, and soon married. I'm sure they lived happily ever after.

All these years later, I still think about Donnie Joe sometimes. My more mature mind can come up with scenarios that might have solved the situation in a kinder way. I realize I might have caused him some sadness and disappointment. However, it was his choice, and a smarter creature would have moved on long before Donnie Joe did. Sometimes I feel a little twinge of guilt, but I always get over it very quickly.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes its okay to let it go when it just was not meant to be. Give it up! Move on!

OR: Don't pray selfishly; our loving Father is not Santa Claus.

OR: Never walk to the spring in high heels.