My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
I have always liked to think of myself as liberal—someone ahead of her time. Despite some compelling evidence to the contrary, I have clung tenaciously to that cherished notion.
And maybe it was true for a girl born and raised In the north Georgia mountains way back then. In that time and place fundamentalism ruled. I questioned scripture every now and then, but was smart enough to keep it to myself. When I was about fifteen and was questioning everything, including why in Gods’s name I had size 11 feet in a world where the largest shoe for a woman was size 10, I happened to hear my father discussing an astonishing question with some of his cronies. Was man descended from monkeys?
While his companions argued for the Adam and Eve version of creation, Daddy said, “Well, I don’t know about ya’ll but I have some kinfolks still swinging in trees.” After the laughter died down, he added, “How do I know how God made us? Even if He had put all that down in the Good Book, I wouldn’t be smart enough to figure it out. And what does it matter? However it happened, God done it.”
Wow! Talk about radical! My very conservative, uneducated father was way out ahead of me. Despite all my reading and questioning, I was eating his dust.
In college, I took a year’s Bible study and for the first time became aware of the Apocrypha, the holy writings that did not make the cut when King James compiled the official Bible. Feeling daring, I read some of those writings, but of course never mentioned it to my mountain Baptist relatives. Not until one day in the 1980s when I visited my 90-year-old uncle, Roy Junkins, who was a most unusual preacher. Though he had only hit-or-miss backwoods schooling, he had educated himself. He read widely and even took correspondence courses and studied by lamplight after days of laboring on poor rocky soil. When he was called to preach in middle age, he didn’t holler, stomp, and wave his arms in the pulpit like most of his fellow preachers. His sermons were short and quiet, and rarely went in a predictable direction. He impressed the heck out of me, and I guess I wanted to impress him, so that day I said, “You know, Uncle Roy, there were some holy writings that didn’t make it to the Bible.”
Uncle Roy nodded. “And they’re right there in that bookcase next to my Bible. You can borrow them if you want to.”
My liberal guise carried on into my parenting years. Once when my older son was in fifth grade, I said to a fellow room mother, “With my son nearing his teens, I worry about him getting into sexual activity.” She looked across the playground at her cute blond daughter and nodded. “I just tell Jennifer to talk to me beforehand.”
“Not me,” I said when I was able to catch my breath. “If one of my boys decides to have sex, I don’t want to know a thing about it.”
I still don’t. Both my sons are now married and father to a total of six kids, so when I look at those grandkids, I know SOMETHING happened. That’s enough information.
Back to the rear line of the liberal parade.
Another reality check occurred when my sons had entered their teens. I was talking to the husband of one of my best lifelong friends, and for some reason the subject of homosexuality came up. This was back when most people thought it was purely a lifestyle choice. Believing myself shockingly forward in my thinking, I said to Bob, “If one of my sons goes that way, I’m going to treat him same as always—like a son I love with all my heart.”
Bob said, “And why not? Love is love, no matter the gender. I’d dance at the wedding.”
Once again, my brazen stand was lit by a revealing spotlight.
Now I am 83 and a new year is beginning, so I guess a resolution is in order. Maybe it’s best to resolve to try to stay current enough to associate with the real trailblazers among my friends and relatives. You know who you are. I love and value all of you. The best of you even manage to love those who have totally different ideas. Maybe you can do the same for this old fossil who has a foot in each camp. But I’m still learning.
And I’m doing it in size 11 shoes!