Excuse me for being a little sappy today, but I realize, more than ever, that there's something to be said for living in one place all of one's life.
I'll never know such an experience, but with the exception of a five-year interlude in Teague, 80 miles south of here, I have spent the remainder of the past 33 years living right here in the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas.
Living my first 18 years of life in 12 townships and 14 dwellings, I am asked quite often why I have such a vivid memory of my life. The answer? Wherever we have lived, I knew I had a small window of opportunity to develop friendships. I found myself savoring most every experience and relationship. I lived out most of those early years knowing that in just a year or two, we would, once again be off to discover new horizons. After arrival at a new place, I would have to go through a few excruciating days (or weeks) getting accustomed to a new school -- sitting at the lunchroom table with some total strangers, trying to feel my way around, and going through the process all over again of trying to etch out my place in school and community.
So when God led me to my dream job in Waxahachie with the Baptist Missionary Association in September 1985, I asked the Lord, if it was His will, to let us raise our three-year-old twins, Randi and Derek, in one place, and let them live out their childhoods at that place, and spend all their school years with the same friends -- something I had always longed for. God honored that prayer.
Now I have de javus all over again, every day when I drive up Gibson Street to Wilemon to pick up four grandchildren, recalling 33 years earlier when I drove up to the very same spot to drop off their Mom and their Uncle "D." Randi is now teaching directly across the hallway from where her mother, Carolyn, taught music for 12 years prior to the school moving to Wedgeworth Elementary.
I have now had the opportunity to see new businesses go up -- and remain long enough to see them go out of business. I've seen JC Penney relocate three times. I am reminded every day that Hobby Lobby, Office Depot and Tractor Supply all inhabit the old Walmart building - the one where I once purchased 45 RPM records and VCRs -- the Walmart where Eddie Ballard and I used to spend a quarter each week to weigh ourselves on the scales in the lobby.
Every day, on my way to work in Palmer, I drive by my old church on Marvin Street, which was known as Farley Street Baptist Church -- the one that relocated to Brown Street -- but retained the Farley Street name. (One hundred years ago, it was called Marvin Street Baptist Church when it fronted on Farley Street.) Go figure!
The property inhabited by Tiger Mart on Marvin and Ferris, was, at one time the place where the 7-11 Store and Winchell's Donut Shop were open for business. Right across Marvin Street, I got my oil changed at Jesse Phillips service station.
I have memories of grocery shopping at Kroger, which today is Aldi - and then I would drop by Family Home video next door before I started renting movies from the new Blockbuster, which is now a pizza and chicken place. Today I take my grandchildren to the same McDonalds that I took my twins 33 years ago - only now they have an indoor playground. Their old movie house (Buffalo Creek) is now a church, and their old skating rink is now Wayne Boze Funeral Home. I feel a little irreverent sometimes when I sit in a funeral service and focus my eyes on the very spot where I busted my rear end a time or two trying to do the jitterbug.
Today, I drive down a curbed and guttered, four-lane thoroughfare, remembering the days when it was a two-lane, pothole trail.
It is difficult for people who spend their whole lives in one place, to understand the euphoria that I feel when I cruise Ferris Avenue and Brown Street today. Yes, sir! Having a long-time history in one place, with familiar surroundings and life-long friends jogs sweet memories for me every day. I like it here. I think I'll stay awhile.
Paul Gauntt currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Palmer.