My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Youth Group

When I was in sixth grade we moved our membership from First Baptist Church of Red Oak in East Point, Georgia to Valley Hill Baptist in Riverdale. Valley Hill was much closer to our home making it a better fit for me and my big brother as teenagers. I'm sure that's not the only reason we changed churches but it's the one that mattered most to me. Most of my teenage years were spent either at church or with kids from church. I had friends at school but only one or two of those were the "spend the night" kind of friends. The kids in my youth group were my sisters and brothers.

Thirty years later and although I haven't seen most of them in decades, our bonds are still tight. We have reconnected through the magic of the internet and they mean more to me than I can begin to explain. Nobody else understands the utter emergency involved when the preacher's bible is moved to the upper corner of the pulpit (it meant that the teenagers were in trouble... big trouble!)... nobody else understands the danger of DooDoo Lake in Myrtle Beach or the absolute grossness of a Wahine or Mahine (our rugged toilet system at camp without running water). These kids... now middle aged folks... are the very foundation of who I am.

I had a lot of close friends at church. There was Susie and Andrea... and Andrea's neighbor Kim... we had many zany adventures such as the Madonna concert or watching the VCR at Kim's mom's modeling studio (nobody else had a VCR back then). We hung out with the preacher's son... I remember one night where we all sat and worked on a thousand piece puzzle together while the preacher and his wife were in the Holy Land. The puzzle was a cover for less honorable activities that I am not at liberty to discuss... (it wasn't THAT bad) and when a church member stopped by to check on us we were hard at work on the puzzle. My friend Stacy was two years older and would check me out of school when she got out for work/study program. It saved me from riding the bus. Teresa and Debbie were two sisters I spent a lot of time with. Teresa was my age and she made the drill team at her school the same week that I made cheerleading at mine. We were bonded by our newfound potential popularity.

Then there were Barbie and Kim... Kim was this ethereal creature who was always dreaming of a guy in our youth group that she was crushing on... Barbie had the coolest basement bedroom with it's own exterior door that made sneaking out at night WAY easy. We were able to walk to the store to buy toilet paper and walk to someone's house to roll their yard and sneak back in completely undiscovered. The three of us were close to a young girl who visited our church just a few weeks after having a baby - at 13 years of age. Our youth minister and his wife adopted the baby. Barbie and I used to go to the mall and pretend we were buying dresses for a special occasion and try on the fanciest prom/bridesmaid dresses in the bridal store. My Aunt Ginger was brave enough to have me, Barbie and Kim spend the night with her... especially brave when you consider at that time they only had my cousin Christie who was a baby and had no idea how insane three teenage girls can be.

We all had such big plans... college wasn't as big a deal to us, at least not in my circle of friends as it was to be a wife and mother. We all wanted to fall in love and feather our little nests and have babies. After high school graduation Barbie and I both found our "Prince Charmings" and went to work at Life of Georgia's home office (now ING) and my mom kept our babies while we worked. Neither of us had marriages that lasted. I don't know if Kim ever married but she never had children.

Kim died a few years ago... it was very sudden and unexpected and although I hadn't seen her in years, the world without Kim is different from the world with her. She was just a precious soul... maybe she was born to be an angel. Her brother has a little girl and every time he posts photos of her I think, "Your Aunt Kim would LOVE you so much!"

Barbie battled breast cancer five years ago, just a few short months after losing her mom and grandma to cancer. She went through 8 rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation and she was cancer free. Since then she has lived life in a way that amazes me... she does more in a day than I do in a month... she owns her own business... she wrings everything out of every day. A few months ago she developed  a numb spot in her jaw. Today she found out that the breast cancer cells have metastasized to her jaw. Now she begins the battle all over again... testing to see if there are any other spots of cancer... knocking this cancer out of her jaw... and I'm just so sad for her. I know she can do this. I believe in healing. I know God is big enough to get her through this but I hate that she has to go through it.

The thing is.... the mortality and frailty of your peers makes you acutely aware of your own mortality. Just last Friday sweet Juli-Ann who was a few years younger than me but such a trooper as a kid... she has hearing loss and was the reason my brother learned sign language, to be able to interpret for Juli-Ann. Last Friday she had heart surgery. I'm used to my childhood friends going through the heartbreak of divorce and financial struggles and over the years we adapted to deal with those things. Dealing with illness is relatively new and I don't like it. I can handle my own suffering because that is under my control. I can't do anything for anyone else but pray. The good news is, the biggest bond we all had growing up was our faith and for now, that's the biggest weapon in our arsenal.

Anyways... many of you pray and so I would ask for you to remember Barbie. Just... every time you see a Barbie doll, think of our Barbie and ask God to give her strength for her journey and heal her, once and forever.

I re-read through this and I know I've left out a bunch of people who were also good friends at church. I hope you'll forgive me and chalk it up to old age and fatigue. I love all my old Valley Hill friends. You're a part of me... nobody else knows what it's like to drive all night on an old church bus to get to the beach... or remembers Mrs. Batten's inspirational lessons on abstinence... or understands the rite of passage involved with getting the "Hilton" - the biggest tent at camp. I'm thankful for the people I grew up with... and I am thankful to know you now.

Mom went to the neurologist today and neurologically she is good. They are concerned about her blood pressure dropping when she stands up so there will be further explanation of that situation. The doggies and I got through a long morning together and it turns out that my doctor's appointment isn't until Tuesday so tomorrow will be a true rest day for me. Happy Memorial Day weekend! Safe travels, love and hugs, y'all!


Barbie said...

That was awesome! Thank you for the memories and prayers.