My first knowledge of today’s birthday boy came when my father returned from preaching at a country church “in view of a call” as they used to say. In his description of the prospective church, he returned several times to the young man who played the piano. The church called and Daddy accepted, but it would be a few months before the family moved so I could finish my last year of high school without a change. On successive trips, Daddy’s reports often returned to the young piano player, also a senior in high school. One weekend, a family visit to the new church brought us to Mr. Butler’s country store where he introduced us to “his baby boy” – the piano player. Mr. Butler died unexpectedly that spring before we made the move.
Daddy always got edgy at this point when he heard me tell this story. He said I made it sound like an arranged marriage. It wasn’t. I had a mind of my own that Daddy had always encouraged me to use. I could hear Allen’s piano and see his dark wavy hair. The red and white Buick hardtop convertible he drove didn’t hurt anything either.
While Daddy never objected in principle to my good taste, he did become worried about the speed at which I took a liking to his musician. He made a statement in my hearing to someone else – obviously for my benefit – that none of his girls had better think about marriage before they were eighteen. Little did he know he was giving permission for the plan Allen and I had already hatched that would allow me to finish junior college before the wedding.
When I stuck my hand under his nose to show the engagement ring not long before that sophomore Christmas and said, “Daddy, I’m eighteen,” he replied, “Yes, you are.”
The dark wavy hair and the Buick are long gone but not forgotten, and the piano fingers aren’t quite as quick and sure when they tickle the ivories these days. But we’ve had more adventures than either of us would ever have expected, many because of the “Greetings” sent by Uncle Sam on another birthday. (Really, how can a draft notice be timed for your birthday!) And three children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren have added many more.
His piano-playing fingers have taken a liking to baking cakes himself so I’ve skipped that and made a reasonable facsimile of his mother’s chocolate pie for the occasion. Happy birthday, Allen! And, thanks, Daddy, for pointing him out, though I probably would have found him all by myself.