Thursday, July 09, 2009

Didn't Beaver Cleaver Live in Mayfield?

I lived in Mayfield, Kentucky, from June of 1970 until the second day of January, 1976.

I turned 6 a month after moving there and moved away in the middle of my 6th grade year.

Mid-year appointments...ahhh, ain't they great? Especially on the psyche of children who change schools in midyear?

Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, as I've alluded in other posts, those years were significant for me. Those were my Wonder Years.

Whatever Mayfield really was back then, it was the place I grew up. I knew it for what I could get from it.

Hill's BBQ ( I went to school with Molly and Mary)
K&N Rootbeer in Frosty Mugs brought to your car.
Summer days at the club swimming until water logged and learning to play golf (preacher's family had a membership).
Mayfield Cardinal Football games at War Memorial Stadium.

Friends and neighbors always near.
An easy walk to and from school.
A quick bike ride to almost anywhere that mattered.
And I was the preacher's kid at Mayfield First Church. Or, at least one of them. Dad was the Associate, and Mayfield was our home.

It’s what I knew.

I've rarely gone back over the years. I'm not sure why that's the case. Well, that's not entirely true. Initially it was the case because clergy don't go back to the places they've left---right?

It's just not done, and if you grew up with Jeffords as your last name, you're darned right it wasn't done.

And that was hard for me. I had a niche' of friends with whom I went to school and church and often those two groups were one, but not always. Whatever code of clergy ethics there was to abide by, I didn't know about it or care...I just missed my friends.

It's a pattern that has repeated itself more than once in my life, both as a PK and as a P in my own right.

It's a hard thing--probably necessary only because we clergy cannot be trusted to behave professionally toward one another--an indictment on all persons of the cloth and God knows there's far too many horror stories of preacher's past who can't and won't let go even though there is no longer any official authority to be pastoral in a former context – making it difficult for the new pastor and confusing for congregants.

The problem with that is PK's get caught in the vice between what was and what must now be.

A life lesson, me thinks, and one that's tough to take sometimes.

Well, over the years my contact with those who were my childhood friends has lessened and lessened to the point of being nearly nonexistent.

The people I knew and called friend are that only in my memory of what I knew them to be – almost 35 years ago.

I've always felt that Mayfield was an aborted chapter in my life. Maybe it would have been different for me to have left at a school year's end. It would have had some appropriate finality to it. And true enough, with each new appointment then and now has come the opportunity to be in relationship with wonderful people. And that has happened again as recently as my move this Summer.

Well, a couple of things have occurred that have reacquainted me with that place.

My sister has lived in Mayfield longer than anywhere else in her life, I guess. Beyond our time there are a family, she has lived just outside of town with her husband for the whole of her marriage. Earlier in life it was easier to get up there and visit. As my life has become more and more complex, the more difficult it has been to go.

Last week for the holiday break the family loaded up and went to Mayfield. It was the first time I have spent any meaningful time there, which is to say more than driving through on my way to Paducah, in about 5 years.

Jerriann and Colin moved into a new home last year, and she's been itching for us to come up.

It was a good visit and time I needed to spend with my sister. It's a hard thing, though. I know I'm not the brother to her that she had in Jimmy. I couldn't be that if I tried. So I haven't. But I've always known I could be better than I was.

We spent a couple of nights there. On July 4, she and I drove into town, needing to load up on cookout stuff, and I saw the town I once knew as home in the light of day.

My own sense of what I saw didn’t square with my memory. Maybe it’s that my memory, pre-life experience, is devoid of interpretation of what things mean in their realistic context.

What I saw was a small town that seemed smaller than I knew it. And it may, in fact, be smaller.

The General Tire plant is long since gone. The KT plant is gone. I don’t know what industry there is that generates the economic energy for the town to circulate around. I was left to wonder if Mayfield is hurting or if it has adapted to economic pressures and doing better than it seemed to me.

Well, since she and I drove into town to go to the store and because it takes only minutes to drive from one part of town to the other, we decided to go see the places I knew of as home in my childhood.

You know how time warps perspective? How is it possible that a place that seemed so expansive was the exact opposite?

Here's my first house. 1301 Longview. We lived there for the first couple of years. That spot in the front yard is a place a tree used to be- one I climbed and played in almost daily.

The curb in front is the one I hit my head on when I was 7 when I wrecked my bike after speeding down the hill coming from right to left in the picture. I think I see the indentation from here. A scary thing - concussion. What I remember about that is wanting to sleep, and my folks not letting me.

A couple of years later, we moved to 204 Heritage Drive.

Jimmy and I shared a room and the last window on the left, which is barely visible in this (drive by with your iPhone in hand) photo, was ours. The window just to the right was Jerriann’s room, and the reason we know it’s her window is that she spent more than a little time climbing in and out of it at all hours of the night! But that’s another story.

It was a brand new house in a brand new subdivision. It was so new that not all the houses around us were finished yet, and there were no houses behind us, only woods. To play in those woods was to enter into a world of another kind. In the heart of the woods was a creek - and much time and mischief ensued there. My stories of that place were less than the Hundred Acre Wood and much less than the adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but they were meaningful to me nonetheless.


I went to Longfellow Elementary School. We were the Tigers. Hmmm, seeds were sown early, I guess. I played football for the Tigers in grades 4, 5 and 6. I was starting center in 6th grade. In those days, we could chop block, and I was pretty good at it.

My mother still has the picture of me in Gold and Navy uniform. My footwear? Cleats? Nope…Red, high top Chuck Taylor’s. Nice.

Somewhere along the line, schools in Mayfield became something very different than what they are now. There were several other elementary schools back then – Washington and East College, I think. Now, there’s one brand new beautiful elementary school in town. Graves County schools didn't exist back then, at least not in the way they do now.

Longfellow is gone. The building is now being used as the Health Department on one side and an adult education facility in the back along the hallways where the upper grades once met. Other than my home and neighborhood, this was the building I spent more time in than anywhere else during those years.

If pushed, I think I could recall all my teachers from those years---I think.

This very bad picture is of the Church in which the soil of my spirit was tilled. First Church, Mayfield was a special place to me. I was confirmed there. It was from that pulpit that I was most powerfully aware of the art of preaching. It was there that I heard a voice from the pulpit other than my father’s.

I have vague recollection of Joe Leggett’s presence in the pulpit. What I recall more than his preaching was his crew cut, and during football season he’d ask Mayfield's golden boy, known to you as the Rev'd Dr. Gregory Waldrop, to stand up and announce how many touchdowns he had scored at the previous Friday night's football game, or how many points he had scored playing basketball. Greg and my Dad's relationship was powerful in those days. Dad was in Greg's life when Greg was sensing the call to ministry and he helped Greg to hone it as it was taking shape within him. There were many, many nights you'd find Greg at our home, late at night, popcorn popping and deep life conversations commencing. I remember Greg’s first sermon from Mayfield First's pulpit. It was titled “Go!”

But the voice from the pulpit that captured my attention in those years, other than my dad's, was Jerry Carr's. He was and is a master of the craft. His use of language and sense of presence in the pulpit had me riveted.

And there I'd sit. Very often I'd be on the second pew, pulpit right, sitting beside Chuck Stallins - who was the definition of a helluva guy.

I loved that Church. It was because of it that we lived in Mayfield. And when we left Mayfield, we left that Church.

Only in the recent past has some reconnection with Mayfield come about with folks other than family. One of my buddies in those days, Kenny, lives in Reidland and goes to church there with my friend and clergy brother, Sky, as his pastor. There was an email reconnect there, and that made me glad. Recently Kenny's dad died. A good man, as I recall, and I was thankful that Sky let me know that so I could convey my sympathies to Kenny. And I was thankful for a ministry peer I knew and trusted who could walk the difficult days of grief with them.

And then, dare I say it, there’s Facebook.

Liz was my closest buddy in those days. We went to school together, church, our families socialized. It was never boyfriend/girlfriend. Had we been in each others’ lives at another time, maybe? But we were buddies, and there’s always been a soft place in my heart for her.

Other than the rare news about each other communciated through our parents, we've not been in each other's company, or made direct contact, in a long, long time.

A few weeks ago I had a friend request from her, and I thought, “Ok, now I see the value of Facebook.” She still lives in Mayfield and has a great life. She’s helped fill in the blanks of folks I’ll never see again and always wondered what sort of life they ended up living.

My Mayfield trip was cathartic in ways I never expected nor thought I needed.

But I was wrong, I did.

It was good to be with my family. My boys loved being there with their Aunt Jerriann and Uncle Colin.

Don’t know when we’ll get back – although I doubt it’ll be 5 years from now.

We need those places, don't we? Wonder places for Wonder Years. Truth about them is never fully what we remember and was never really what was actually true. The value of the place and the meaning we attach to it is not dependant on that.

And that's a good thing.

7 comments:

window watcher said...

Jerry baptized me and that voice, though I don't remember a thing he actually said while at St. James, was God's confirmation for me that I was making the right choice. When I came back from OK to begin seminary, he was the preacher of the evening for closing worship at Annual Conference. Thanks for reminding me today of that voice ...

Kathy said...

You're welcome, Johnny. I knew you would come around to FB. :)

Johnny Jeffords said...

Nobody likes an I told you so, KB!

Kathy said...

LOL!! I didn't say THAT, did I?

Johnny Jeffords said...

No, but I could see your face in my mind...that little smirk says, "told you so, JJ"

Anonymous said...

What a great description of memories. Our visit was wonderful and much needed. Thank you for the heartfelt words..............they mean more to me than you could ever know. Hope to see you again before to long. I love you very much.
Sis

kenny said...

helluva blog, your best yet, you should have called, hope to see yow sometime. GO TIGERS!.
Kenny