Time erodes our lives leaving only memories. That erosion will eventually take people and personalities that were at the very foundations of our existence. Although it was not the first time, this occurred once again earlier this month.
For the first ten years of my life, every Friday night one would find our family in a gathering with the family of Ted and Mozelle Sandlin or Bob and Jo Ann Stafford. As time moved forward accelerating family life, occupational demands and general busy-ness these regular Friday night gatherings became fewer and less frequent, eventually ceasing altogether. The friendships born from those weekly gatherings were so strong that my relationship to the adults occupied a special place in my memories. Friendships with the children of these families has continued and even when the random and occasional meeting occurs it always has an elevated status far above any other friendship.
One of the characteristics of these old relationships was the way in which I was addressed. A limited number of people would address me in this manner, reserved to people who had known me all of my life and certain family members. Isolated family members probably learned this from a parent or grandparent who had known me all of my life and thus adopted this manner of addressing me. While this may have been quite common in the South and even in our area of southern Missouri, it was not something that I heard a lot in my lifetime.
So, when I heard my first and middle name used together and melded as one word, I always knew by the voice associated with it where it was a greeting or judgement. Ted Sandlin’s distinctive voice and accent will never leave my memories and will always be associated with the smooth, velvet voice of Mozelle. When spoken in this situation, they were safe words. Let me hear it from a parent and it was probably time to take flight.
I recall a memory of the first time that the goodwife encountered someone bearing this greeting and her inquiry of, “What was that all about?” “That my dear, was people who have known me all of my life,” She never had to ask again, but only needed to inquire about their names so that she would recognize them in the future.
The time equation moves on and always in the same direction, eroding the present into our past, but keeping the future just on the horizon. Others who existed before we arrived will leave concluding their mission. We will continue and hold our memories of them until we move on, becoming the memory of another. Hopefully, those held of me will be as good, pleasant and honorable as those I hold of Mozelle.
I will miss the days of hearing my first and middle name called out as a greeting. This is not something that I want to initiate anew, no, it belonged to a specific group of people.
-Paul Richardson is the proprietor of In Sane Marketing. He writes a weekly column for The Neosho Daily News.