My friends’ parents are part of the soundtrack of my childhood. In junior high and especially high school, I spent many more nights than I can count at the homes of Sarah and Mary Linda. I lived 25 miles away from where I went to school, so overnight stays after football games or play practice or before big trips were often necessary. Plus there was way more to do in Monroe.
Sarah’s dad passed away last night after a 30+ year battle with cancer in various shapes and forms. Her parents were and are every inch of what you would call “A Class Act.” I always think of Mignon as elegant and put together–her Louisiana drawl, her laugh–and Mike, her dad, was the kind of man who remembered your name, used your name, and made you feel like you were JUST the person he was wanting to see at that exact moment, and that your specific presence in his day had made it worth living. They just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.
Now, obviously, being close friends with their daughter gave me the inside scoop on how they and their family functioned. I learned many lessons from the Rileys, and although they may not seem super important they are part of my life, and it makes me smile to remember them. Some, but not all, are:
- Fresca was a drink that was always cold in their fridge.
- The Rileys had a picture collage wall as early as 1983 and LONG before Pinterest.
- Music playing in a home is a very good thing.
- The toenails of a Shih Tzu on a tile floor is a happy, peppy sound that you do not forget.
- You can be A Class Act and still drive a Harley (or ride the back of one if you are Mignon.)
- The importance of timing and physics when learning how to spit gum out of the sun roof of a moving car.
- Hondas are good vehicles.
- You do not call someone’s home after 9:00 pm. (This is a hard-learned lesson to which I still ascribe, and when I have to break it, I apologize profusely.)
- The meanings and appropriate usage of the the phrases “Katy, bar the door” and “Hie your skirts about you and run.”
- Having one’s blood pressure and voice volume escalate due to bad drivers can be an art form.
- Your own voice volume should GREATLY decrease after 10:00 pm (this was a challenge for me) unless you are at the other VERY FAR end of the house in the play room.
- Don’t sit OR lean on the footboard of the bed.
- If you are the one driving, you have ONE job. FLY the PLANE!
- Someone’s own name is the sweetest sound they can hear.
- Your friend’s parents love you. A lot. Even when you are loud after 10:00 pm and call after 9:00 and drink their last, cold Fresca and lean on the footboard of the bed.
In the fall of 2009, there was a chorus reunion to honor one of the teachers we had in high school. The morning of the event, I went to the school to help decorate with Sarah and others, then we spent the afternoon together and ended up at her parent’s home to get ready for the evening. This was the same home in which I had spent so much time as a teenager–same bathroom with two sinks–same tile floor (minus the Shih Tzu)–and as we bustled about and got ready and talked across the hallway and laughed, Mike showed up at the bathroom door (the same one where he had once delivered a stern lecture to us both regarding the fact that Sarah could have driven to Bastrop SEVERAL TIMES to talk to me IN PERSON for the price of the ONE phone bill he had just retrieved from the mail box and was currently holding in his hand and waving for effect) with a huge grin on his face. “Man, it sure has done my heart good to hear you girls (we were 40 at the time) laughing and talking and getting ready in this house again. I’d forgotten how happy that makes me.”
It made me glad then, and now, I’m the parent who is happy to hear her daughter and her daughter’s friends back in my own home on their breaks from college. And it made me understand that I was just as much a part of Mike Riley’s life as he was of mine. He is home now–no longer sick–singing at the top of his lungs and greeting all of those who have gone before like they are JUST the person he was wanting to see on his first day in Heaven.