How is it possible that this little cutie is now sixty years old? Truth is stranger than fiction. But, since this is a milestone birthday, I thought it was a good time to take a look back.
If I have to find one word to describe my life, it is Blessed. From the beginning, I was loved and cared for.
My earliest memory is from my third birthday. I could verify this if I could find the picture we have of me and the little white metal dollhouse I received that day. I remember placing the tiny plastic furniture in each room while sitting next to my parents’ bed. Daddy’s arm hung over the side, against the white chenille bedspread with pink flowers. Did he recognize my early interior decorating talent? Was he even awake? That was not important to me. I just wanted to share the moment with him. After all, we were best buddies.
Now comes the hard part- the most traumatic moment in my young life. I vividly remember the day I skipped home happily from kindergarten with the other neighborhood kids. Rounding the curve to my house, I noticed our car was sitting in the driveway, with lots of stuff packed in it. Daddy met me as I came in through the back door, and gave me the unbelievable news. He was leaving, and Mama and my sister Toni and I were not going with him. Then, the strange words that are stuck in my head forever. “Don’t forget. No matter what happens, I will always be your Daddy.”
With the wisdom of hind-sight, I know that my parents handled their divorce extra-ordinarily well. On that first day, I remember my Mama was crying, and I sat with my three year old sister in the big chair in the living room, trying to re-assure her that everything would be okay. But, I don’t recall any angry shouting, no negative words about my Daddy. Not that day, or ever during my childhood.
Mama just worked super hard, Daddy paid the child support faithfully, and we had a whole community of support. In particular, our neighbors on Fourth Street Circle and our church family at St. John Lutheran Church in Pittsburg, Kansas became the necessary village for my little sister and me.
We had a happy life, filled with love, and never felt neglected. We visited both of our grandmothers frequently, and stayed for a week every summer with our Daddy, and his new wife. Mama used her tax refund money each year to take us on exciting vacations, and we participated in every free or inexpensive activity we could find. We never described ourselves as coming from a “broken family”.
When sister and I were teenagers, we experienced something few of our friends could imagine – the courtship of our mother. The man who swept her off her feet moved us to a new state just before my senior year, and the adventure continued. There was no bitterness, even though we left our friends and our wonderful hometown behind. I loved and trusted our new step-dad and we gained two new brothers and two new sisters in the bargain.
In Arkansas, my sister was my best friend. We navigated the strange new waters together, and were fortunate to land in a new small community that welcomed us. Once again, our mom encouraged us to join, participate, meet new people. So, we did. By the end of that school year, we both had lots of new friends. For me, there was one very important new friend. He invited me to the prom, and I knew that once again, God had blessed me.
As Mrs. James Russell Carlisle, my childhood dreams started becoming reality. I had never really visualized a particular type of house, or a career. What I really wanted was two or three children, and a happy home with their Daddy, who would stay around to help me raise them.
The three kids the perfect completion of that dream. James and I set about raising them to the best of our ability, and since both of us had been raised in the church, we knew right where to go for assistance. Our kids were raised the same way we both had been, with love. In the process of participating with them in their activities, we all became richer. We didn’t wait for the help of the village, we jumped in and became a part of it.
ill the two words that come to mind. I have dreams yet to fulfill, plans to stay busy and experience new things. But, the most important thing is, I have confidence that this life here on earth is just the beginning. If I don’t complete everything I have planned, God has bigger and better plans for me.