FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 10
Those houses would be the foothills, then the terrain leveled off all the way from Elm Street until you would come to the LaGrange football stadium a few blocks away due north, and beyond the stadium was the Callaway Library where we spent many a reading day and probably one of the reasons we’re able to tell you this story today.
To the east of all that sat the Callaway Auditorium where I learned to skate, and just beyond it the “Y.”
Each landmark has its own history, but by far the most influential and important one for me was the “Y.” Officially, it was the CEA building – the Callaway Education Association – but nobody called it that. At least, the “boys down at the Y,” as I have called them for years now, never called it that. Mama would have thought me crazy if I told her that I was going to go play ball down at the CEA. It was just the “Y.”
Many years later, after we had established ourselves somewhat as a Saturday-morning columnist for the LaGrange Daily News, the LDN got a new editor from over in Alabama, I think. Mr. Evans, his name, looked to be about twenty when he got the job there, but I’m sure he was older. In one column we mentioned the “Y,” and he did the good job any editor would do and changed it to YMCA. But we would teach the young editor a little lesson and pointed out that this is just the “Y,” nothing more, nothing less.
Of course, he didn’t have the benefit of cutting his teeth by going to the Y to play basketball almost every day since he was five years old.
“Duly noted,” he wrote back, and I just smiled.
The “Y” has an entity all its own, and he was just learning that himself. You will learn it, too, the further we travel back in time to these early 1970s years. I don’t guess we could tell this story for fifteen minutes without mentioning the “Y.” It was both our babysitter and our locale for occasional fame.
Standing on the front porch that cold December morning facing toward the stadium and the “Y,” Mama and I looked out over the cascading of those houses, all their rooftops covered with snow, the pine trees and oaks’ limbs hanging low with snow and ice. Mama was feeling better, and I think she was glad when she heard on the radio about the time I poured my hot chocolate that LaGrange schools had been let out that day. She knew, I know, that she could spend a day with her “baby,” as we have already established, and that was something you couldn’t buy – not that we had any money to speak of, but we had a great deal more.
Mama was a quieter woman than the Millers, her daddy’s people – She took more after the Houses, her mama’s family – so did not always say what she thought. But when I looked at her on that front porch that December morning, and she had that wry smile on her face, she could not have expressed the joy in her heart any more if she had climbed up and hollered it from our snow-covered roof. She had made it to December, Mr. Haggard, and she had her youngest boy there at home with her, and she was happy.
We stood there together for a long time, the cold wind blowing a little sharper now, and I sipped still on my still-warm hot chocolate as I tried to shield my face from the wind. Mama walked over to the edge of the front porch and looked out toward the Whatley house that by now looked as if a Caterpillar had dumped a hundred loads of snow on top of it.
“Son,” she said in a kind of soft, gentle voice, “look over there how the the basketball goal you shoot on down at the Whatley’s is covered completely with snow. Isn’t it pretty.”
Whenever she mentioned basketball story, naturally, she secured my attention as well as Preacher Miller would on Sundays when he’d rev his voice up to a fever pitch and as he’d say, “Awright, brothers and sisters,” before embarking on another set of scriptures that he needed all to hear. Mama didn’t have Grandad’s voice, but she had his spirit.
I guess I never saw it more than I did when I looked into her face that cold December morning, and I don’t guess my heart was ever any warmer than when she started telling me a basketball story from when I was five or six. I stood there with her, listening, and I was both glad and sad, somehow, as I stood next to her with the hot chocolate still warm in my hand.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a writer and preacher of the gospel. And, after a ten-year hiatus, he’s also returned to work with students at Ferris High School as well.
In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email email@example.com or call or text (972) 824-5197.