This week, a wonderful couple from my hometown (Starke, FL), Mr. and Mrs. Barksdale, are celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. Whoa! Does that give you God bumps like it does me? Just … wowzers. To think two people can stay together, blessing each other and the Lord Almighty who led them together for that long is such a beacon of blazing hope to the rest of us.
Spouse and I are just over halfway there at 42 years of marital blitz (I mean bliss) and to be blatantly honest, there are days we’re not even sure we’re in like, much less love.
But hey, that’s not the focus of this post. The focus of this post came to me as I was addressing the Barksdale’s anniversary card and thanking them for how very deeply their lives had touched many, many of us in our small town. Including me.
The focus of this post is how I learned at the tender age of 10 that anything is possible.
My life lesson happened at The Show. That’s what we called the Saturday matinee double feature at the movie theater owned and operated on the main street of our small town by Mr. And Mrs. Barksdale (whom we also knew from church).
Always-smiling Mrs. Barksdale sold tickets at the glass window and dear Mr. Barksdale tried to ride herd on the passel of kids whose parents dropped them off at 1 pm and picked them up at 5 pm for a rip-roaring duo of movies featuring mostly cowboy flicks starring John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. (Sometimes I even wore my cowgirl hat and gun holster!)
Looking back now, I see why my parents joined the throngs who took advantage of The Show as an entire afternoon of safe child care for $4.00 ($2 admission plus $2 for the concession stand). Back then, you could get Coke and popcorn for 50 cents and blow the rest on Sugar Babies or Snickers for 25 cents each and mouth-sized wads of Super Bubble pink bubble gum for 5 cents each. Or if you were into flavor over fun, you could buy a yellow package of fabulous Juicy Fruit gum for 10 cents. My fave! Yummmm.
Okay, so that was the root of my mortifying fiasco.
Let me ‘xplain. I’ve always been a bargain hunter (I was taught well by a post-Depression tightwad mama who saved tin foil and plastic bread bags). Even as a ten-year-old, I figured I got more bang for my buck with five sticks in a Juicy Fruit pack verses the two pieces of Super Bubble I would get for the same dime. Just makes sound economic sense, right?
So one brisk Saturday afternoon, during the break between the two double feature movies, when Mr. Barksdale announced the Bubble Blowing Contest from the front of the now brightly lit theater, for the first time ever, shy lil’ me (you may not believe that, but I really was shy) considered entering. My older sister had just won the Jerk Contest (yeah, I thought she was a prize jerk all right, but this was for doing the dance called The Jerk to a rock & roll song in front of everybody – something I’d rather DIE than do!).
But simply stand there and chew gum? Now that sounded like something I might be able to swing. Especially since the prize was a jumbo box of candy from the concession stand and I’d already spent my allotted stash.
So I rustled up my courage and fell in with the line of 15 or so kids trooping up to the front where Mr. Barksdale handed each of us a free piece of Super Bubble to begin breaking in for the contest. I’m sure that’s why most of the kids entered in the first place – for the free gum.
But I was already chewing a delicious stick of Juicy Fruit, so being the, um, frugal brain child that I was, I couldn’t see spitting out a perfectly fine piece of gum for another. I mean, really, how much difference could there be?
So I pocketed my piece of Super Bubble and simply watched while the other kids chomped and chomped to limber up their gum in preparation for the bubble blowing contest. Finally Mr. Barksdale yelled, GO! and the bubbles started inflating all around me. Some were the size of navel oranges. One even got as big as the kid’s head. But not mine. My flimsy piece of flat, overchewed Juicy Fruit wouldn’t produce one single bubble, no matter how hard I tried. And believe me I tried. And tried. And tried. I blew and spit and heaved into that poor little piece of chewing gum so hard, it flew plum out of my mouth and landed in Rochelle Goodwin’s hair 5 feet away in the front row.
With sudden epiphany, I realized why it was called chewing gum and not bubble gum.
I felt completely humiliated. And just plain dumb. I could see my sister laughing hysterically and knew I’d never live this down. I had to just stand there like a red-faced twit and watch the enormous bubbles forming all around me for the final ten seconds of the contest.
When Mr. Barksdale finally hollered STOP! amid deafening screams and cheers, I managed to lift my vision off my Keds and up to his face. To my surprise, he was looking back right at me, a twinkle in his eye and a little smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
When he managed to dull the roar sufficiently to be heard, Mr. Barksdale said the most astounding thing I’d ever heard. I could hardly believe my ears. He announced that there were so many huge bubbles produced with so little effort that he simply could NOT choose a winner. So he was giving the prize to the one who tried the hardest. Then he walked over to me, patted me on the head, and handed me the the biggest box of Milk Duds in the history of the world.
Grace saved me that afternoon at The Show. And I’ve never forgotten the lesson that kindly Mr. Barksdale taught me – even when you’re sure you’ve lost, anything is possible!
Okay, dear BFF (Blessed Friend Forever) – was there a Mr. Barksdale in your life? When were you saved by grace? Your community of BFFs would love to hear your story.
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