Couple shares lifetime of memories

July 22, 2011|Lisa Prejean

The second Saturday in August had been reserved each year for as long as anyone could remember. On that day, all the families in the valley attended the church picnic.

On this hot day more than 50 years ago, two recent high school graduates were enjoying the freedom of driving to the event in a 1957 Ford convertible. It was especially thrilling for two teenage girls to have this privilege to drive the car, which belonged to one girl's mother.

They were ready to relax with family and friends and enjoy some delicious fried chicken and homemade macaroni salad.

Then a friend noticed something odd.

"I think your mom's car might be on fire," he said.

They hurried over to the car to check things out.

That's when they realized the smoke wasn't coming from the car's engine. It was coming from the car's interior.

The mother of one of the girls was crouched down, smoking a cigarette inside the car. The girls were amused by the image of a grown woman hiding her vice, but they vowed not to say anything. She obviously didn't want anyone to know. They kept her secret.

It was a shared experience that came to the surface just recently.

The girl whose mom was smoking is someone we see every other year or so at family gatherings. The girl's friend who helped keep the secret is my mom.

The memory was shared as part of a project I've been compiling in honor of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

Fifty years ago today, my parents started their married life together.

Over the last several months, they have insisted that they didn't want a party, and they certainly didn't need any presents.

They wanted to spend some time away with family. That's all they wanted.

So my brother and I listened. Well, sort of.

There's no party planned, and there's no collection of 50th-anniversary plates to present, but we did plan a "gift" from the heart.

I sent out emails and letters and made phone calls requesting that family members, friends, former classmates and co-workers share photos of and memories about my parents.

The stories and the photos have been priceless, and they have spilled from one album to two.

There have been humorous tales, such as the smoking car and the one from a classmate of my dad's. She said the only thing she remembers about him was his thumbs in her ribs at the water fountain.

Some of the stories have been sentimental. They reveal a spirit of generosity that always seems to be present in my parents' home.

I have truly cherished the photos that were shared.

One scene shows my dad on his fourth birthday, Jan. 21, 1944. He received a wagon and a tank. The latter must have been a popular toy that year because of World War II.

The memories and the photos continue to come in. I wish I would have started this project a year ago, and that's what I would recommend to someone else, but I think my parents will appreciate the effort I've put into this over the last six weeks or so.

Little did I know how much I would learn about them over the course of this journey.

The secrets, the sentiments, the salutations provide a lifetime of memories for a very special couple.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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