It's one of those once upon a time nights. It could be the holidays, could be having a little too much time to think, or it could have been seeing an old restaurant customer the other day, not sure it isn't a combination of all those things. Sometimes, I think about the old days, and how I should probably write down all of them for my grandchildren to read one day. I wish my mom had written down her memories. As it is, I can only recall the stories she told about her and Uncle Bill, all those years ago on the little farm in Fairmont. I wish I had been more attentive.
Anyway, I'm not sad tonight, just thinking of old times and how good they were, even if I didn't think they were, at the time. So here goes.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Marshall. He was the baby out of twelve children born to Robert and Nannie Belle Parks. Marshall dropped out of school, lied about his age, and joined the airforce back in the 1950's. He travelled to places he never thought he would see, to places so different from the large farm his father owned. He didn't like some of those places..said New York City was dirty, and he would never go back there again. He was stationed in French Morocco, and there, he bought an Arabian Knights tapestry for his mother, which I have on the cedar chest that also belonged to her.
Marshall's father became ill, diagnosed with colon cancer in his 80's, and Marshall was honorably discharged from the airforce to go home and care for his ailing father, and to take care of his mother. He found a job at Burlington Industries, and there, he met a beautiful young woman named Janice Britt. Eventually, they eloped to Dillon, South Carolina. He sang to her on the trip, wear my ring on your finger...How romantic.
He had several jobs after Burlington - one, as a prison guard, but he didn't like the way the convicts (as they were called back in the day), so he quit to become a truck driver. That took him away from home too much, so in the 1960's, he followed in his father's other foot prints and rented a building to open his own store. And that was the beginning of an adventure for all of us.
My father had vision, and a great eye for opportunity. He chose a location close to home and on the main highway that intersected with the Ft. Bragg Military Reservation, built his own store with a little diner attached to it, and he was quite successful. My brother and I worked there in the mornings before school. Mike pumped gas, and I was the burger slinger. The store was a landmark, and it was also a gathering place for some in the community.
Looking back, I didn't realize how great it was. The work was hard. The summers were so hot, running around the grill, playing waitress. We used to fight over who got to go the the cooler for more tomatoes. But it was the people who made the place, for me. I can see them all, still, in my mind's eye..Geech, Berdie and his crew, David, Jack, and Eloise. Twinkles (because we never knew his real name, and he had twinkly blue eyes), the guys from the military jump school...and I met my husband there (the second one).
I won't go into all of them tonight, because it's late, and I'm very tired, but I will write them. I never knew I would miss them so much, and often, I wish I could go back and do it all over again, only better.