The Night They Met

“Your world traveler is feeling mighty fine today–just been laying around wishing he was at home with you.  You can be certain sweet that he is every bit as much in love with his wife as ever and you can be even more certain that he is more in love with her than ever.”       France, September 22, 1944

 

 

Like most good Texans, we called our grandfather Pawpaw. Mimi, my grandmother (Virginia was her name) insisted on spelling it with umlauts, I assume in effort to preserve some sense of dignity. But we also had a Mamaw and a Papaw. Umlauts were lost on us.

I’ve always thought that the story of how my grandparents met was like something out of a movie. A young man, who’d known poverty and death at a very early age—his father having died when he was four, young Fred was sent to live with an aunt because his mother couldn’t afford to keep all of her children at home—caught sight of a wealthy young girl one night at a prayer meeting.

I heard the story countless times growing up and relished the romance in it every single time. I always imagined they met on a hot summer’s night at a revival. The windows of the church were open to let in a breeze. A neighborhood dog could be heard barking in the distance. The ladies in their cotton dresses waved their fans with a tactful rhythm, fans that were all decorated with water colored portraits of Jesus carrying a lost lamb or politely knocking upon a door whose only handle was on the other side of the door, which everyone understood symbolized the door to their heart. The preacher was deep into a passionate plea for souls, and everyone’s heart was, like John Wesley’s, strangely warmed when my grandfather saw a beautiful young woman with crystal blue eyes across the room, and the world stood still.

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Virginia Cooper Durham
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Wedding Photo of Fred and Virginia March, 1932

As it turns out, they met in February (February, 1930) at an Epworth League meeting (Today it is the UMYF—United Methodist Youth Foundation). I am now struggling to let go of the images I have replayed in my mind over these many years—a familiar consequence of my often-unchecked imagination.

The stock market crashed in October the previous year (October 24, 1929). It was just the beginning of the Great Depression. In the middle of the prayer meeting Pawpaw (Päpä!) sent Mimi a card marked “SOLD: I could pin this on me right now” through the crowd.

A friend sitting close to Mimi intercepted the note, hoping it was for her. He panicked and began waving his arms wildly, motioning to keep passing the note down the line. The friend reluctantly passed it along to Mimi, and after the meeting, he came over and introduced himself to her. He walked her home that night and proposed the next Christmas. They married in March, 1932.  He was 21, and she was just a few months shy of 17.

 

The letter posted above can be read in it’s entirety on the Page entitled Letters.

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