Story of Us…A FIRST FRIEND
Story of Us…A FIRST FRIEND
We rolled into town in July of 1999. They threw a big lavish party for the family to welcome us to the church. Actually, they threw several, but I remember two pretty well. The first I remember was our welcome service. They flew several people in town to attend dad’s first Sunday at McGregor Baptist Church. They flew one of his best friends from seminary, Mark Williams, my grandfather, one of his old pastors from his home church and some others that meant a lot to him. It was a sweet time and dad was truly touched that the church would go to such lengths to make his first Sunday special for us.
After that service, we had a party at the house of the chair of the Pastor Search Committee. I remember it felt like there was a ton of people there. I walked in the house behind my brother, who, within the last year had grown up considerably and now seemed a stark contrast to the picture that was printed in our new church home bulletin our first week there. He no longer was the awkward preteen but was clearly on his way to becoming a good looking guy… I, on the other hand, had not quite hit that mark in my development yet. I still looked exactly like my picture… completely awkward. My family walked in the house single file. I may have felt more comfortable if I didn’t feel like I was being herded like cattle, but there were so many people in the home waiting to shake hands or hug necks that trying to enter any other way would’ve been impossible. I saw a girl, clearly shocked at the difference between Alan’s picture and the handsome young guy who just walked in the room. I chuckled and told Alan, ”I think you look a little different than they expected,” I said as I nodded toward the giggling girl. He laughed and kept walking toward the back of the house.
The night continued full of lots of hugs and questions; “Are you excited about your move?”, “What grade are you in?”, “We are just so excited to have you here!” All of them seemed genuinely interested and excited to get to know us, but none of that made it easier to leave everything that my just-turned-12 self-cared about. And as flattered as I was to be, at least in part, the center of attention, it did not make me want to get to know these people. I just wanted to go home.
The night progressed and I spent most of it hanging out with the only other kid there. Her name was Jaime and she was a couple of years older than me. Her family was really involved in the church, especially the music ministry. Her mom ran the children’s choir and was a core member of the worship team. Jaime was also the girl that I had mentioned to Alan earlier when we arrived. She and her family were volunteering to serve food at the party, so after she finished with that, she and I hung out outside playing on the host’s golf cart. We had fun that night getting to know each other. We talked about Mississippi for a while before we got on to the topic of school. Jaime went to the church school, the same school I would be attending in just a few days. I tried to sound like it was no big deal, but on the inside I am dying to know what I need to do to be on top of the social pyramid at Southwest Florida Christian Acadamy. They were uniforms, so fashion statements clearly were not going to be a way to stand out, so I desperately wanted to know what was “in” to these people. I didn’t ask. I couldn’t figure out a way to phrase it that didn’t make me sound completely desperate! Maybe I could ride in on a Harley for the first day or something…solidify a “cool girl” vibe.
Jaime invited me to her 14th birthday party later that month. I was pretty excited that I had already made a new friend in this foreign place. I could check that off the “first week to do list”. Maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Next item on the list? Find a Harley.