And I almost titled this one "Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher," because it was out that year. I was just tired of looking for a more appropriate title from the year in my mind.
In 1977, I turned ten. My world was pretty small. I was born in Nashville but I lived just north of the county line in Ridgetop. I thought Nashville was a pretty important place, like Chicago or New York. I had no idea that there were bigger places in the world, though I had heard of far-away cities like New York and Atlanta. I had been to the ocean in North Carolina, which made me a little different from my classmates who went to PCB every couple of years.
Two girls moved in up the road from my grandparents' house in the mid '70s. They were from Seattle, which was way, way up in the return address corner of the United States. Looking at it on the globe, it looked like it would be much colder, and I learned that sometimes it was, but they had a lot of weather similar to ours in Tennessee with sunshine and rain. Humidity was something else. It's still something else, let me tell you.
Looking back, I never began to comprehend what it must have been like to be a newcomer in a town like Ridgetop. Having moved out of town a few times since then, I feel a little sorry about that. Everybody in Ridgetop must have seemed to be related. They moved to a house on a hill, a house built by my grandmother's family when she was a little girl and their old house on that same location burned. From the front yard one could see eight houses. I had relatives in two of those houses, my grandmother and her cousin Jerry. Another neighbor was my aunt's sister-in-law. She grew up there too.
That summer the neighbor girls' dad was transferred and they returned to Seattle. Elvis died, Star Wars premiered, and other things happened that stamped the year in my memory. One happened to my brother. Mom took him to day care, where he refused to drink the milk. They thought he was just "faking" when he said he was allergic. He obeyed. He vomited. Mom found another babysitter quick, cousin Jerry's wife Wanda. Mom hadn't considered really thought of her earlier because she seemed to keep a lot of kids and had her hands full. To my knowledge though, she never lost any! At first I stayed by myself at my grandmother's house that summer, but there was some family trouble going on (other unforgettable events I don't want to write about tonight, and a few I didn't really understand) so I started going to Wanda's too. I think she saw me as another big kid who could help with the little ones, like her younger brother and nephews who dropped in frequently.
Jerry was one of my favorite relatives. He was one of those people who always had a smile. Even in sad moments, he could muster up a grin. He was funny and kind. When I was a very little girl, long before 1977, I remember thinking he was cute. Back then we called him "Jerry Lee." I noticed a lot of my relatives calling him that today; I even found myself saying it. When he was born he had a hole in his heart, and some of my earliest memories of him involved him being in the hospital in serious condition, having had a heart attack or something at a very early age (like 24 maybe?). I remember being told his heart had stopped but he was brought back to life. I knew what that meant. It was very scary and I remember being very afraid that he would die.
I wish I could've seen him recently. Most of the times I've seen him over the past 20 years were when he was working on cars out in the yard and the garage, and I was driving by on my way to Mom's and Granddaddy's. I think I saw him at Mom's funeral; I know I saw him at Granddaddy's and talked to him for quite a while.
Today I went to his funeral. I sure hated to see him go. I pray for Wanda and his kids and grandkids. Ridgetop is a sadder place without him for sure.