Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Little Debbie's Tall Tale

I was sixteen years old when my parents bought me a car for my birthday. It was a used light green '67 Camaro. I was so proud to have my own car. I liked to load up the car with my cousins or my friends and cruise around downtown Dalton.

The summer I got my car, my two cousin's named Debbie got to come visit my grandmother. My cousin Debbie B and I were very close, because we were two of my grandmother's granddaughters. My other cousin Debbie G was our second cousin, my grandmother's neice. We weren't around her very often so we used that vacation to get to know each other better. She lived in Michigan. Both girls were fourteen years old.

Every time we would go some place Debbie and Debbie would argue about who should sit in the front bucket seat beside me. My cousin Donna went to the store or riding around with us, too, but they didn't let her sit up front. This went on for a while until I finally told them that Donna could start sitting up front because they never let her. The poor girls had to sit in the back seat of the Camaro. Those were not comfortable seats. Donna got to sit up front and could actually see what was happening. She was nine years old and wasn't very tall. She was so happy to have her turn.

We had a wonderful time together talking and visiting. Debbie G was a Catholic so my cousin Debbie B and I would ask her questions about being a Catholic. She taught us how to make the sign of the cross like Catholics. I had been doing it all wrong. She was fascinating, to me, partly because she was a yankee but partly because she was so talented. I also thought her accent was adorable.

Debbie G could sing like an angel. She sang one song so beautifully that I always got goosebumps listening to her. She sang "Why Does The World Go On Turning?". I think Skeeter Davis sang the original song. She would listen to the record over and over and over again, playing it on her little record player until she because perfect at singing it. She also listened to songs to learn to play the guitar. She was very talented.  Any time company came to Beulah's and PawPaw's, PawPaw made Debbie sing for them. She was a natural.

Debbie G told me she liked to sing because she wanted to make her daddy proud. She said that he wanted her to go to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry someday. I couldn't imagine having such a big dream but I knew that Debbie G had enough talent to make it if she wanted to.

My grandmother let us sleep upstairs in her front bedroom. I can remember talking until dawn and the early morning mist rose dancing across the neighbor's lawn as daylight creeped in gradually. I remember talking about our lives and our loves and our dreams. I remember the hot, suffocating heat mixed with the smell of cedar, and a slight musty smell from all the quilts and bedding that hadn't been aired out for a long time. The upstairs at Beulah's was a treasure chest. There was no telling what you might discover in some nook or cranny. We were free to play and clean and snoop in drawers and chests and attic closets with endless dark spaces. We could play house or anything our minds could imagine.

One thing I remember clearly about one night was a confession Debbie G made to Debbie and me. She told us about her boyfriend, Butch, who was a soldier in Viet Nam. Butch was about five years older than she was. She said that when he got out of the army she wanted them to move to Georgia and live. She said she loved it here. Debbie told Beulah and anyone who would listen that she and Butch were engaged.

My grandmother had a habit of promising people in the family some land to build a house on. Beulah told Debbie G that she would give her and Butch an acre of land to build a house on when they got married. Debbie really believed her. Over the years, Beulah promised a lot of people land. She even told people she babysat for that she wanted them to live near her and would like to give them some land. I don't know why my grandmother said those things but people believed her. She never did give the land to anyone but her own children.

During that summer visit Debbie G opened up to Debbie B and me about her relationship with Butch. She told us that she and Butch were so much in love that they had eloped before he was shipped out to Viet Nam. She said they had gone to a justice of the peace and gotten married. She asked us not to tell anybody about it until after Butch got out of the army and came back home.

I couldn't believe that Debbie G was really married. How could somebody marry someone so young? I thought that Debbie G was making up stories. Although Debbie B and I questioned Debbie over and over again she stuck to her story.

Debbie G's father came back to pick her up and take her home. Debbie B and I didn't see her again for a very long time. I never told anyone in the family about Debbie G's claim because I thought she was lying and I didn't want to look like an ass because I believed her, which I didn't.

We learned that Butch was killed in Viet Nam when the truth came out. Debbie G's parents told my grandmother that two soldiers came to their house looking for Debbie G after Butch died. Debbie G had been the beneficiary on Butch's insurance and they came to give her the check. They said that she was the legal beneficiary because she and Butch had gotten married. That was when her parents found out about Debbie's marriage.

Although Debbie G was very young and only a child herself she proved herself to be very mature and honorable. Her parents told Beulah that Debbie G refused to accept Butch's life insurance and asked them to give the money to his parents instead. As incredible as Debbie's story was, it was true. Although she loved Butch with all her heart she showed more maturity and an open heart than anyone I can think of because she thought of his family instead of herself. That's amazing when you think about it.


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