Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaBloWriMo #19: Goodbye to a family friend

I didn't post anything yesterday, so I blew my post-a-day pledge that is the basis for the NaBloWriMo project.

But I'm back at it today and in preparation for the task, I decided to review my unpublished drafts of posts never finished to see if there was a kernel of an idea that I could elaborate on tonight. And to my surprise and chagrin, I found that I have the start of a post for one of my families oldest friends, written when I heard that she had died back in November of 2009. It embarrasses me to see that I started something for her, but (for reasons I can't recall) didn't follow through to the end and give her something of a remembrance.She was a dear friend to me growing up, a continuous presence in my childhood and at my church. She was almost like a second mother, or at least another aunt, someone who watched over me when I needed it and always wanted to know how I was doing. So, to finish what I started, here are some thoughts about Sally that I started almost two years ago and am going to finish tonight.

Sally Beaumont with baby Sarah

I heard earlier this week that a long-time friend of my family died in her sleep.

Sally Beaumont was, I think, 80 years old. She had lived a long, happy life with her husband and her three children. She lived in the house across the street where I grew up and I spent a great deal of my childhood playing in their house and in their yard. So much of what I know of her comes from the perspective of a kid that didn't really know much about what made people happy or when they might be sad. My memories of her are good ones, but they are the hazy, uninformed memories of a child. Sally's presence was always around me during my youth and I am sorry to know that she is gone--though I know she is feeling better where she is now.

I have a great deal of impressionistic memories of being with the Beaumonts on Woodruff Street. I played basketball in their driveway all the time, not to mention playing baseball in their yard, watching others play football in the same yard, or throwing a Frisbee. I also fished in their pond, played in their house, and generally spent many of my waking outside hours in or around their home.

In fact, it wasn't just when I was a kid. As these pictures of high school me playing basketball against college-aged Mike  prove, much of the outdoor activities on Woodruff Street ended up across the street at the Beaumonts. All of use played lots of sports in their yard. In fact, the only window I've ever broken was located directly behind the person that took this photograph, in the outside wall of their house.

Driving to the hoop against Mike
Trying, in vain, to block Mike's shot

It happened like this--one day I took a tennis ball and decided to spend my time bouncing it against the brick exterior of their house, in the rectangle of space between their driveway home entrance and the big window that brought light into their game room (more on that room below). I threw the ball against the wall and caught it in my baseball glove as it rebounded off of the driveway pavement and kicked up into the air. I imagined that I was playing infield for the Atlanta Braves, snagging hard hit ground balls to my left and to my right.

After many minutes of this play, I got off balance and threw the ball while leaning too far to the left. The ball sailed right and smacked right into the window, cracking the glass. I don't know if the ball went clean through the glass or just cracked it and bounced back towards me, because by then I had already spun around and was running as fast as I could down the driveway, across the street, and to my house. (I guess I was trying to get away from the scene of the crime as fast as I could.) I got to my house (seen directly in the background of the right basketball photo above) in what seemed to be 5 seconds. I doubt I've ever run as fast as I did at that moment. I was a sweaty mess, shaky with fear at what I'd done.

After I calmed down, I confessed my deed and went back over to their house to explain what had happened. I know I helped pay for the replacement, but I don't remember how much it cost or how long it took me. But I know that Sally and Joe weren't angry or dismissive of me.


Sally was also the organist at our church. As a fellow musician, she was a big supporter of my brother Andy during his musical training in high school and during college. She helped him arrange musical performances for various auditions he had over the years and always played an important role in his life as well.

Sally had an organ in her house that I played on many times as a kid, mostly just messing around with pretend chords and trying out the different tones, styles, and pre-programmed electronic beats by flipping all of the multicolored switches that electric organs have. In that same room where the organ was--a converted garage I believe, the Beaumonts also had a storage closet where they kept their fishing gear, assorted household stuff, and lots more. I remember standing in the closet sometimes looking up at shelves that seemed to be ten or twelve feet over my head, stretching up on my tiptoes to find something. I loved to go in there and look at all of their stuff. I didn't even know what half of it was.


The Beaumonts were a fixture throughout my childhood and, as a child, people that I took for granted. Sally was so kind to me throughout my life, showing pride in all of my small accomplishments. I hope that she knows how important to me she was, even if I wasn't mature enough to really tell her in the way that she deserved.

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