My dad earned his livelihood by driving a truck. As a very young man, he delivered furniture. During World War II, he was assigned to deliver supplies to the troops. In the picture below, he’s the young man at right. When Dad returned to civilian life, he continued delivering furniture until he received a job offer from a friend (I’ll call him M.). The company where M. worked needed truck drivers, long and short haul. For the rest of his working life, Dad drove a truck under this company’s name.
M. (a Christian businessman and occasional pastor) was married with children near my age. In his public persona, he was an individual who commanded attention whenever he entered a room. He was burly (in my memory), friendly, outgoing. Well-regarded in the community, M. rubbed shoulders with celebrities and people in authority.
However, it seemed (from my youngish perspective) M. behaved in a patronizing manner towards my dad. Did M. remind my dad who was responsible for him having a job? Did M. use subtle coercion (and the threat of unemployment) to ensure Dad’s deference and loyalty? I can’t say for sure, but my brain has catalogued it so. One situation might explain my unease.
There’s an annual celebration in St. Louis organized around the Veiled Prophet (ball, parade and fair). Social big-wigs and politicos attend the gala, debutantes are presented and the event’s spectacle (founded in 1878) mirrors the pageantry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
With my mother’s boarding school upbringing, she’d been well-trained in the social graces. Going to parties and dancing were things she enjoyed! Of course, the Veiled Prophet event with all its reported splendor captured her imagination. It was a Cinderella-type event! Taffeta and lace dress-up, being treated like royalty (if only for a night), the hypnotic glow of high society figures close at hand … a girl can dream, right?
Still, there were two impediments preventing Mom’s attendance at this invitation-only event. Even if an invitation had been forthcoming (highly unlikely), Dad shunned formal events, especially those involving the city’s upper crust. In this particular instance, what Mom saw as glamorous, Dad considered foolishness.
Enter the well-connected M. I have no specific knowledge of the details leading up to the occasion, except to note Cinderella received her invitation to the ball and she attended on the accommodating arm of M!
In retrospect, I recognize I didn’t always know what was going on in my childhood nor the exact circumstances surrounding events … but my emotions were always set to alert, attempting to make sense of any bewildering scenario. When my lusciously-gowned mother walked out the door with her date (!), leaving my dad in charge of my siblings and me, I was alarmed! This, my heart told me, was three-alarm fire status!
Years later, I quizzed my mom about the unusual incident. Was M. lonely? Possibly. A family tragedy had scarred him; his wife was emotionally distant. Did M. have romantic intentions or was he simply trying to impress others with the beautiful woman on his arm? Again, possibly. Worst of all (in my view), I asked her if the “date” was M.’s overt way of disrespecting my dad … posing the challenge, Are you man enough to keep her?
The last question amused my mom at first. Then she was mildly scandalized! She assured me M. had been courteous; further, the evening had underscored her longing for the sweet, uncomplicated companionship of her Prince. And that was the end of it, no wistful glass-slipper imagining, just an intense thankfulness for the real love of her life.
And she made it home before midnight.