Leap of faith

Mignonette and Geary the day they got engaged

The world was just waiting for me. My razor-sharp wit. My moonlight and magnolias charm. My blonde ebullience. Was there life before me? Hardly.

Or so I’d like to think.

But the truth is a harsh mistress. You see, but for a whim and a dance, little Audrey would not be.

Not just any whim, but the whim of a 16-year-old girl at a community dance who had set her sights on a tall, tanned, good-looking man six years her senior.

And not just any dance, but a double rush dance, where the ladies were permitted to ask the gentlemen to take a turn around the floor without being thought of as being fast.

It was 1928, a leap year. A year where the calendar must be set right with an extra day. A year when women are given the rare privilege of courting men instead of vice versa (a tradition that hearkens all the way back to a little spat between St. Patrick and St. Bridget).

Mignonette (later Granny Mac to me) along with her widowed mother, brother, and sister had gone to one of the many local dances they regularly attended. It was not unusual for them to go out dancing several nights a week, school nights included. In fact, according to Mignonette’s diaries, it was not unusual for her to come home from school and make a dress to be worn out that very evening.

You see, my people are a social people. We like to joke. We like to laugh. We like to cut up and carry on. And we most definitely do not like to loll about the homestead when there is fun to be had. And in the Mobile of the twenties there was plenty to be had.

Whether it was the Germans or Swedes celebrating a ship from the fatherland come to port or the ladies of the Aileen Bright Literary Society hosting a social or the doors of the local fire station thrown open to the public, Mignonette and her siblings, chaperoned by their mother, who was not adverse to cutting a rug herself, were there.

Forty years later

So, on this particular night in this particular leap year at this particular double rush dance, Mignonette had her eye on one particular suitor, Geary. She knew him to be sure for she had dated his younger brother, Buddy, but Buddy wasn’t the one. She knew he was older, but that didn’t matter. All she knew was that she would ask him to dance.

Was she nervous? Was she bold? Did she have to steel herself up to march across that floor to where he was standing with his pals? I’ll never know.

What I do know is that she did it. She asked. He accepted. And a few years later they were standing before a judge in Pascagoula, MS, promising to love each other till death they did part some forty years, three sons, and countless dances later.

And all because of a school girl’s whim.