Everybody needs someone to laugh with. I found somebody, or rather, SHE found ME. And thank God she did.
Paula B. surfaced one day, when I was 13, to invite me to MYF, a youth group at a local church. I’m sure our next door neighbor put my name on some secret list of derelict teens, targeted for outreach.
I agreed to go, since so many youth spoke very highly of MYF, and their fearless leader, Miss Paulette.
My new friend picked me up in her car. Barely 100 yards up the street, I nearly changed my mind. She was wearing a dress, appropriate enough. But she had hairy legs. Very hairy. And no makeup, unwashed hair in pink foam rollers.
She noticed me edging closer to the door, and laughed. Yep, I thought, she is clearly insane. Turned out she was two weeks into JUG Club initiation. That’s when I laughed, because the rollers were above and beyond dedication.
Paula came by and picked me up for every MYF event over a two year period. She realized I use humor as a shield, and she laughed plenty.
Once I reached high school, I no longer went to MYF on Wednesday nights. But Paula never stopped inviting me. We talked and laughed every day, and I cried a little some days. She always listened without prejudice.
I spent quite a bit of time with Paula’s family. Paula is exactly like her mama. She loves fully. She is kind to everyone. She is charitable, and a rock solid prayer warrior.
Paula, a mutual friend, and I made it a point to go see the most ridiculous movies possible: So I Married an Axe Murder, Hocus Pocus, and Wayne’s World… We ate chili dogs, and drank suicides.
One weekend Paula and I were heading to Wedowee in her old Taurus to get ice cream. The Taurus nearly didn’t make it up Needham’s hill. It drove well in reverse, so that’s how we made it back to town. In reverse.
I spent evenings sitting in Spectrum watching her work. Those were good times. I moved away after high school, but returned frequently to visit.
When I needed an attendant for my wedding, she volunteered. We spent one hysterical afternoon in Atlanta trying on wedding gowns. I considered it a huge concession to buy a dress to begin with, and flatly refused anything frilly. She found my dress.
Paula drove down for the rehearsal, and decorating. She came up with a method to gather ivy for table decoration. We pulled it off the side of a house. She kept me laughing and chill. Meir kept us both well fed.
My Meir adored Paula, for many reasons, not the least of which was that first invitation to MYF. Because of MYF I was saved. Before Paula and her mama, I had never felt worth saving.
We kept in touch as I moved back and forth across the nation. She came to a time in her own life when she was ready to settle down and marry. She and her husband moved into Paula’s grandmother’s cottage. It is small. But Paula adores that house.
Paula is every bit as sentimental as I. Following her marriage to Rick, she longed for a child. We all knew she’d be a wonderful mother, gracious and maternal as she was. She didn’t have an easy time of it. But Paula has unshakeable faith.
After years of trying, complications, and false hope, Paula and her husband were blessed with a daughter. Hannah brings both of them such joy. And how could she not? That child is a carbon copy of Paula.
Hannah has a big heart, big hopes, and bigger dreams. Paula works hard to keep her on the path to Heaven. Paula knows the path well. She was largely responsible for putting me on the same path.
There are never enough words to write with the depth of gratitude and love I wish to convey. I am proud of Paula. I love her. She’s led me through some dark times, and she’s led me to better ones.
Paula is still beautiful- after all these years, with an infectious laugh and quick wit. Some people just have light. They are the beacons that lead the rest of us safely to the harbor.
Paula’s community is blessed to have her and her family. I am blessed by her friendship.
Be you. Be beautiful. Be blessed, Y’all.
Donald W. McCullough