Yesterday's Magazette

4 – Unexpected Circumstances

Unexpected Circumstances

By Barbara Ledford Wright

My church gave me a going-away party before I left for the University. It was August 1971, and I’d enrolled in the Master’s Degree Art Education program.

Virginia hugged me and whispered, “I’m going to pray while you’re at the university you’ll find a husband.”

“My goodness, Virginia, I’m not looking for a husband!  All I want to be is a school teacher,” I added with a laugh.

Virginia flipped her copper-colored hair and replied, “We’ll see,” and her chestnut eyes twinkled.

I left home with Virginia’s words ringing in my ears.  I rented an apartment at the home of an English professor and his wife. Ada and I clicked from the beginning. She loved art and taught ceramics at the local community college. She also enjoyed matchmaking. Ada told me about a young professor in the music department who would be perfect for me.  She also said his father owned a bank in the Midwest and the family was wealthy.

“I’m not interested in money or a man,” I snapped. “I just want to get my degree and head home to the Blue Ridge Mountains.” I didn’t even ask his name.

I was assigned a parking place near the music department. Each day I passed two professors standing under the shade of a maple tree as I scurried to my building. They always stopped their conversation and spoke to me. I smiled, spoke, and continued long-stepping to class.

One gentleman was tall; black-haired,  had a Midwestern accent and his tie and shirt matched his tailor-made suit. He looked distinguished and important. The other professor wore thick glasses. He wore long sideburns and the wind tousled his curly carrot hair. When he smiled, he showed long teeth. He wore a pink polyester coat and black bell bottoms. His huge bow tie gave him a clownish appearance. I overheard him tell the handsome professor, “She’s attractive. You ought to inquire about her in the dean’s office. If you get a good report, ask her out.”

As fall approached, the distinguished professor added bits of conversation: “Good morning. Isn’t it a beautiful fall day?”

My accent was so different from his. “Oh, yes. I love fall. An artist couldn’t do justice to this beautiful maple.”

He smiled and added, “What part of the South are you from?”

“I’ve lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains all my life. I was reared in the part of North Carolina that borders Georgia and Tennessee. Many beautiful maples grow there.” I told him I was sorry that I couldn’t talk longer or I’d be tardy to class.

He smiled and said, “I must go too and teach a Music Appreciation class. If I’m only a few minutes late the students will sneak out.” ymwrightcirrcumstancesphoto

One morning the leaves had been raked and the maple stood naked against the gray sky. A brisk breeze made me draw my jacket closer. My spirit sank when I didn’t see the professors outside. I made a mental note to ask Ada about the young music professor who she’d told me about at the beginning of the year. Was either of these gentlemen the one that Ada had spoken of so highly? I hoped it wasn’t the one who wore the big bow ties.

I rushed into my classroom. I plopped into my seat, jerked out my notes, and started studying for a test.  I didn’t look up until a familiar Midwestern voice told us to close our book and clear our desk. My head popped up and the distinguished looking professor met my gaze. Heat built in my face, my eyes darted sideways briefly before returning to him. Why in the world was this man standing in front of the class and my regular teacher was gone?

“Good morning. I’m Professor Randolph Wright. I’m substituting for Dr. Hill today. She had to be away, but I will administer your exam. I’ll distribute the test. When you’re finished, you may give it to me and leave.”

When I handed my exam to Professor Wright he whispered, “Please come to my office during your lunch break. The room number is one twenty-eight in the music building.”

My mouth felt drier than burlap as I stammered, “Yes, sir.” I ambled out of the classroom. For a moment, apprehension fluttered through my middle. I felt nauseated and I couldn’t eat a bite for lunch. Why did he want to see me? Did he think I’d cheated on the exam?

I meandered to the music studio and knocked on the door. The professor told me to come in. He stood when I entered his office and told me to sit. “You can call me Randy. You may wonder why I’ve asked you to come to my office today. Well, I’d like to get to know you better, and wonder if you would like to have dinner with me this evening.”

I paused a moment and glanced at the Baby Grand Piano in the studio. He seemed like a nice man and would be safe to date. “Yes, I’ll be glad to have dinner with you,” I replied with a smile. I gave him directions to my apartment and we set a time that he would pick me up.

The dinner date went well. There were more dates as the weeks went by. On one of our dates I asked him why he substituted for my class that day when he had a class to teach himself. He laughed and raised his eyebrows. “It’s like this, Mrs. Hill and I switched classes that day so I could ask you for a date. It was a set up!”

I didn’t know what to think about that. I finally dismissed it because I met his parents and they seemed to be fine people. He visited my family and they got along well. I looked forward to the times we spent together. We attended church, shopped, and saw movies and went to many faculty concerts.

Finally, in November, it was time for Randy to present his faculty recital in the fine arts center recital hall. Ada and I slipped in and sat on the back row. He played the Grand Piano and the sound was magnificent. The program began with selections of two keyboard sonatas from Scarlatti. He played Sonata no. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27 no. 2 “Moonlight” from Beethoven. This was followed by three Preludes from Book 1, Debussy.

I was impressed that Randy didn’t have to read any sheet music. He had it all memorized. The other faculty members had someone turning the sheets of music for them when they gave their recitals. Randy’s fingers flew across the piano keys with great ease.  Then intermission came, and he left the stage to a thundering applause.

I whispered to Ada, “I don’t see how he does it.”

She replied, “It’s a natural gift. He’s the best pianist this university has. He studied under Herman Godes, one of the greatest pianists of the century. Randy was taught to be an absolute first-rate pianist.”

After the intermission he returned and played some of my favorite pieces from Chopin. Ada and I stood in line after the recital to tell Randy how much we enjoyed his recital.  He gave me a big smile and told me he would call me later in the week.

He called me many times after that November evening. We continued to date and ended up getting married in May. Virginia and most of my church family came in the church bus to the wedding.

Virginia pulled me aside and giggled. “Didn’t I tell you I’d pray that you’d find a husband at the university?”

Randy and I were brought together, and our journey together continues to produce unexpected circumstances.  We have a wonderful son. He served two tours of duty with the Army in Iraq. He’s a high school World History teacher, and will be getting married in April to a lovely lady from Alaska. I wonder, if Randy and I hadn’t met, would our son have been born into another family, look different, and be called by another name. It’s something to ponder.

Bio: Barbara Ledford Wright was published in nine previous Old Mountain Press Anthologies including the latest You Gotta Love ‘Em. She helped publish an art curriculum for counties in the Western NC Schools. Some credits include Express Yourself 101 Vol. 2 For Your Eyes Only, Fireflies and June bugs, Christmas Presence, Clothes Line Women’s Anthology, The Poetry Explosion, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, The Oxford So & So,  and Fall ’09 Yesterdays Magazette. She was an associate editor of Moonshine and Blind Mules and her story was in the anthology.  She’s a teacher, family historian, quilter, wife and mother.

Vol. 36 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter – 2009-2010

 


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