Summer on the coast of North Carolina can bring unbearably hot and humid weather, and so it was on this day in 1965. A bright blue sky and tall pines on both sides framed the two-lane road we traveled. In the midst of this view I saw a renegade item: a lone Pepsi bottle near the centerline. It didn’t occur to me that Lyn, the driver in training, didn’t see the bottle until I realized there was no way she was going to miss it. In fact, I remember thinking, “Is she aiming for it?”
No houses. No gas stations. No breeze. No other cars. The three of us just stood there on the side of the road as dutiful but totally useless observers while Coach Hayes, our driver’s ed teacher, changed the tire. The pines that might have provided an ounce of shade were too far off to the side in the noonday sun. My classmates and I were wearing shorts, and I remember seeing a pronounced bead of sweat paving its way down my tanned shin. I had never seen perspiration come from my legs before.
Linda and I had learned to drive before enrolling in the class. We were ready to do all that was officially required to get our driver’s license, but not so with Lyn. She had never been behind the wheel of a car, and Coach Hayes actually had two cigarettes lit at once on one of our first outings.
Lyn was short and pretty with blonde hair to her waist and blue eyes. The military frequently transferred service families from bases in California to our local base, and those of us who were not subject to transfer were always enamored with the West Coast arrivals. Lyn was one of those. I doubt she had any idea how much buzz was created on her first day of school. I was pleased to find that she was actually a bit shy, with a sweet spirit and a genuine interest in others. Not what I had imaged of a “California girl.”
Linda was of feisty and robust Italian heritage with a captivating laugh and bubbling personality. She had short but thick almost black hair that was fashionably styled and deep brown eyes. She was outspoken, confident, a lot of fun, and like me, had older siblings.
I was the bland “middle-of-the-road” in this mixture; nothing too outstanding about me except perhaps my dimples, long brown hair, and year-round tan, I stayed at the beach or pool so much during the summer months that a doctor once asked how I had a tan in the middle of the winter. This was, of course, long before the days of tanning salons.
Coach Hayes was definitely favored in the eyes of the students. He coached our football team, and the boys respected him as someone they could trust. The girls found him gracious and friendly.
For some odd reason, this high school episode has stayed in my memory bank all these years, and I remember Coach Hayes and my two classmates fondly. I have seen all three of them at various reunions since my classmates and I graduated high school in 1969 and they were all doing well.
When I saw Coach Hayes (for the first time since high school) at the last reunion several years ago, I was very excited to see him; however, I was pretty sure he didn’t remember me at all. With all the students who came in and out of his life over his long career as a teacher and coach, I suppose it would have been a miracle if he had remembered me. I guess I should have reminded him about the Pepsi bottle on that boiling summer day.
People and events come into and out of our lives as we travel this road of our earthly yet temporal home. Their quirks, strengths, weaknesses, sense of humor, and style, touch something in us that stays with us. As we move on, we wonder what has happened to them, and we may even catch up at an event like a reunion, only to return home to a world and circle of friends and family that no longer includes those from our past.
Perhaps the Pepsi bottle was in some way pointing to my future. I would have told you at the time that I was a Christian; however I was not living out my faith. To God be the glory, brokenness on my road eventually led to a renewed commitment to Christ. I am blessed by a wonderful husband, beautiful daughter, terrific son-in-law, and three cherished grandchildren.
The limitations of this life bound by time and space make me yearn all the more for our heavenly home. There, we will behold the face of the one who saved us. There, we will more fully understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity: Father; Son Jesus, the Christ; and the Holy Spirit—one in essence and undivided.
There, we will not have to wonder about what has happened to those we know and love as brothers and sisters in Christ. We will know where they are, what they are doing, and, more importantly, with Whom they are residing!
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