Driving Miss Cobb to Neverland!
After crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky I soon picked up Mary Lou Cobb at the Florence Mall off I-75. I still wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into by going to seminary. I dreaded the long 840 mile drive to the sin city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Mary Lou kept me awake by telling me how she met and fell in love with her fiance and stories about seminary life in Neverland.
Within an hour after crossing the Louisiana state line, I could feel my natural curly hair coiling so tight it was starting togive me a headache. Mary Lou's hair swirled like orange, cotton candy on a stick. To keep myself from laughing at her hair I focused on the creepy, greenish-gray moss hanging from so many of the trees. If we had a flat tire and the car veered off the highway to the right we would go right into the black lagoon where we would be eaten alive by a congregation of algae covered alligators!
After hearing about Neverland for 12 hours there were no surprises left when I drove through the big Elvis like gates of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I felt like I was driving into sanctuary with dirt and sin washed away! Pretty soon on the right hand side was the girl’s dormitory, Carey Hall, with bright, white colonial, chastity columns. Only a few steps up to the first floor where I entered into a wide, cool hallway. On the left was a kitchen for three and straight ahead opened up into a formal living room the size of a roller rink. A more comfortable TV room caught my eye as I walked down the left hall to find the stairs.
After bringing up the last of my things, I flopped down exhausted on one of the twin beds in my room. I had not asked for a single room because I would be charged more. Instead, I would take a chance on hopefully not getting a roommate. I drifted off to sleep.
In a couple of hours a knock on my door woke me up. A pretty girl named Linda said she was my roommate! I hated to tell her I didn't want a roommate, but I did anyway as nicely as possible, because I was desperate to be alone. With her arms loaded she looked at me funny, so I said, “Nothing against you, Linda, but I was hoping for some privacy after twenty-two years!”
Good hearted Linda burst out laughing at my explanation. I felt a little better. She said,“That’s okay, I’ll just go back to room and board and ask for a room with somebody who wants a roommate. Can I leave my stuff here by your door?”
"Sure," I said feeling like I wanted to crawl under the levy! I had been caught trying to sneak a private room without paying, plus, I had inconvenienced a nice, fellow Christian. I didn't deserve her kindness when she told me not worry about it. She later assured me she had found a roommate and everything was fine.
Linda didn’t know it, but she became my hero that day. She showed me how a real Christian lady handles adversity when she's been hoodwinked. Even now as I write this memoir I’m tearing up remembering her forgiveness.
Even though I didn't deserve it, I enjoyed my private room more than I can express. (Yes, I was rightly charged the extra fee for a private room.) God had shown me His great mercy and grace through one of His seasoned Christians from Florida. I also discovered I could study better without a human distraction. It was like a haven of rest for me when I could pray out aloud to the Lord whenever I wanted. My biggest prayer request was sounding like a broken record, “Why am I here at seminary, Lord?”
Much to my delight, the first floor of Carey Hall was filled with testosterone every weekend! I felt shy around so many genuine ministers, but when the girls and guys sang the familiar hymns around the piano I relaxed. My friend, Mary Lou, was definitely right about the high ratio of men to women, but I wasn’t complaining.
Back in my room one night, Mary Lou asked me what I thought about all the cute guys coming to Carey Hall. I just smiled and said I hadn't really noticed! She laughed and wagged her head. She asked, “What do you think about that tall guy from New Mexico, Sandy Storrie?”
She caught me off guard so I hesitated before I said, “Oh, he’s tall alright and cute, but he’s not my type! I'm only attracted to dark haired guys, remember?
Many of the women at the seminary were working on a Masters in Religious Education (M.R.E.). I couldn’t figure out what Baptist church was going to hire me as a woman to teach and lead religious education. I could not see myself breaking down the old Baptist tradition of no woman teaching men!
Most of my religious training at N.O.B.T.S. was quite exciting and liberating. The professors opened class with prayer and they were approachable. I was beginning to feel my call and purpose coming together under the teaching of Dr. Mildred Souther’s Childhood Education classes. She helped me understand the different needs and expectations of child from birth and up. It would be handy to know all these things whether in the church setting or when raising my own children I thought.
I spent hours reading and collecting information on the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional needs of children. I wished I had known them while I was babysitting back in Ohio. I lovingly put together a one of its kind, thick, accordion book with pictures of children at every age with their corresponding characteristics and specific needs. I let Dr. Souther borrow it to show as an example to her classes.
Believe it or not, the seminary classes were free but I still needed spending money for food, gas, and toiletries. I applied for the library job on campus and I got it. I would be alphabetizing all the misplaced Dewey Decimal index cards, A thru Z. I had to sit out in the open library near the index card file cabinet where I could work; and check out all the available, male ministerial students.
One, late afternoon, while working at the library, I was summoned by the Librarian, Miss Davidson. I had avoided the elderly, jilted spinster for six months hoping she would stay secluded in her office. Someone must have told her I was talking daily with a handsome visitor while I worked. It wasn't my fault he came in everyday and sat across from me! But now, I was going to walk the plank and suffer the consequences because of my poor judgment.
Nervously, I bit my lower lip as I gently slid the index card drawer back into its home. Chills of fear rippled up and down my spine making my feet stick to the plank like glue with each agonizing step toward Miss Davidson’s dungeon. I knocked on the door while my legs wobbled like two strands of licorice.
“Come in!” I heard Miss Davidson say.
My sweaty hand could barely turn the brass knob.“You wanted to see me, Miss Davidson?”
“Yes, please come in, Miss Wilcox, and sit down,” she said while peeking over the top of her half glasses and pointing to the leather chair with a gnarled finger.
“Yes, ma’mam,” I said as I grabbed hold of the arms of the sturdy chair and plopped down like a sheep before the slaughter. I sucked in a deep breath through my nose to clear my cobwebs, but it was too late . . . my brain had left the building.
To be continued.