The American Chronicles: The Denise and Mark Story

Denise and I grew up together. We are cousins. My Dad’s mom and her Dad’s mom were sisters. We went all the way through school together, graduating in the same class. We played together in elementary school. I remember Denise’s love for horses, and sometimes during recess she would be the lead horse with many of us following her “prancing” all around the playground. Nowadays, they probably would have us all under psychological surveillance, but we had fun and we were good kids growing up in a gentler time of innocence than today. After school, Denise and I kind of lost touch of one another. At a class reunion several years ago, we got reacquainted together with our spouses, Mark and Chris.

The years go by again and we saw each other at our 50th class reunion. This time we planned to get together and stuck to it. Denise and Mark came to visit. It was like learning all over again that we were family, cautiously approaching certain subjects, like politics. But after a while, no holds were barred. We were all on the same page and our life’s experiences were very similar. Mark turns out to be a history enthusiast so we decided to load up and go on a history tour of the area. Within 20 miles, there is a lot of history, starting with Harpers Ferry, WV where not only John Brown ignited the fuse to the Civil War with his failed slave rebellion (which got him hanged), but also the battle leading up to the bloodiest day of the Civil War in nearby Antietam.

Now, Denise is also a history buff, but in a different sort of way. She likes antiquing. As we explored Frederick, Md., one of the major stops was an antique emporium. It’s like going through a museum. A lot of stuff. Many things that are antiques now are from our childhood. Time flies. From small glass knickknacks to large pieces of furniture, each one I’m sure has its story, if only it could talk. Denise and Mark found a unique cabinet with doors, drawers and shelves. After deciding it would fit in their car on the way home, Denise just couldn’t pass it up. We celebrated at a restaurant across town, appropriately named Brewers Alley. Then there was more shopping—chocolates (Denise’s passion), a French Boutique and more. We also have common interests in camping, beaching, horses and the mountains.

We ate, talked, reminisced, shared family stories, and laughed—a lot. We toured shops, even found a local artisan Joe Straka, who for 40 years has “thrown” pottery—a term for hand-making pottery. His artistry was too much for Chris to resist, and Service Dog Charlie will be eating only table scraps for the next month because of our purchases! Joe’s demonstration of how he shapes and makes pottery reminded me not only of the history we saw, but also of our journey over the years with Mark and Denise. It starts out without a lot of form and by the end, after much toil, shaping and reshaping, if we have the fortune of God’s hand in our lives, there is something beautiful and long-lasting. As God said in Jeremiah 18:6, “as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” Thankfully so.

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Bill Wilson