The first time I saw Josh Lucas in Sweet Home Alabama, I was propelled back in time…as swiftly and surely as any time machine could have managed. It was June 1963 all over again and a Saturday night in Memphis. Two sisters and friends from church, Diane and Yvonne, and I had just arrived a little late to the Saturday night gathering for Youth for Christ. They were showing the film A Man Called Peter, the story of Peter Marshall’s life, and we had been looking forward to it.
It was crowded that night, and so we slipped quietly into the nearest row of open seats that we could find. I glanced around at those seated nearby…just as he glanced back at me…blonde, blue-eyed and a dead-ringer for a young Josh Lucas. I think that was the first time my heart had ever truly skipped a beat. I really did enjoy watching the movie that night, but I also spent a good bit of time checking to see if he was still there, usually just about the exact time he was doing the same thing.
When the film was over, I glanced around to see if he was there, but he was gone. For some reason, I was immediately disappointed. About that time, John, the director of YFC and an Irishman with a lilting brogue I can still remember, made his way over to Diane, Yvonne and me to ask us to go with a group to Pasquales for a pizza. Since none of the three of us had a car, I think we called their dad to arrange for a ride home later…at any rate, we said yes we’d love to go. There was already a crowd in the parking lot waiting to go to Pasquales. John pointed to the car waiting for the three of us. I opened the car door and there he was. It was one of those “you would have had to have been there” moments.
I remember sitting at a small round bistro table in a little Italian cafe named Pasquales in Memphis and falling in love at the age of 17 and a half…with a young man named Ross who was far from home. He was dressed in khaki trousers, a navy blue blazer with a baby blue oxford cloth shirt, a tie and loafers…so I had no way of knowing at first sight that he was a sailor. I had a “policy” that I didn’t date sailors…my little rule that I would soon break for him. He was from Oregon…of all places…the son of a newspaper owner and publisher. He’d been to college in Oregon and then joined the Navy. He was headed to the U.S.S. Forrestal…at the age of nineteen.
Ross and I spent as much time as possible together over the next few months. He gave me a diamond solitaire engagement ring and I said yes. Now, as a mother of three young adults and a grandmother of six, I can see why my parents and older sisters were “fit to be tied”. There were two obvious strikes against us from the start: Ross was from much too far away and I was only seventeen. My parents and sisters couldn’t bear the thought of my moving so far away. An honor society student, my plans for college had been disrupted when I had given up my scholarship to a college in Tennessee. My life was in turmoil at that moment.
There are crossroads moments in each of our lives…the sad day came when I gave Ross his ring back and temporarily broke both our hearts. I ended up going to a Baptist college in Mississippi. Ross came to visit me once there, and we wrote to one another for a couple of years after that. When the time came, he got out of the Navy and returned to Oregon. My guess is that he still lives in the same little town where he grew up. I truly hope he has had a good and happy life.