Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Mystery from Buie's Creek…

(November 2… All Soul's Day… a day of prayer for the dead in Western Christianity… date chosen by Abbot Odilio of Cluny in the 11th century…)

The thirteen-year-old girl stood behind the podium on the stage in the auditorium of Campbell College in Buie's Creek, North Carolina. She looked out at the sea of college students, faculty, classmates and families. She was alone - her parents were setting up a new home in Norfolk, where in just four years she would be voted Editor of the school newspaper and Most Valuable Senior in her graduating class.

Today she was graduating from the 8th grade in the little country school of Buie's Creek, honored to be the Class Poet.

One day, decades later, she would learn that the mother of a famous southern mystery writer, Margaret Maron, had been a student at Campbell College.

And the uncle of her 8th grade friend, Anne Green - Paul Green, known as author of the world-famous symphonic drama— The Lost Colony—also a Pulitzer prize winner—had been born and raised in Buie's Creek.

She took a deep breath—but she was not afraid. She had not yet learned the meaning of stage fright! She began her poem in a clear, child's voice…

"Touch me not,
O pass me by,
When thou ridest through my life…
Touch me not, o Death…"

I no longer have a copy of that poem on death. But I remember it was three pages long!

I have no idea what prompted those thoughts on death in that child's mind so many years ago. She was a normal child, a little girl who had learned self-reliance early on, not given to bouts of depression or cloudy moods. She loved school, enjoyed her days growing up, adored her cats, was used to her parents' frequent relocations.

At that time she had never known or experienced death. There had never been any death-related situation in her life that might have left its footprint on her developing mind or soul.

Not especially religious, she enjoyed Sunday School in the Protestant Church and was an active Girl Scout.

A normal middle-class child in normal middle America…

So—where did this intimacy with death come from?

Years later, she would meet death in many forms - the harsh air raid sirens of " the War" near the Norfolk Naval Base, the nightly news on the radio, then the TV, then the natural procession of family and friends' deaths in adulthood…

But on that gentle day in May, in a tiny town of Buie's Creek - so small it was barely on the state map ... did she have some unearthly premonition . that one day she would be a writer - of death -- in all its varied forms. . . as a crime writer in the center of the world????

We'll never know the answer… but…

What do YOU think???

Thelma Jacqueline Straw


  1. I believe children have infinite wisdom, because they know nothing in the beginning. They know death, life and experience the wonder of it all from an unaffected vantage point. Then over time, and with constant prodding from the adult world, all this fantastic knowledge slips to the back of the brain, not forgotten, just danged difficult to get to again. Lovely story, and I'd sure like to read that poem, too!

  2. Wise comment, Margaret. You should know, as you have raised two wonderful children, a grand-son and expect a new little girl in your family soon... I lost the paper long ago - I've lived dozens of lives and played scores of roles ... since the sojourn at tiny Buie's Creek. TJStraw

  3. Many thanks to our blog administrator Kate Gallison for her excellent graphic for this blog... tjs

  4. Sshh, Thelma. I stole it. (As usual.)

  5. I recall quite vividly having complex thoughts and puzzling over mature issues as a child. I look at kids that age now, and they look so, well, young, that I have to remind myself they are having the same sort of thoughts, charting their way, and thinking more deeply than we often give them credit for.

    1. As I recall part of your childhood was spent in Tenn??? Might have been a southern something underneath the land... tjs

  6. What Sheila said. "The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." We need to ask them what they are thinking. We have a lot to learn.

  7. Thank you all for your astute comments. This proves we should never throw anything away!!! But with all the moves I've made since age 13 there is no way that little piece could have survived!!! This thought you are all mentioning - re the real thoughts of children - is worth further pursuit - by all of us... tjs

  8. Lovely piece, Thelma. Thank you. I'm with Margaret -- children still live a bit between the worlds, some longer than others.

  9. Hi Leslie, thanks for stopping by. We're looking forward to your being our guest in March! This concept of children living between the worlds is fascinating! TJS