My intrigue with this man and his work began in the 1980's when we moved to Prattville, Alabama, from Helen Norris Bell.
I first met Helen Norris Bell at a meeting of the Prattville Creative Writers. This group was the siren that called me to become a serious writer. Helen lived in Montgomery just across the river, and had judged a writing contest for us. She was at the meeting to present the awards.
My education to that point was a BS degree from the University of Alabama with a major in English. It was the best and the worst times for me as a teacher. Tommy had been hired by Teledyne Brown Engineering as a "rocket man." Our first child, a little girl, was not far behind. The plan had been for both of us to stay on in graduate school where Tommy would have a government funded job for NASA. Alas, the job contract fell through and out of necessity, our work on advanced degrees were truncated after only one semester.
My first job in Huntsville, when Teresa old enough to have day care, was a disaster as far as I could tell. It was at a county school and I had a class of seniors that were at least a year behind. One was dodging military service in Vietnam. When I heard about a teaching position at the brand new avant guard, Grissom High, I jumped at the change. It was the ideal teaching situation--I was one of the sexy sixteen English Department. It was designed to have separate "pods" for different subjects. Walls could be opened and closed for small classes or combined classes. Another pregnancy ended that ideal after two years.
We loved Huntsville. It was full of young teachers and their engineer husbands. But aerospace was being thinned out. Engineers were coming home with pink slips. Always one to prepare in advance, Tommy decided to get ahead of the game and find another engineering job with private industry before resigning. He had worked at Teledyne Brown Engineering and for NASA. To his credit, he worked on one especially phenomenal project: designing a heat shield to protect SkyLab, from catching fire upon reentry. It was a huge success.
So about ten years and two children later, Tommy received an engineering job offer from Savanah, GA, for Union Camp Paper Company. Again we were on the move.
So it was all set for him. But what was I going to do? Stay home with the children?
My next teaching position was at Memorial Day School in Savannah, GA,. In Savannah I was a bit wishy-washy: my education had been truncated at Alabama by becoming pregnant soon after we were married. I had been on the path to a Master of Arts but at this point I had to decide what to do with my life. Again.
To be continued...