Coming Soon

  • Elizabeth Cornwall

Updated: Apr 24

Decades and decades ago, my four brothers were at home waiting for our mother to give birth. The eldest brother was everything an eldest brother should be: responsible, smart, in charge, and a leader. He was always handsome and very successful.

When our dad came home from the hospital with a picture of me, this archetypal eldest brother took that picture and went door to door in our north Dallas neighborhood — he would turn out to be the consummate sales and public relations guy — and said, "Look what I got for my birthday!"

Born on his birthday, my mother started and finished childbearing on the same day. She'd joke that he was the alpha, and I was the omega. Indeed, we had more in common than even I had with Kerry, and he adored me and flashed my pictures around for decades thereafter. Kerry was characteristically tight-lipped and held his cards under his particular hair shirt.

The day the eldest brother died held great meaning as well. I mean the specific date: April 23rd. My brother was named for two very powerful saints, and one was St. George; I don't think my Protestant parents thought they were giving him saints names though.

I had a paper icon of St. George that I placed in his hospital room a year ago when he was dying of lung cancer; I also started reading the Psalms to him. After he was moved home, I placed that same paper icon in his bedroom as he received hourly morphine. I kept reading the Psalms.

When we were all gathered around his bed after he had passed away, his son let out with a loud "What is today? Is it St. George's Day?" He was referencing how Brits refer to April 23rd, a day that once held great religious significance just like St. David's day, but is now mostly a secular national holiday.

I said yes, walked around my brother's body, and got the paper icon and gave it him, my brother's unbelieving only child and son. I prayed the Psalms until they removed his body, going down the stairs and into the funeral home vehicle. I'll never forget the long, slow and highly meaningful look the youngest worker gave me.

If it needs spelling out, it was a blessing that my brother died on St. George's feastday.

Saint George, pray for us!

Updated: Apr 14

When I was curious schoolgirl, I used to open my mother's dresser drawers and filing cabinets and have an old fashioned look-see. Once, I came upon a black and white photograph of men in white sheets and pointy white hats. Later, I came upon an obituary whereupon Hugo Black was an honorary pallbearer of a direct ancestor. Later, I learned he was not only a senator and Supreme Court justice but had espoused anti-Catholic views and was a member of the KKK.

My brothers and I grew up in Birmingham during the integration of schools in the late 1960s. We lived the burden of Southern history and especially in regards to race in Bomb-ingham. My grandfather's unholy trinity was to rant against "Catholics, n- - - ers, and Jews. I learned to abhor that from a young age and was never more confirmed in this than when a Chinese family moved in across the street, and I spent a lot of time teaching the young ones English when I was in the fourth grade. My grandfather had plenty to say about that and about them.

You're a prisoner of history until you aren't. Somehow, I escaped by studying French in high school and thus learning about eye-opening European culture. I also studied world history at the feet of a lady who was a world traveller. Mrs. Mann shared her slides with us so that the Roman forum, the Greek Parthenon, and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul came alive. From that point, I was hooked on history.

By the time I made it to college, I asked my German teacher what classes I should take to broaden my horizons, Dr. Black suggested art history. And so I sat in a darkened room with a Jewish art history professor who opened up the biblical scenes of classical, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern art far more than sitting in a Presbyterian church every Sunday ever could. Suddenly, I found something that I was very good at — training my God-gifted ability to see and write about what I saw.

When we were given the choice of five architecturally significant buildings to visit, to research, and to write about. I chose St. Paul's Roman Catholic Cathedral. I stayed for services. I took instruction from the priest, and then I "poped." I left behind the anti-intellectualism, provincialism, and racism of Birmingham. I was no longer a prisoner of my history. But it meant that I was an outlier with my family and with most of the people I grew up with as Alabama has only ever had between 3 – 5 % Catholics.

If you must be an outlier, then escape the circumstances in which you were born by following the innate gifts that God has given you, ask other people for advice, and strike out on your own in just three easy steps.

I joined my brother in my new outlier status at the tender age of 19. What I did decades later would seal that status. I had my dream about Kerry when I had one foot in one world and the other in a world that I would have never guessed that I would discover.

  • Elizabeth Cornwall

Updated: Apr 24

Every family has a system. It gets more interesting depending on who shows up in the genetic lottery and how many. A family of five children with four boys and one girl who is the youngest makes for an interesting system even before you factor in the sins of the fathers and the mothers.

Kerry was always an outlier and this image was strengthened by the fact that he was extremely quiet and in his own head — an extreme introvert with a reading addiction and a need for speed.

When he was a toddler and the last boy was born, he acted like this baby was his. He carried him around like those homemade bean bag frogs. folded over, plopped in half and perilously close to the floor. I really don't know how he reacted when I was born, the long awaited girl, because no one recorded it. But the last boy was always his.

After having four boys, my mother recalls that she was sick of washing and ironing blue jeans and shirts and promised God that if she had a girl, she wouldn't complain about ironing the frilly dresses common in the 1960s. In fact, when she was pregnant, she told her doctor that if she had another boy she would jump off what was then the tallest building in Dallas. He told my dad that he was worried.

There is the story that when my mother was heavily pregnant with me, she was hand washing something in the bathroom sink, and Kerry was "sitting on the pot" as the story is told. Yes, we had indoor plumbing. He was deep in thought and most likely in some sort of time out until he produced.

"Mama, what do we wear when we go to Heaven?"

"I don't know, but how about 'I gotta robe, and you gotta robe, and all God's children gotta robe,'" my mother recalls.

At that, Kerry jumped up, pulled up his blue jeans with no whipping, and said, "Then I won't go."

It was pretty much like that until he was 33 years old. Me too, but I'm still alive.

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