Leigh and I had been really good friends. Until her mother decided I was a bad influence on her. We went to the same small Southern Baptist Church. We were in the same youth group which, for the size of the church, was actually pretty large. I’d sat at her family’s dining room table where after dinner they always had a family Bible study.
We had a really dynamic, energetic, youth leader. She talked to us about Jesus, but she also made going to church fun for teenagers. There was always something going on. Not in that ‘lure ’em in with pizza and a movie and then manipulate ’em into getting baptized bait and switch’ kind of way. Not like that at all. In fact in her group you had to earn pizza and a movie. There were all kinds of service projects from cleaning elderly church members yards to scraping and painting their houses. If you wanted to go to Super Wow you had to work to go even if your parents were paying for it. We always had fun doing all of it. But I digress.
Leigh and I were really close until one night when we, Leigh, her younger sister, and me, went to the teenage “nightclub” in Big Town. I wasn’t ever much for the nightclub scene. Maybe that night ruined me on it. I don’t know. Anyway, Leigh and her sister were bumpin’ and grindin’ with all the guys on the dance floor. I was uncomfortable and bored and decided I’d go cruise the strip with Folsom. I’d never cruised the strip before. Cars were bumper to bumper. There was no way out if you were on the inside lane, which we were. Curfew was 11 p.m. I was stuck. On the strip. With a guy. At time to head back. Sweating. Nervous. Crying by the time we made it back to ‘the club’.
I just assumed they’d wait there for me. That was the agreement. But when I wasn’t there at the the agreed upon time they got on the strip looking for me. As if they’d ever find me in the sea of cars. This was before the advent of cell phones. There was no instant communication. I didn’t know they were looking for me. Folsom and I waited. And waited. And when they didn’t show back up we assumed they went home without me. No sense all of us getting in trouble, right? Not knowing what else to do, Folsom took me to Leigh’s house. Where they were not. Only her mother freaking out. Leigh hadn’t even used a pay phone to call her mom to let her know she’d be late. And by this time we were hours late. Not sure how many.
Folsom and I explained what happened. But she didn’t believe us. And when Leigh and her sister couldn’t find us on the strip they headed home too. By the time it was all over everybody was crying and I was banished. Leigh’s mother didn’t know what I’d been up to with Folsom, but she was sure it wasn’t cruisin’ the strip. Her kids had never done anything like that until I came along.
Admittedly starting a cruise down the strip at 9:30 when we needed to be rolling out at 10:30 wasn’t the best decision. I had no idea that it would take an hour and a half to travel three miles and back. But a bad influence?!? And nothing Folsom or I said made any difference. In fact, the more we protested, the worse it made things. She called my mother, my mother came to get me, and that was that. I wasn’t welcome at their house anymore and Leigh and I only got to hang out at youth group after that.