How I Met Your Momma

Did your Momma ever tell you we knew each other when we were young?”  Papa, my dear father-in-law, had piqued my interest.

I first met Robert Massey shortly after becoming engaged to his eldest son.  He treated me kindly, as a cherished daughter.  So I called him Papa like everyone else.  Likewise Momma embraced Billy as a beloved son. Our union bridged the racial lines of two diverse southern families. And no one seemed to mind.

Fast forward 14 years later and Papa’s question hinted at a backstory that explained much.  He had met Momma when they were teenagers.

This is Papa’s story:

It was the 1940s.  Papa was a telegram delivery boy for Western Union. To shorten his long walk from the city outskirts to the downtown office, he often cut through an alley located in a Black section of town.  Each morning he would pass by a teenage girl who was also taking a short cut to work.

Momma age 17


“That girl was your Momma.  Every morning we would speak.  Yep.  Saw her every morning.  You should ask her about it.”  Papa advised.  So I did.

This is Momma’s story.

She worked as a maid for with a prominent banker who lived in a lovely antebellum home near town.  Momma, new to the area, found lodging at a boarding house.  To make her trek to work easier, she would leave by a back door that emptied into an alley.  Every morning this white boy would pass by…

 “We always spoke to each other.  He was so friendly.  But then he was nice to everyone.  He didn’t care if you were Black.  He was the white boy that always ate lunch at the colored folks diner.  Nobody minded.  Everybody liked him.”

Papa age 17

What I find so endearing about this story is that during the height of racial segregation in the Deep South, Papa saw people for their character, not their color.  I’m blessed that he passed this trait onto his sons.  Especially the one I married.

Thank you for the legacy Papa.  The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Papa: September 15, 1928 – October 31, 2014


FAMILY LORE · Southernisms

Ask Me Out Already!

“Denise can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”  I knew what was coming.

“How did you and Billy get together?”

I decided to give the short answer: “He asked me out.”

“Really?  Billy?  But he’s so quiet and shy.”

I laughed hard, perhaps a little too hard…”Well you’ll just have to get to know him better.”

“Its the quiet ones you have to watch.”

Mini HB - Copy
Baby Billy

Some years ago, a new acquaintance of ours asked me how I met my husband.  To the casual observer, we certainly don’t “match.”  My husband is a quiet, reflective introvert and I’ve been described having a “bombastic” personality that I’ve learned to tone down over the years into a modified extrovert.  Then of course I’m Black and he’s White.  And that, my friends, is very different the farther south of Atlanta you travel.  Then again he’s 12 years older than me.  I’m tall, he’s well…not.  Oh yeah, folks are always staring and wondering.  And sometimes total strangers just ask.  So I’ll tell you-

Mini SB
Baby Me


Billy and I attended the same Bible study group for many years before we started dating.
While romance was lacking in those early years, what I knew about Billy, I admired.  He was a spiritual man who was well known for his willingness to help others out.  A skilled mechanic and electrician who volunteered to make home repairs for the elderly, build places of worship and help with disaster relief.

Also I admired Billy because he was a single dad.  His eldest, a dear son, had left home soon after graduating from high school.  But his daughter, a tween, was still with him.  And she loved her father as Southern girls are prone to do with an almost worshipful admiration.  No wonder too.  Billy spent quality and quantity time with his daughter Annie.  She was his constant companion, a hard worker at his volunteer construction jobs.

It was Billy’s daughter Annie that first captured my attention.

“Billy, I’m having some of the girls over my apartment for a little get-together.  Can Annie come?”

So I sat about to “rescue” Annie from the  constant dust, dirt, and hardhats of her father’s world.  A series of “female” Southern socials would be a welcomed diversion to a girl who was blossoming into a lovely young woman.   Annie and I became friends.  And to me Billy was simply “Annie’s Daddy.”

A few years went by and one night when the Bible study group was breaking up for the evening, “Annie’s Daddy” came up to me:

“Wait Denise.  Are you fixin’ to leave already? “

“Yeah.  I had a rough day at work and I want to get home early.”

“Well, um…I have a question for you.” Billy smiled.


“O.K. its a serious question.” Billy smiled bigger.

“O.K.” I repeated with a slight annoyance.

“I’m not joking now.  This is a serious question.”

“O.K. then what’s your question?”  Seriously?  Seriously?  This is taking too long I just want to go home.  I’m tired.

“If I asked you – would you go out with me sometime?”

“Sure!”   I readily said.  Is that all?  Good grief!  Maybe I can go home now.

I really didn’t mean to be that flippant.  I was just trying to leave.  Yet Billy had charmed me with his boyish stammering.  Besides, he used the word “sometime.”  That’s a very safe, ambiguous term.

“How about Friday?” He asked.

“Wait a minute.  Today is Monday and you want to go out Friday?  THIS Friday?”  This was no shy boy.  This was a grown man who knew what he wanted.

Dating photo 3-11-00 - Original
January 2000

So we went out Friday January 7, 2000.

And Saturday, January 8, 2000.

And Sunday, January 9, 2000.

Billy kept asking me out and I kept saying yes.  Four months later I was saying YES again to my marriage vows.

The minister who eventually  married us had known both Billy and myself for decades.  When he found out that we were dating, he said-

“I’m so tickled you and Billy are dating!  It makes perfect sense that the two of you should get together.  Y’all are so much alike!”