Sally and I have a long history of taking in strays—the human kind. I’m referring to a scale grander than hosting friends and family in our guest room overnight or for half a week.
Over the years, we’ve opened our doors to a wide assortment of total strangers for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. I’m not counting the dozens of teenagers who, it seems, half-lived at our house while Jenna and Julie were growing up. And I’m not counting Fuzzy, who is a category all his own.
An early failure was in response to a campaign here in South Carolina that “Runaway Kids Don’t Belong in Jail.” Our state’s unfortunate response to children (under age 16) who were homeless was to incarcerate them. We agreed to keep one or two. Some stuff got stolen. The program failed.
Another early failure was a couple, somehow related to our church in Batesburg. They had difficulty with life in general and were kicked out of their apartment. They stayed with us a few weeks, and then moved on to whatever was next for them.
Then came a series of memorable successes where a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a family member had a specific short term need, often having something to do with a local college. I don’t remember the exact chronology, but I’m glad each of these good souls came into our life:
Jennifer Thrailkill Seigler babysat for Jenna and Julie when we lived in Batesburg. Sally taught Jennifer sixth grade math. When we moved to Columbia, Jennifer said she would come live with us while she was in school. She did. She stayed for a couple of years and became a heart x-ray technician.
Second cousin, once removed, Becky Cremer Taylor (daughter of first cousin Lola) used our house as a retreat from her college dormitory a few times during her four years at Presbyterian college.
Christen Green Kinard (Sissi) also retreated with us during her college years. But since Sissi’s parents were overseas, in Belgium, where we had become friends, we became surrogate parents. It would be hard to say when retreating with us stopped and living with us started. Here is what Sissi wrote on Facebook yesterday after we went to her Dad’s 60th birthday party:
- “I am one of Marion and Sally’s many strays. They took me in when things were rough in college, fed me expensive cheese regularly, woke me up too early on the weekends and just generally loved me when I was hardest to love. Thank you, both, for being our family. We love you.” (Note: Sissi was never hard to love.)
Jenny Johnson Rooks, daughter of J.J. Johnson, almost a relative (through my beloved cousin Patsy) stayed with us, if I remember correctly, once a week for a year or two while she became a nurse. Who knows when we’ll need the services of these medical caregivers?
Ryan Payne, a friend of our niece’s (Hope Craig) husband, came for a continuing education course, and stayed a while working on his teaching credentials.
Irina Pevzner stayed with us a couple of nights each week for a few years while working on her Ph.D. in piano performance at USC. She got it! She is the Director of the Charleston Academy of Music. We’ve gone to Spoleto a few times to hear her perform. I officiated at her wedding.
Our most recent adoptee is Ramin Pajoumshariati, from Iran, on a post-doctoral fellowship at USC. Ramin only stayed at our house a couple of weeks. I helped him find a permanent place to stay and Kathwood Baptist helped furnish his apartment. His bride, Kimia Yavari, a medical doctor, arrived a year later. She and Ramin have won our hearts. We are trying to help them get Green Cards. Keep them in your prayers.
Sally and I agree that we have received far more from these strays than we have given. They have blessed us beyond words.
Marion (and Sally) Aldridge