How writing became my labor of love

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Words and I have always been close friends. This was odd since I didn’t talk until I was 3 years old. People like to say I was probably spoiled and had no need to ask for or tell anything, but I doubt that. In good time, if I wasn’t writing something or reading, I was drawing. Otherwise, I was outside making clover necklaces and studying roly-polies. I was, I suppose, “independently wealthy” in ways of amusing myself. 

I enjoy getting writing ideas from nowhere, the same as my mother could make Naugahyde car seat covers without a pattern for a brother’s 1953 Plymouth. In fact, a recent experience set me off on a writing venture. I had decided to become baptized in our new church. In my previous denomination, I was christened as a baby. That isn’t a baptism but does involve getting a shockingly cold, wet head. It was mid-World-War II and my mother had been gifted some “black-market” cotton batiste fabric by a clerk at our local J.C. Penney store. Apparently the town was hoping the all-male chain would be broken in the Lawson siblings. When the bolt of fabric came in, the clerk hid it under the counter. From it, Mother made an impressive christening dress (with no pattern) that was carefully stored afterward and brought out 26 years later to be worn by my infant daughter.

A common Sunday occasion in Faulkner County. A baptism at Hill Creek for Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Conway, c. 1910

Not counting the three accidental, potentially deadly self-baptisms I did in various rivers while in my youth, I was formally baptized by another “sprinkling” when I was 18. It was a sudden decision, not driven by dedication. A surprised elderly minister went to a water fountain to fill the silver baptismal bowl for the occasion.

There are several methods of baptism cherished by various denominations, and they don’t throw rocks at each other for being different. Some time back I discussed baptism with my husband, who was raised in Naylor, just up the road a bit. His church held immersion baptisms in a stock pond, much like the early days when witnesses converged on the bank of a pond, river, or creek in their Sunday finery. At the age of 15, he was immersed and, fortunately, allowed to come back up by Bro. Doyne Kelley. The thing he remembers most was that, although the bottom of the pond was naturally muddy, it seemed extra squishy, as if a herd of cattle might possibly have been there before the church gathering.

I had thought about this type baptism for a few years, but not having been a Baptist previously, I wasn’t aware of the logistics and plans. Now that it is recently accomplished, I can offer a list of dunkin’ do-nots that can be helpful to new candidates. Before the dunking, plan your attire. Do not wear Sunday finery. At 36 degrees outside that morning, I wore a polo shirt and jeans. This turned out to be the first dunkin’ do-not. The water is wonderfully warm and one feels lightweight, but when you stand up to leave, your wet clothing doesn’t want to leave at the same rate. After a couple of steps, you not only feel twice your weight, but the garments also seem to have just come out of a fully functioning Frigidaire freezer. Sequestered in a changing room, you discover not one item can be removed. Everything, including the little hospital socks with nubby bottoms, is virtually superglued. And try as you can to towel off, it is not enough to quickly slide on dry clothes.

Vivian (top) at 9 months wearing her christening dress and booties handmade by her mother, Bessie Lawson, in 1943. Vivian’s daughter, Amy (bottom), wore the same items at the same age in 1970. Both wore baby rings tied around the wrists with pink ribbon to avoid loss.

A chair is shoved. A mirror is knocked askew and a provided hair dryer falls to the floor. Your spouse and the kind attendant waiting in the hall are sure it sounds like steel-toe boots tumbling in a clothes dryer. My best advice is to make this ceremony a summer event when you can go barefoot and wear shorts and a halter top. Well, all right, maybe not the halter top.

Another dunkin’ do-not is not to dwell on the imaginations that could happen. Firstly, I was assured that they had never lost anyone to drowning. Secondly, I did not slip and fall face-first into the baptistry water with a resulting tsunami.

And then there is vanity. Women, do not apply make-up. This is not a beauty pageant. Do not worry about your hair. It is ultimately going to look like “the wreck of the Hesperus,” as my antique mother used to say. (You may have to look that up if your mother was/is not antique.) During this solemn occasion, they actually dimmed the baptistry lights so I could get comfortably seated with only my shoulders and head visible. Following the pastor’s eloquent statements, I held my nose and was dunked. They dimmed the lights again as I exited the water, and I resisted singing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or performing a sweeping center-stage bow. The congregation applauded anyway, so no encore was needed.

So what does this have to do with enjoying writing? This was an event that automatically called for a written reaction! I like to connect with readers because I enjoy their own shared stories, which are often better than mine! One writes for the outlet of expression, to keep one’s gray matter exercised, and to hopefully provide a reader a few minutes of diversion, education, experience, or observation.

Besides, God knew I couldn’t swim, so He let me write.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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