The Making of Tibias Ivory: Freedom's Quest
D. Allen Jenkins
© D. Allen Jenkins
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The large, dark hands of Bishop Jericho raised the tiny form of Tibias Ivory and cradled him in the crook of his left arm. His mother,
baby dedications, but this one was special; the infant in his arms was as close to a grandson as he would ever have.
“Yet unlike Hannah, you will not leave him here in this holy place, but will take him home to be the guardian of his life and soul.”
The bishop paused and gazed into Tibias’ large brown eyes. “Unless, of course, you’d like to leave him with Mrs. Jericho and me, which we wouldn’t mind at all.”
The congregation, knowing the love their pastor had for this child, broke into laughter.
“Well then,” he continued, “since you seem to want to have him all for yourself, I will remind you that this is not so much a dedication of this child, as it is a dedication of yourself to the task of raising Tibias in the ways of God.”
A few amens sounded from those observing the proceedings, and
“Tibias, “ he said, his voice softening with even greater compassion, “ you are the most precious result of your parents’ quest for freedom. The ingredients of your making were courage, determination, and hope, yet the genesis of your character has been tempered by tragedy and pain. But as you lie here in my arms, you are as a jewel in the hands of God— uncut, unpolished, but precious and worthy of his attentions. He desires to craft you into a pearl of great price, a gem
of immeasurable worth.”
The bishop placed his right hand into a silver bowl of water, placing his wet fingertips on Tibias’ forehead.
“Therefore, Tibias Mahognus Ivory, I dedicate you to God in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ guide you and prosper you all the days of your life. Amen.”
“Amen,” the congregants echoed. They stood in synchronized response to the prayer’s conclusion, and vacated their pews to engulf the bewildered mother and child.
The congregants filed from the service and gathered on the front steps of the church. Someone said, “Let’s get a picture of this moment.” A consensus opinion was rapidly reached, and the small but exuberant gathering pulled themselves together as one, a familiar experience these last few months, and smiled a unified smile of thankfulness and praise for this moment they were
experiencing. The shutter snapped.
A week later, the bishop sat in the Worthingtons’ living room. Mrs. Jericho, Matilda, and Bethany holding Tibias, sat on the sofa next to the bishop examining the photograph. The bishop stood in the center of the front row of the gathered parishioners, his wife of thirty years stood next to him, their dark-hued skin standing in stark contrast with the fresh white paint of the structure behind them. Likewise, the congregation stood distinctively against the alabaster backdrop. The brilliance of the clean white was surreal, and singular—with one exception: Bethany Ivory.
“That’s my girl.”
James watched his energetic nine-year-old deftly snatch the football out of the air. “I guess what they say is true: The apple never falls far from the tree.” The pride of a father was evident in his expression, and his deep voice resonated expressively as he laughed with his only child.
His wife raised her gaze from the green beans she was snapping, and looked at her husband with a satisfied grin. This could be good and bad, she thought as she watched them play. In the background of this lighthearted game of catch, rose the gleaming gold steeple of the
“Throw it higher, Daddy,” came the gleeful request of the energetic young girl.
Short and slender, with golden hair reaching the middle of her back,
James raised his hands in a concert of celebration with his princess; she was
daddy’s little girl.
Indeed, from the moment of birth,
The closeness of the father/daughter relationship did not translate into the elder serving the younger; indeed, no one would anipulate Rev. James Ivory,especially his own daughter. He was the definitive magistrate of his home and church, and his daughter and congregation were equally guided under the strictest of regulations.
subtle change to her sense of duty.
Ivory developed his “never-say-die” attitude while playing high school football, and he was not one to give into a situation easily. This characteristic was cloned perfectly in his maturing daughter, and soon it became obvious that Daddy’s little girl was becoming Daddy’s big headache.
Entering seventh grade, the once spindly tomboy suddenly looked quite womanly. A game of catch still interested her, but it was boys she wanted, not a football. Her male classmates gawked at her new shapeliness, and soon several young men were smothering her with attention—a development that caught the Reverend off guard.
necessary to frequently, not to mention loudly, make his feelings known about the kind of boys he would allow her to see.
“Bethany Ivory,” he said one morning as she was leaving for school, a stern, preacherly stare engulfing his brow, “I better not find you with any of those older boys. They do not have your best interest in mind.”
Jason was a member of three school sports teams. He was a good student and quite charming, not arrogant like so many other athletes in the school. He liked reading poetry and classic literature. He would often visit
Discussions about popular culture were of great interests to
However, their discussions about religion had more depth, not because she was interested in it above other things, but because this was all she ever heard her parents talk about. To
Despite his rhetoric, Rev. Ivory was often too busy with his own world to pay much attention to the company Bethany was keeping. If his passing glances didn’t reveal long hair, odd clothing, or poor manners, he never seemed to mind his daughter’s visitors.
Jason was did not fit any of these molds, and as Rev. Ivory came up the front walk one evening, Jason promptly stood and met the Reverend’s eyes as he ascended the porch steps.
“Hello, Reverend Ivory. How are you today, sir?”
Ivory paused and studied the boy. “And you are?” he queried.
“Jason Wiley, sir,” came the reply. “I’m a friend of
“Yes, well, nice to meet you, Jason. It is good to know that there are still young men with manners among us.”
Ivory’s eyes turned downward to the picture on the newspaper in his hand.It showed an unruly mob protesting the war in
He slapped the photograph with the back of his right hand. Jason didn’t respond, and
The two laughed and soon were engrossed again in conversation, but— “
As the family ate their supper of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn on the cob, Rev. Ivory’s favorite meal,
“No, I was just thinking about what Jason and I were talking about.”
“And what was that?” asked Mrs. Ivory, passing the gravy bowl to her husband who, occupied with wiping his mouth after a particularly juicy bite of chicken leg, seemed unaware of the conversation.
“Oh, we were talking about the Bible. Jason said his church believes Jesus’mother, Mary, can be prayed to just like God.”
Reverend Ivory jolted upward in his chair, knocking the chicken leg from its place on the edge of his plate; it fell to the floor.
“What did he say?” he bellowed.
“He said he asks Jesus’ mother, Mary, to pray to God for him just like he prays to God for himself,”
“I don’t care what you want to know,” he shouted, causing Mrs. Ivory to shudder, “you will never see him again, nor will you listen to any more of that devilish hogwash. He has poisoned your mind.”
“But, Daddy …”
“But nothing,” the reverend retorted, “I will not have my daughter cavorting with a heretic; Hell will be brimming with such infidels as the Catholics. Have I taught you nothing, young lady?”
Rev. Ivory, completely incensed at this insubordinate outburst, removed himself from the table into his study, slamming the door behind him. Concurrently, his twelve-year-old daughter burst into tears and ran screaming up to her bedroom.
“I hate you, I hate you,” she screeched, banging her bedroom door closed with a force equal to her father’s.
Mrs. Ivory sat alone at the dinner table, stupefied as to how she should respond. However, she knew one thing—from this moment on nothing would ever be the same. The dike had cracked; the question was how soon the dam would break.
Following the Jason Wiley incident,
Cheerleading practice coincided with football workouts after school, which gave the girls a prime opportunity to check out the boys. “Come on, girls,”
All six girls ran out of the locker room onto the lawn separating the school from the football field. Finding a good vantage point, they eagerly awaited the team’s arrival for practice. As the team appeared in their padded workout jerseys, the girls did a purposefully unconvincing job of appearing uninterested in the obvious stares of the players.
“That baby can wrap his arms around me any time he wants,” said Dee-Dee Lozier, as she swiveled her hips and stared at one of the muscular defensive players. “All he has to do is call.”
“Yeah, but you’d better bring a spit-up rag for the drool,” quipped another.“I had to get my sweater dry cleaned after I went out with him last year.” Groans of disgust rose from the girls.
“So who are you interested in,
The girls laughed, and
Turning again toward her squad,
Principle Tigers’ football team.
Mahognus was a senior, one year