While I was in residence
at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1998, Sheila Gulley Pleasants,
the admissions coordinator, generously offered to curtail her birthday
celebrations long enough for me to speak with her parents, who had driven
up for the day on short notice from their home in Winston-Salem, NC.
Marcus put himself through
medical school by driving a cab; Sally contributed earnings from her teachers
salary. He still practices psychiatry and she is a retired medical
school administrator. They have six children.
Both of us [come from]
small towns in the south. Both of us Baptist preachers children.
So we know all the old hymns, you know? (Laughs.)
Used to go along in the car singin those hymns.
And we both went to the same colleges.
Youd known each
other for a while?
Since I was fourteen.
And he came home and he was eighteen, came home with my brother.
From college. This is before the war. And then they went in
service, my brother and he did, and were gone for four years. And
by that time, I grew up
Id visited in their
home with her older brother when she was fourteen, as she said.
As we were leaving, to go back to college, she was already in bed, so
her brother went to her bedroom, kissed her goodnight. So I leaned
over and kissed her goodnight, too. And I didnt see her again
for four years, I came back from service, still in uniform, and wandered
back through the old college campus where she was. Id gone
to see some friends.
It was a very strict
Baptist school, with a very rigid Dean of Women, who looked closely at
the morality of the young ladies. (Sally giggles.)
And Sally was standing on the front porch of her dorm, this Dean of Women
was right behind her. As I cruised by and said, Good morning,
-- why I recognized her after four years, I have no idea -- and I said,
Sally Morton Hudson. The last time I saw you, you were in
bed and I kissed you goodnight. (Laughter.)
The Dean of Women looked over to her, and Sally said my fate was sealed.
I had to make an honest woman out of her.
He was making zero.
In those days they didnt pay the interns anything. The next
year, they started paying him fifty dollars a month. And there we
were up there living in slums in Winston-Salem, and we got to Philadelphia
and he had to ride the bus up to the graduate hospital, you know, University
of Pennsylvania. And just get the lay of the land and see how to
get there and stuff. He called me back, and said theyd put
him to work. Hed walked into the emergency room and the guy
that was finishing up left. And he didnt
come home for about three days.
We didnt have any
furniture; only thing I had, I sat on two - there were phone books.
Id never seen phone books like that. They had yellow pages
that thick, and a regular phone book that thick. And I sat on the
Marcus & Sally
I went back to work.
I had that nice little career when our youngest son was five, we have
a good friend who was made Dean of Continuing Education at the Medical
School. He was our contemporary. I had mentioned to his wife
one time that I might, you know, when [our youngest son] Ned got to go
to school, I might do something; because I dont like to shell peas
or clean house (laughs). Particularly.
And he asked me if I
would come work for him. And I said, what do you do? He said,
its stuff they call Continuing Education. And he didnt
have any clue what it was, we knew it was teaching doctors to get credits
after theyre in practice, basically. And so, I said sure.
So I started working
two half-days a week, and it worked up to three half-days a week, and
it went to three days a week, and then by the time I quit 21 years later,
I was working full-time and we had a big department. So it was a
lovely little career that I hadnt planned on.
His great thing in any
relationship is respect. He respected the children, he respected
me, he respected the dog and the cat
it was a time when men were less sensitive; and even the bonding in the
delivery room came later. I have contemporaries whose husbands never,
ever changed a diaper, or got up at night with the baby, and he always
did. You know. So it was never a problem.
So, would you still
call it a traditional marriage of the time?
Well, it was traditional
to the sense that one of our friends daughter of some of
our closest friends the daughter came to talk to Sally, because
she was having trouble with her marriage, and it
was easier to talk to a neighbor, you know
But then she asked
Sally, said, Mrs. Gulley, what did you do the times you thought
about divorcing Dr. Gulley? And Sally said, I didnt
know I had a choice. (They laugh.)
What would I do?
It was traditional in
that sense. You make your bed, you lie in it. In other words,
marriage, your vows are for real. And so, its not up for debate.
Each of us I think
each of us has a fairly keen sense of what the others boundaries
are, and as you approach those, you know, the force field builds, and
you back off, or you ease back in that sense. We grew up on the
old Southern tradition of non-confrontationalism, so to speak.
So how do you blow
off the steam?
You know, luckily there
was not a whole lot of steam blown, I dont remember.
No, it is taken so much
as a part of the culture, that its not seen as a steam-building
We had this thing a long
time ago, and I dont know whether I read it,
or what, but it kind of has helped us through a lot of things: that
there are three words that save a marriage. And its not
I love you, its maybe youre right.
Not you are,
but just maybe.
Gives you a little wiggle
It leaves the opening,
leaves a little wiggle room, thats right. And it came sort
of automatically, also, in the marriage, that you dont draw the
line, throw down the gauntlet, challenge the other person. But each
read, you know what the other means, you know the meaning
behind the meaning.