It is the time of year when the classic alternative history - "It's a Wonderful Life" -- hits the airways. Or, as in my case, might be dusted off and played at home. In this movie, the main character faces a financial disaster and in frustration he says "I wish I had never been born." Instead of an "auto-biography" this is a "Naughto-biography," for the biography is NOTHING (Naught).
Clarence, an angel seeking to earn his wings, is sent to teach him a lesson about his unsung heroism that changed the world around him. It occurred to me that such an exercise could help me take a look at my own life in much the same way. I hope to provide a running history of the last six decades based on the lives of those lives I have touched even if only in small ways. Mostly, though, I will explore my family.
Henry Walter Martin was an airman, stationed at Tendall Air Base in Panama City, Florida. Becky Allen was a preacher's daughter in nearby Port Saint Joe. Circumstances in our time line lead to them being married in 1952 as Henry was on the way to serve in California during the Korean Conflict. I was born the next year. However, in this alternative history, Becky waited at home (now Selma, Alabama) until Henry returned in 1953. They were married that summer, and a son was born on June 29, 1954. This baby would be named "John David" in the world we live in, but since this is the first born son in this time line, he is named "James Henry" after his grandfathers. Becky's father, Samuel James Allen, would die just months later.
As the reader can probably tell, this writer's name would be attached to his brother, effectively erasing the name "John David Martin" from the record. "Jimmy" would grow up as the first born rather than in the shadow of a big brother. This in itself may have altered his life in ways we can only imagine. Would he make choices growing up that mirrored what I would have made? Probably not, for he would face different situations at crucial points in history. But he would not have a big brother, so some decisions he made in OTL may have been different.
Following "Jimmy" came Douglas (1958), Andrew (1960), and Sharon (1964). In OTL "William (Billy) Walter Martin" would follow in 1978. Would this late-life baby have been born? Again, there is no way of telling, but surely there is no reason why not. In OTL, having an older brother kept David in check. As the oldest brother in TTL, this "Jimmy" would not be quite the same. In this story, let us suppose that young Jimmy Martin develops his interest in history further and never heeds a call to the ministry. He would not go away to seminary but instead would get his Master's in History and land a larger job at an urban High School. We will put him close to home, though, and having him teaching in Columbus, Georgia. His approach to history proves innovative enough that he is eventually hired as a college professor. Leaving the high school environment, the bachelor loved by youngsters in Worth County, GA, for a generation in OTL, becomes a professional historian that attracts the attention of a young grad assistant at Mercer University where he has been hired. They are married in 1984 when he is 30 and she is 27.
The other siblings, just for argument's sake, advance in the same way they would have in OTL. With an older brother still within driving range, the interactions would be much the same. By this point in OTL, this writer (not in TTL), was largely "out of the picture" in their daily lives anyway. One thing that has changed, of course, is that Henry Martin would not have helped a son through seminary and early wedded life in South Carolina. The first born in this case takes a little longer to get married and has ended up in a job to which he was well prepared. Doug, and then Andy, would have probably followed the same track -- including Andy's marrying, having a daughter and separating from his wife. Billy and his wife Laura would have met and married just the same as well.
Deborah Sue Creager
Deborah had connections in South Carolina -- her grandfather had taught at Clemson -- and her father was a Fundamentalist Baptist preacher who had been introduced to Bob Jones University by representatives visiting his church in New England. As a result, Deborah came south after recieving her nursing degree in search of a Bachelor's degree in Medical Missions. She would graduate from BJU in 1978 and serve with GFA missions in western Africa for four years. Upon return to the states, she would join the nursing staff at Barge Memorial Hospital on BJU campus and earn her Master's in Nursing at Clemson over the course of several years. In 1990 she would begin teaching at BJU.
Meredeth Rebekah Wally
Meredeth is the oldest child of Phil and Beverly Wally. In OTL she would marry Timothy Martin, a man who would not exist in this time line. Instead, Meredeth would return to school instead of getting married soon after failing to graduate from Bob Jones Academy (she had been sick and so had not received enough credit hours). Perhaps she would have continued, then, onto Bob Jones University (or perhaps their trade school). Being a personable young lady, she most likely would have dated in high school as she did in OTL, and perhaps even married one of those young men. She would most certainly have found a husband in college or trade school, though.
That is the bare bones about it. On the surface, it seems that the consequences are not so much on what others would have done, but of what did not get done with my not being in the picture. I will have to ponder what impact my children have had on the world around them -- including marriage and two grandsons (thus far).
In this spot in the coming days (or weeks) I will explore these holes in history along with possible and probable influence I might have had that I have not thought about. I will search my soul and see if perhaps I might learn as George Bailey did in the "Wonderful Life" story.