There was a time when I thought 10 years was a long time.
But anyone who has reached my age knows a decade is a blip on the screen, passing at lightning speed. That has been the case for these past 10 years and I’m sure the next 10 will fly even faster.
I make these comments to introduce today’s topic — 10 years of writing this column.
I think it was sometime in 2009 when I heard Susan Leathers had become an accidental entrepreneur, co-founding Brentwood Home Page with her partner, Kelly Gilfillan.
I became a regular reader and decided the publication lacked one crucial element — me.
My daughter worked with Susan’s son at “Pump It Up,” the play gym located in Cool Springs at the time, so I decided that would be the perfect entrée to introduce myself. I sent her an email, explaining I had some writing experience and would be a prime candidate for a new columnist.
She politely replied, telling me she had a full complement, but offering to maybe print a guest piece here and there if I would like to submit something.
I grew up reading newspapers and loved the first-person accounts of local and syndicated columnists.
And the columnists were perhaps my favorite part of the early editions of Brentwood Home Page. Susan retained the “Brentword” moniker from her blog, offering glimpses into balancing family life with a new business, as well as her thoughts on local issues.
There was a retired doctor who recounted stories from his early days in medicine; a Methodist pastor who would tell a story and link it to a spiritual maxim; and a child psychologist who gave wise parenting advice.
There was also Jill Burgin, who had been a columnist for Williamson A.M. when it was part of The Tennessean. Her knack for storytelling was (and I am sure, still is) phenomenal, and I hung on every word.
I knew with that lineup, my chances of ever having a regular spot were slim. Still, I took Susan up on her offer of running the occasional guest piece. I spaced them carefully, so as not to make a nuisance of myself (she might say I crossed over) and I think there were three of them over a couple of years.
In late 2010, when I read Jill would be ending her column to run for Brentwood City Commissioner, I humbly suggested (again) to Susan that it was time. In my emailed proposal to her, knowing she had done a fair amount of recruiting from her church, Brentwood United Methodist, I listed as one of my qualifications, “I am not Methodist, therefore lending diversity to your staff.”
Bless her heart, to humor me, she asked me to come by and visit with her and Kelly. A few weeks later, my first installment, titled “What I Know,” was posted. Neither Susan nor Kelly told me not to submit another one, so I did so one week later, and that’s been the rhythm for 10 years.
Foolishly, I have not printed hard copies, and some of the early columns are now lost. Best I can tell from some emails I kept, the first one was posted June 6, 2011.
It has been more fun than I can describe. To say I am grateful to have this forum does not begin to describe the depth of my appreciation.
I’m grateful to Susan for not ignoring my emails, shooing me out of her office or telling me to leave her alone. I am also thankful for the helpful advice she gave as I was getting started.
Susan eventually moved on, and Kelly took over as editor and publisher. I am equally grateful to her. I’m especially appreciative of the time she took to edit my pieces as the Home Page was expanding like crazy and she had a gazillion other things going on.
I’m indebted to other editors along the way, Jim East and Mark Cook, and probably others I’m not remembering. All of them, at one time or another, have saved me from egregious typographical, spelling and other errors, and have been patient (usually) when I have gone way past deadline.
That would include my current editors, Amanda Haggard and Rebekah Jones. I have not met either of them in person, but I count them as friends.
I’m also appreciative of my fellow columnist Ramon Presson, with whom I’ve enjoyed some delightful correspondence. You might have noticed from the bio at the end of his column, he is now a member of the prestigious National Society of Newspaper Columnists. (If you’re trying to intimidate me, Ramon, well, you’ve succeeded.)
My family deserves all kinds of thanks for letting me write about them, and being good sports about it, especially my sweet wife. If a marriage can survive one spouse writing about the other spouse’s organization of a pantry, it can survive anything, don’t you think?
Finally, the biggest thanks of all goes to you, the readers. I don’t delude myself into believing you are legion, but I know there are at least a few of you, based on the emails you have sent. I appreciate your taking time to read, and your comments, more than I can adequately express.
Lord willing, I’m good for 10 more years if you are.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].