Wednesday, November 21, 2012

B.W.'s big holiday reunion

I am writing you from the Spears house in a beautiful hillside setting, where I am wrapping up a very special holiday visit.

This trip was the first time that I saw my beloved wife, Brittany Lynnette Spears, since we were separated in the aftermath of the Glorious Appearance.  At the time we were set apart, I had the proverbial mixed emotions.  On other hand, Brittany was (and still is) the love of my life, the woman I had always dreamed of - and did everything in my power to make sure I married her.  On the other hand, she has always been part of a family that has been together not only personally but professionally, and as sad as she is not to see me every day, I trust that she has been just as happy seeing them every day.  And both of us knew that some day we would meet again.  This Thanksgiving, it has finally happened.

First of all, I must say that my original marriage to Shayla McLamb is, without question, the most regrettable mistake of my life.  It was a good idea at the time: both families have lived in adjoining tracts of land in North Carolina since at least the 1820s, and some of us from both clans have married over the years.  The symbolism of our marriage was magnified by my fame as a NASCAR champion and award-winning recording artist, and her own singing career which was just getting started.

However, a few years later, a competition show called Sing for the World began.  Backstage, during the first live show at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, I met Brittany for the first time.  She was everything I wanted a woman to be: beautiful round face, bubbly personality, humble and sweet girl next door, lover of God and family.  Oh, and I felt for her, as she was picked on for nearly having the same name as Britney Spears, the global pop star.  (But with all due respect, Brittany is a much better singer.) 

At that point, I realized that I should have waited for her, rather than enter into marriage with Shayla as quickly as I did.  The divorce was a long, drawn-out process, left Shayla understandably bitter, and left me on the outs with everyone in the McLamb family except Brandon.  (For more on this subject, see chapter 9 of the book. - D.H.) 

Nevertheless, I carried on the relationship.  On finale night of that show, I thought it was time to propose.  She had just turned 18, and I thought for sure it would be a long shot to have her accept.  But in a true moment of surprise, she accepted.  However, as a consequence of blowing about $300,000 on my first marriage, leaving me nothing for another proper ceremony, I ended up marrying Brittany in the middle of their barn in front of only a few people.

When I opened the door to the Spears' battered but serviceable farm house, it was as if we had never parted.  The embrace we had was long and warm, and both of us were crying.  It was the joy that only two intimately related people could share.

Brittany looked somewhat younger than when I met her, as her age was reset to 17 - exactly how old she was when she first appeared on live TV.  She had really been 19 when I married her and 20 when we had our daughter, Blanton Elizabeth, who we also call "Lizzie."  On the other hand, Lizzie was just the adorable little infant she was when I last saw her!  "She's like a living doll, and I look forward to taking care of her every day," Brittany told me.  "The only problem is that I don't get the sleep I would like.  I have to nap a few times a day to make up for it." (Avatar: Infant son of Lindsay Barefoot, name not disclosed)

I also learned some exciting news on this trip: The Spears family band now has four generations of performers in its official lineup!  Breckinridge Spears, the founder of the group known affectionally as "Grandpa Breck," has picked up his mandolin once again.  He had retired from the group full time some years ago, but had continued to perform occasionally until his first life ended.  Also in the band are his sons, Burton and Bartley, both on the washboard; Burton's sons Blanton Sr. (fiddler) and Belcher (banjo), and Blanton Sr.'s children Blanton Jr. (fiddler), Bunch (mandolin), Brashears (string guitar), and Bailey (harmonica).  "Grandpa Breck" and Bunch are occasional vocalists, but of course Brittany handles most of that.  Of course, Lizzie is too young to join them, but loves to dance to the music!

Our Thanksgiving night was memorable.  After a brief prayer service, we had not only the usual food of turkey, ham, stuffing, and cranberry juice, but also meat from deer, raccoon, squirrel, and other wildlife in the mountain area where they live.  Then it was on to the stage built right into their home for a night of singing, playing instruments, and dancing.  We ended the night with our duet, "When the Bough Breaks."  That song was number-one on the American pop and country charts when it was released on my first album after I won the competition.  (On a trivia note, this made Brittany and Britney the first homophone singers to have #1 songs in the U.S.)

It was a great time and no doubt I will see Brittany again soon.  God bless, and happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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