Brother and Sister
Home Up Godfather



The Story of George and Maria

Written by Rick Archer





Rick Archer's Note:

I have a remarkable story to tell about a brother and a sister. At its core, this story reveals the power of Kindness and the power of Gratitude.

George, 13, and Maria, 11, were reeling in despair due to the sudden death of their mother. Their father subsequently flipped out. He made things much worse by placing them in separate homes with relatives who did not want them.  This cruel abandonment by their father had turned the children into near orphans.  Maria was the most vulnerable.  She was alone, scared, and grieving.  She missed George terribly. In short order she had lost her mother, her father, and her only friend in the world.  She cried herself to sleep every night. No one came to console her.

Fortunately, after a month apart, George was able to catch enough fish to buy a bike.  This allowed him to travel a great distance across town every day.  His comfort and reassurance made a huge difference for the young girl. Thanks to him, Maria was able to pull through.  Growing up poor and unwanted, the only thing these two kids had going for them was each other. That was all they needed.  They went on to lead incredible lives.

To fully appreciate the story I am about to tell, a certain amount of background is required.  The story of George and Maria is an excerpt from the book I have written titled the Magic Carpet Ride.  My book is unusual because it deals with the concept of Fate.  There was a point in college when I became deeply preoccupied with the existence of God. 

In particular, there had been an extraordinary event in my last year of high school that led me to believe I had witnessed a miracle.  That incident plus several other mysterious childhood events made me wonder if these were 'Fated' events.  By my logic, if I could prove to myself that Fate exists, then I was willing to conclude God exists as well.  From that point on, I went on Supernatural alert.  Whenever something out of the ordinary took place, I wrote it down on a List for future reference.


Six years after my rough spot in high school, I experienced another terrible setback.  To my chagrin, I was thrown out of graduate school.  I was hoping to become a therapist, but the head of the program decided my personality was not suited for this particular profession.  He was probably right, but I was devastated nonetheless.

Considering my intense interest in Fate, I barely gave it a passing thought during my time in graduate school.  I suppose I was too busy coping with Reality to worry about omens and leprechauns.  However, my life was soon to change.


The moment I returned to Houston, a series of truly bizarre events took place in rat-a-tat order.  In a very curious way, these strange events created a path that led to dance lessons.  I could tell something very weird was going on in my life, but I had no idea what was in store for me.  Three years later, a dance career was handed to me out of thin air when Saturday Night Fever was released.

Magic Carpet Ride explains in careful detail how SSQQ, my dance studio, was created due to a new series of coincidences and lucky breaks.  These lucky breaks helped SSQQ become Houston's largest dance program.  Nor did it stop there.  As SSQQ continued to evolve, it became a special place full of fun and friendship.  When it came to romance, SSQQ was like a secret garden.  Every time I turned around, it seemed like someone new had met the love of their life and were getting married.  As word of the enchanted garden spread, SSQQ continued to grow... and grow... and grow.  At its peak, I firmly believe SSQQ was the largest dance studio in the country under one roof. 

Although I am proud to have been associated with this wonderful program, it was obvious right from the start that I was not responsible for all this success.  All it took was one look at the rapidly growing List to know I was receiving Divine help.  While others complimented me, deep down I knew I could not have done this by myself.  In essence, I was fortunate to lead a charmed life. Of course, this is a very bold claim. I understand that. People will scoff and say I am delusional, maybe even feel pity for me.

But what if it is true?  What if I can prove it?  Let me ask a question.  Are you confident that the way you view the world is the way it really is?  I imagine every one of you have had experiences that left you scratching your head. 

I understand there is no way to prove that Fate exists, at least not 'scientifically'.  However, through observation, I have collected a large number of experiences, 80 at last count, that strongly suggest there is more to this world than meets the eye.  If you ever get the chance to read my book, you just might find yourself asking questions about what we call 'Reality'.


So what is the story behind 'Brother and Sister'? 

As it turns out, Maria Ballantyne was the woman I credited with the miracle.  She came upon me at the most desperate point in my life.  One more reversal of fortune and I would have been a goner.  Mrs. Ballantyne had never met me before, but she instantly recognized a child in crisis.  Not just that, once she realized my situation, she was shocked to discover we shared near identical childhoods.  At that point, Mrs. Ballantyne got a strange look in her eyes.  She stepped back to make herself comfortable against her car, then began to tell me her life story.  She did it for a specific purpose.  By her reasoning, if she could pull herself out of the deep hole she found herself stuck in as a child, then I could do it too.  Guess what?  She was right.  Thanks to Mrs. Ballantyne's kind words, I find the courage to put aside my pain and start over. 

As one might gather, I felt a profound gratitude to Mrs. Ballantyne.  Not only did she pull me out of a terrible downward spiral, two years later her 'Miracle' became the inspiration for my search for God.  That made her pretty special in my book. 

"In my book"... what a curious phrase.  I would go on to meet Maria Ballantyne six times over a 45 year period, usually an hour or so at a time.  On paper we were what you might call casual acquaintances.  Not once did we have our picture taken together.  Not once did we meet socially.  And yet whenever we met, we had the most profound rapport.  Sure enough, Mrs. Ballantyne would invariably start telling me the next chapter of her life.

I always wondered why this woman who barely knew me never hesitated to reveal so much of her amazing story to me.  It got to the point where maybe I should take dictation.  Then one day I had a hunch there might be a mystical reason behind the stories that she shared.  I had long wished I could find some way to repay Mrs. Ballantyne for her kindness.  Maybe I should write a book about her.

And so I did.

Rick Archer
August 2019

P.S.  The story begins right below.





Written by Rick Archer





"Of All the Gin Joints In All the Towns In All the World, She Walks Into Mine." 

--  Rick Blaine speaking of Ilsa, the girl who broke his heart in 'Casablanca'

Rick Archer's Footnote:

One morning in February 1978, an acquaintance from the past strolled into Stevens of Hollywood.  I had only spoken to this person once in my life, but the shock of seeing them was so powerful that I nearly fainted.  Care to make a guess?

The funny thing about my Magic Carpet Ride is that I did not realize I was on a Magic Carpet Ride.  At least not yet.  My life was a blur.  Between Lance Stevens, my Child Neglect job, the Jet Set Club, and teaching dance five, sometimes six nights out of seven, here in February I had both feet firmly planted in the Material World.  I was so busy trying to cope, I barely gave the Mystical World any thought.

In a recessed part of my mind, I understood that I had gotten pretty lucky when Saturday Night Fever appeared when it did.  After all, it was kind of weird that I felt like God wanted me to take dance lessons three years ago.  When the movie appeared, I was allowed to put the dance knowledge I had acquired over the past three years to very good use.  As coincidences go, that was an eye-opener.  However, I was oblivious to the fact that God had more or less moved a mountain to put me where I was.  That understanding would come later.

So why was I so clueless?  In early January, I thought all dance studios were packed with Disco devotees.  This was incorrect.  I did not realize the 'Spotlight Effect' had trained its light solely on the spot where I was standing.  I also thought there were Disco teachers on every corner waiting to take my job.  This too was incorrect.  I did not realize the 'Incompetence Effect' had mysteriously singled me out as Houston's only Disco teacher here at the start.  Yes, there would soon be several teachers, but in January I had the city to myself.   As for my Courtesan-inspired 'Dance Project', I was only dimly aware that my three Lost Years of wandering might have a Cosmic purpose to it.  Thanks to the 'Crossroad Effect', my Dance Path had placed me squarely in the path of the coming Disco Avalanche.

I had a vague sense that something really odd was going on with my life, but that was about the extent of it.  Although I was born to ask questions, the Big Picture was far too big for me to see what was going on in a Mystical sense.  Forgive my ignorance, but so far no angels had dropped by to explain what was going on.  It would not be until I began writing this book 40 years later that I was able to put all the puzzle pieces together.  All I knew in January 1978 was that I was terrified of losing the only thing in the world that mattered to me... teaching dance.  So I put my nose to the ground and plugged away. 

Meanwhile, the Epic Losing Streak continued.  The whole point of the dance project was to use dance to find a girlfriend.  Three years later and I was still wasn't getting anywhere.  However, I did have reason for optimism.  Countless pretty girls smiled at me in dance class.  The sad thing is that I was so busy I did not have the time, much less the energy, to pursue them.  But I knew my day was at hand.  When the frenzy abated, I intended to approach one of those smiling girls.  Too bad the frenzy never seemed to abate.  I was so busy, I even wrote a poem about it.

Life is never easy,
Love never lasts,
I must carry on,
Keep my feet moving fast.

Then one day, something totally off the wall took place to remind me the Universe was still keeping a close eye on me.  The surprise appearance of a long-lost friend riveted my focus back to the realm of Mysticism.  I am about to take a brief detour from my own saga in order to write about a brother and sister whose lives seemed touched by Fate in a manner similar to my own.  The tale I am about to share totally corroborates my belief in Fate.  By the way, have you guessed who yet?  Put your seatbelt on.  This is a wild story.





At 9:50 am on a Saturday morning in February, Maria Ballantyne walked into Stevens of Hollywood.  At the sight of my heroine, I nearly fainted.  This unexpected visit was totally out of the ordinary.  I had not seen this lady in ten years.  What is SHE doing here??  Full of panic, I retreated out of sight.  Before I said hello, first I needed to get my nerves under control.

I had arrived at the dance studio just a few minutes before Mrs. Ballantyne made her surprise appearance.  I was here to teach a private dance lesson at 10 am.  Noticing Mrs. Ballantyne before she saw me, I had the same thought today as I had on that fateful day at the grocery store ten years earlier.  'Did Mrs. Ballantyne come to see me?'

My parking lot conversation with Mrs. Ballantyne had taken place at a time when I was one step removed from suicide.  I was convinced her daughter Katina had been granted my coveted scholarship because Mr. Salls was punishing me for cheating on a German test.  Totally despondent, Mrs. Ballantyne took all my fears and made them disappear.  To me, her visit had been a Miracle.  Mrs. Ballantyne's presence that day had felt like a Godsend. 

I had never forgotten what took place.  Indeed, my chance meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne during my Senior year of high school served as the main inspiration for my college decision to investigate Fate.  My life had never been the same since.  Thanks to that magical, mystical 1968 meeting, I spent every waking moment on alert just in case another coincidence or suspicious event came along to reinforce my belief in Fate.  That explains why I went on maximum 'Supernatural Alert' the moment I saw Mrs. Ballantyne appear at the studio.  If this visit was anything like the previous one, there would be fireworks.




It was 1968, my Senior year in high school.  How was I ever going to pay for college?  I was consumed with bitterness at my classmates.  These privileged young men and women went to sleep every night knowing full well their parent's wealth guaranteed them a college education.  They had absolutely nothing to worry about.  

Meanwhile I worked at a grocery store four days a week after school trying to save up enough money to help pay for college.  I had accumulated $2,000 in savings, but that would never pay the way to Georgetown University.  I would need $24,000 to attend Georgetown.  Where would that money come from?  I targeted the Jones Scholarship as my last hope to at least get a foot in the door.  However, that dream went up in smoke when Katina Ballantyne was awarded the grant instead of me.

I plummeted into a terrible tailspin.  It had been a terrible mistake to fail to apply to a state school.  Now convinced that Georgetown was out of the question, I expected I would have to sit out a year before entering college here in Texas.  That meant being stuck with the insanity of Little Mexico for another year.  Out of curiosity, where could I find the nearest bridge? 

One week after I lost the scholarship, into my life walked Mrs. Ballantyne.  She appeared one afternoon at the grocery store where I worked.  This was the woman I had once admired only to come to hate.  I believed she had helped her daughter steal my scholarship.  The rich just keep getting richer.  How could anyone justify seeing the poorest kid in the school lose a scholarship to a rich girl from River Oaks? 


At first I thought Mrs. Ballantyne was here to see me.  However, after studying her carefully, I concluded she had chosen this store for her weekly grocery shopping.  Nothing odd about that except that she had never been here before.  Seen from a Mystical point of view, the timing of her unexpected visit immediately following the loss of my scholarship was way out of the ordinary.

Mrs. Ballantyne had no idea who I was.  We had never spoken once in the nine years I attended St. Johns, an elite prep school in the River Oaks area.  To my surprise, Mrs. Ballantyne stopped me in the parking lot after I wheeled her groceries to her car.  She had just noticed my school uniform.  Once she realized I was a St. John's student, she was consumed with curiosity.  By definition, St. John's students lack for nothing.  So what was a St. John's student doing here working a menial job at a grocery store?

On the spot, Mrs. Ballantyne began conducting an interview.  By asking the right questions, in the space of ten minutes, she knew more about me than any person at my school.  I was flabbergasted.  Why was the most important woman at my school willing to talk to a kid who occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder?  I was the school nobody, a perpetual underdog, the Invisible Kid.  If none of my classmates bothered to interact with me socially, why would this busy, rich, powerful woman bother to take time out of her day to get to know me?  Even more curious, why was she here at this remote grocery store three miles from her home to begin with? 

After I answered her questions, Mrs. Ballantyne wasn't done.  Out of the blue, Mrs. Ballantyne began to tell me her life story.  I was incredulous.  Right there in the parking lot, this woman voluntarily began to tell me, an unknown kid, the story of her life.  It was no ordinary story either.  Like me, Mrs. Ballantyne had a tale of woe straight out of Charles Dickens.

I learned that Mrs. Ballantyne wasn't an orphan, but close.  Both parents were struggling Greek immigrants.  Mrs. Ballantyne had lost her mother when she was 11.  After the tragedy, her father fell to pieces and abandoned her. She went to live with an aunt and uncle who were bullied by her father into taking her.  They had small children of their own and money was tight.  That made it a huge imposition to suddenly have another child to raise.  Fortunately the initial distance evaporated, but for the first year or so young Maria felt like an orphan.  She was placed in a bedroom directly over a casino and brothel run by the mob on Galveston island.  High school was tough.  There was little money to spare and she wasn't allowed to date.  Feeling like an outcast, Mrs. Ballantyne concentrated on school.  However, she did not expect to go to college.  Where would the money come from? 

Then one day, to her surprise, a Galveston mob boss who had taken a shine to her offered to pay her way to school.  This offer, Mrs. Ballantyne said, was the break of a lifetime.  Out of the blue, Mrs. Ballantyne had been given the chance she had prayed for.  Her life had skyrocketed ever since.  Mrs. Ballantyne had more to say.  She explained that no one at St. John's had any idea about her strange background.  Who could ever imagine that the most influential mother at this wealthy enclave of the rich was the orphaned daughter of a penniless, illiterate Greek immigrant? 

At the time, I could not understand why such an important woman was paying so much attention to me.  Keep in mind I wasn't the most savvy kid in the world.  I suppose I must have reminded Mrs. Ballantyne of her own difficult childhood.  That would surely explain her uncanny empathy for my situation.  I think once she realized how seriously depressed I was, she decided on the spot I was in great need of encouragement.  It was my good fortune that one of the finest mothers on the Planet had decided to adopt me for a day.  At the end of her story, Mrs. Ballantyne looked me square in the eye.  "Rick, if I can do it, you can do it."  I had never forgotten those words.

The impact combined with the critical timing of Mrs. Ballantyne's mysterious visit made a deep impression on me.  I was convinced that Mrs. Ballantyne's out of the blue appearance had to be a Supernatural Event.  Surely some 'Invisible Being' had guided her to my store that day.  This was the moment when I began to believe in Miracles.

I never forgot my strange meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne.   The unanswered question, of course, is how Mrs. Ballantyne came to appear at my grocery store at such a critical time.  After all, she had passed me 1,000 times in the corridors of St. John's and never said a word.  I was convinced Fate brought us together.  My chance meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne became the absolute cornerstone of my belief in Fate. 




One of the odd features of our 1968 parking lot conversation is that our paths did not cross again.  For whatever reason, I did not run into her at St. John's during the remaining two months of school and then I was off to college.  Ten years had passed since that mind-altering experience.  It was now 1978.   Considering my preoccupation with Destiny had elevated Mrs. Ballantyne to a near-mythical status in my mind, imagine my shock when she walked into the dance studio without warning.  Talk about déjà vu!!  This had all the makings of an instant replay.  What on earth was Mrs. Ballantyne doing here??

It was a bitterly cold morning in February and things were about to get worse tonight.  A serious cold front was sweeping down from Dallas in the north.  The night was predicted to get into the low twenties, an unusually low temperature for Houston.  There are many Houston winters when the thermometer never drops below freezing, but tonight would be the exception.  Given this awful weather, no one in their right mind would venture out.  For that matter, maybe the cold had affected my mind or my vision.  For a moment, I thought I was imagining things.  But the disbelief wore off quickly.  This was definitely Mrs. Ballantyne.  I laughed nervously.  Yes, this was another one of those special Coincidences that bedevil me so.  In a manner identical to the parking lot meeting ten years earlier, Mrs. Ballantyne had popped up out of nowhere. 

As memories of the past rushed through my mind, I noticed Mrs. Ballantyne had stopped there at the entrance.  Right now she was just standing there looking around.  The building was nearly empty.  Stevens was out on the main floor with a student, but true to his nature he could not be bothered to greet her.  There was no receptionist.  Like I keep saying, this was a very small dance studio.  Just three people... Stevens, Alicia, and me.  Since no one talked to Mrs. Ballantyne and she did not approach Stevens to ask a question, I concluded that she had come here to find me.  What other explanation could there be?   But how did she even know I worked here?

I finally overcame my shock enough to go say hello to the woman who had changed my life.  As I strode to meet her, Mrs. Ballantyne recognized me immediately.  When I realized she was just as surprised to see me as I was to see her, I had my answer.  No, she did not come here to see me.  This meeting was a complete accident just like the last time.  Here we go again! 

They talk about 'once in a lifetime' chance meetings.  This was twice in a lifetime.  How unlikely was our second meeting?  I contend it was just as remote as the first one.  Going back to October 1977, I had never seen Mrs. Ballantyne here during my six months of employment.  On the other hand, Stevens of Hollywood was fairly close to her home.  Located on Westheimer and Shepherd, the studio was only a mile away.  Maybe she came here for dance lessons.  Or maybe one of her children was getting married and they needed dance lessons.  I definitely intended to find out.

Mrs. Ballantyne's face lit up like a Christmas tree.  I have never seen anyone turn on the energy like Mrs. Ballantyne.  She took a big step forward and wrapped her arms around me in a huge, affectionate hug.  Then she set me free and took a step back to look me over.

"Rick Archer, what are you doing here?  Of all the people to run into!  Oh my gosh, let me have a look at you.  You're so tall and handsome!  Where the heck have you been?  Why haven't you been to see me?"

Mrs. Ballantyne made me laugh.  I had spoken to this woman one time in my life and now she greeted me like we had known each other forever.  Hmm.  Maybe we had known each other forever.  Always the extrovert, Mrs. Ballantyne took the lead.  She immediately began peppering me with questions. 

I explained how I had begun teaching here and emphasized what an exciting time this was for me.  Mrs. Ballantyne was genuinely pleased to see I was doing well in my life.  In fact, she was fascinated by my odd new career.  Unfortunately, our talk was interrupted.

"Gosh, Mrs. Ballantyne, I would love to talk more, but I have two dance students waiting for me."  I pointed to the couple that had just walked in the door.

"Oh no, I have to know more!  Are you free for lunch??"

Of course I was free.  I would have dropped anything I was doing just to have another talk with her.  This lady had no way of knowing the degree of importance she had played in my life.  After all, I had spent two solid years in college thinking every day about the implications of our parking lot conversation.

"Yes, I would love to have lunch with you, but can it wait till 11:30 or?  Will that work?"

Mrs. Ballantyne smiled and said that would be fine.  "Of course.  Why not come over at noon?  That will give me time to run some errands."

I was confused.  Come over where?  Did she mean her house?

"Where do you want to meet?" I asked.

"My house.  Do you know where it is?"

I fibbed and said no, so she gave me the address and directions.  Then to my surprise, she abruptly departed.  As I watched her go out the door, I still had no idea why Mrs. Ballantyne had been here in the first place.  Why did she leave so fast?  Her departure made no sense.  Surely she had to have a reason to walk in the door.  I rolled my eyes.  Why was this woman always such a riddle to me!?

With my mind working overtime on Supernatural Alert, I concluded Mrs. Ballantyne had been guided to my studio for some obscure reason that became unimportant once she saw me.  Figuring the Cosmic Social Director had arranged our latest Supernatural encounter, I left it at that.  Sometimes it is easier just to accept Fate and not ask too many questions.  What was important was that my idol had invited me to her home.  I felt very flattered.  I had expected a nearby coffee shop, so this was quite an honor.


I had no trouble finding Mrs. Ballantyne's home.  After I lost my Jones Scholarship to Katina in 1968, I became so bitter I looked up her address in the St. John's directory.  Overcome by my Rich Man-Poor Man grudge, I wanted to confirm with my own eyes what kind of house Katina lived in.  After school the next day, I had driven by their house. 

With grim satisfaction, I confirmed my hunch that the Ballantyne family lived in a very attractive River Oaks home.  This had given further fuel to the feeling my loss had been highway robbery.  Fortunately that terrible grudge had vaporized during our lengthy parking lot conversation.  

As I pulled into the Ballantyne driveway at noon, I felt nothing but joy at reuniting with my special benefactor.  Once I was inside, I was surprised to see the house was empty except for Mrs. Ballantyne and her maid who prepared lunch.  As I looked around for signs of the seven children, Mrs. Ballantyne grinned.

"A lot has changed in the past ten years.  My children moved out long ago.  They are busy pursuing their own lives.  Now it is just Jay and me.  Right now Jay is up on the roof with a winter project, so it's just the two us.  Let's catch up on things!"


Over lunch, Mrs. Ballantyne told me how proud she was that I had received a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins.  That was interesting... not once today had I told her about that scholarship.  How did she know about my scholarship?  And how did she know where I went to college?  After the parking lot conversation, not once in the remaining two months of school did our paths cross again. 

"Mrs. Ballantyne, how do you know so much about me?"

Mrs. Ballantyne was more than happy to clue me in.


"After we met, I was very curious about you.  So I spoke to my friend Charlie one day when he was here at the house.  Charlie filled me in on your unusual story.  We had a very good laugh that day.  You probably don't know this, but Charlie had a childhood very similar to mine." 

Then she paused.  "And very similar to yours too!"

I stared at Mrs. Ballantyne in shock.  Charlie?!?  Charlie was the nickname for Mr. E.K. 'Charlie' Salls, my Headmaster.  I had no idea she knew him that well.  I had seen Mrs. Ballantyne walk with Mr. Salls in the corridors of St. John's on many occasions, but I had not realized they knew each other socially.  This seemed like a coincidence in itself.  The two most important people to me had also been important to each other as well. 

"Charlie would kill me if he knew I was sharing his story, but I think you would be interested.  He grew up penniless on a remote island off the coast of Maine.  His father died when he was young and his only brother died when Charlie was a teenager.  He and his mother survived through Charlie's odd jobs at the fishery and his mother's vegetable garden."

I had no idea Mr. Salls had grown up poor like me.  We formed a very unusual triangle... three poor people who had ended up at the wealthiest prep school in Houston.  What were the odds?

"Charlie was an exceptional student, the top of his class.  Of course, on a small island in Maine, I cannot imagine he had much competition.  Charlie was a voracious reader and determined to make something of himself.  At a teacher's suggestion, he took an exam at Exeter, the fine New England prep school. 

He was accepted and given a scholarship which he then parlayed into a scholarship at Harvard.  Does that story sound familiar?  You and he have almost identical backgrounds with your hardships."


My mind raced to gather in all the implications.   I guess my mouth was hanging open because Mrs. Ballantyne laughed at me.  Seeing the incredulous look on my face, she acknowledged the importance of this revelation. 

"Now you know why your Headmaster took you under his wing.  You reminded Charlie so much of himself that there were times when he ached for you during your difficult Senior year.  But Charlie has never been one to discuss such things openly, so I had to pry it out of him.  I am the only person at St. John's who can get Charlie to talk.  I have a knack for that."

No kidding.  Who could resist a woman with her kind of will power?  Right now I was too dumb-founded to speak, so Mrs. Ballantyne continued. 

"I have always found it curious how the three of us seem to be connected."  Mrs. Ballantyne paused for a moment, then continued.  "Sometimes it makes me wonder about things."

No kidding!  That makes two of us!  First I rolled my eyes.  Then I pinched myself.  No, I wasn't dreaming.   At this point, we finished our lunch.  Mrs. Ballantyne invited me to come sit with her in the living room.  As I watched her settle into her favorite chair, I had another flash of déjà vu.  Mrs. Ballantyne had the same look on her face that she did ten years ago when she decided to tell me her life story.  Sure enough, my hunch was right.  Mrs. Ballantyne picked up her life story right where she left off ten years ago.  In so doing, she made the 1968 parking lot conversation seem like it was just yesterday.

(To be continued)




Rick Archer's Footnote:

Maria Ballantyne was a genuine hero to me. 

Not only did Mrs. Ballantyne save my life with her parking lot intervention, the utter improbability of the incident opened the door to my search for God two years later during the Magical Mystery Tour.  After much thought, I concluded I had witnessed a miracle. 

As one can gather, Maria Ballantyne is the unquestioned inspirational figure of my life.  I worshipped her just like a kid worships the fireman who saves him from a burning fire.  My interest in this lady was so intense that one might wonder.  However, there was nothing to worry about.  Given Mrs. Ballantyne's importance to me, I had too much respect to invade her privacy.   In the seven times we met over a 45 year period, the only time I ever contacted her was the last visit. 

That said, I did wonder sometimes why she was so candid with me.  My second 'Accidental' meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne was just as fascinating as our first meeting.  As Mrs. Ballantyne shared her details about Mr. Salls... how their families had adjacent beach houses down in Galveston, how she and 'Charlie' became friends, how their daughters were best friends, how he worried about me, etc... it crossed my mind that Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne were unusually close.  


I suppose given their difficult childhoods and the college scholarships that became their lucky break, it made sense that their unusual background would join Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne together.  However, there were several issues that struck me as peculiar.  First, given their roots in poverty, it was amazing they both made it to St. John's, land of the rich.  Second, Mrs. Ballantyne was very secretive at St. John's about her past.  Since Mr. Salls was equally secretive, it would be interesting to learn how they discovered each other's secret.  Finally, there was their interest in me, the token poor kid of St. John's. 

Have you ever just met a person and felt as if you knew them before?  Based on my instantaneous attraction to Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Salls, I had no trouble believing I had known them both from a previous lifetime.  From the start, I felt a powerful kinship without understanding why.  Considering the important roles they played in my life, I felt certain this Triangle was a Fated Relationship.

St. John's was the last place someone would look for people with impoverished backgrounds.  It was strange enough to find three people with such humble beginnings end up at this wealthy enclave.  However, it was not just that all three of us faced hardship as children.  What was important was that the three of us were so deeply connected here at St. John's.  Surely this was not a Coincidence. 


Noting how we were united in such a strange way, I was reminded of something I read in a book on Reincarnation based on the life of Edgar Cayce.  During his trances, Cayce laid out a philosophy of life dealing with Karma, rebirth, man's role in the cosmic order, and the existence of a Hidden World.  In one of his readings, Cayce said that individuals reincarnate in 'Soul Groups'.  In this way, they can work on whatever Karma they shared from past lifetimes. 

As I sat that day in Mrs. Ballantyne's house, I had all sorts of burning questions to ask.  For one thing, I wanted to know what Mrs. Ballantyne thought about our strange meeting ten years earlier.  I wanted to know what prompted Mrs. Ballantyne to appear at my out-of-the-way Weingarten's grocery store in the first place.  I wanted to know what crossed her mind during that conversation.  Looking at the event from her perspective, I wondered if Mrs. Ballantyne had been shocked to meet a young man who reminded her so much of herself.  Most of all, I wanted to know if she had taken note of the supernatural ramifications of that meeting.  

I also wanted to know what had brought Mrs. Ballantyne to Stevens of Hollywood on this day.  Since my return to Houston in 1974 following Colorado State, I had not had a single contact with a member of the St. John's community, not even Mr. Salls.  Due to my outsider status at that school, I made no lasting friendships.  I suppose it was possible that a St. John's student had noticed me teaching a dance class over the past month and passed word to Mrs. Ballantyne.  But that was highly unlikely.  I had only spoken to this woman one time in my life, so who would know of our secret connection?  Besides, the look on her face today revealed her visit was a complete accident.  She was just as surprised to see me as I was to see her. 


Once I concluded she had no idea I worked there, it was eating me alive to learn what had brought Mrs. Ballantyne to the dance studio today.  However, once Mrs. Ballantyne got started, I was far too shy to speak up.  Mrs. Ballantyne had the most dominant personality of any woman I had ever met.  Consequently I did not dare to interrupt her as she talked about Mr. Salls.  Instead I remained quiet and hoped for a chance to bring up my questions.  Sorry to say, I never got that chance.  Once Mrs. Ballantyne launched into the story of her life, I was too blown away to say a word.

But you know what?  It was okay.  In a way I did get an answer to my questions.  Here is the weird thing... Mrs. Ballantyne was clearly fascinated with me.  From the moment I sat down, after a brief exchange of pleasantries, she started talking about herself as if I was her oldest and most trusted friend in the whole wide world.  There were times when I almost wondered if I should take dictation.  Why would she tell me all these secrets?  After all, this was only the second time in our lives we had met.  In a flash, I had my answer.

It crossed my mind that Mrs. Ballantyne was speaking to me in such a candid way because she knew we were linked.  

Mrs. Ballantyne was a very smart woman.  Surely she too realized the deeper implications of our chance meeting ten years ago.  Not just that, I bet she realized that meeting me again today was no more 'accidental' than the first time.  If nothing else, today's chance meeting underlined our spiritual connection.  We were meant to meet today.  I believe that and I bet Mrs. Ballantyne believed it too.



Chapter NINETY TWO:  the godfather



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