I don’t know if I am celebrating or commiserating this morning. Thirty-six years is a long time. And I don’t care if you are talking job, marriage, living quarters, prison confinement or that forlorn period between enlightening thoughts.
I wrote my first weekly newspaper column March 8, 1984. I have missed one week since that date. Granny died and I left as soon as I got the news to be with my family. The editor of the paper back then wrote an article in my place on the beauty, wonder and importance of a grandmother’s touch in everyone’s life.
It was, in all probability, the best story ever written under my byline.
That same editor talked me into this business in the first place. He figured if I could fill a little space in his paper each week it would be doing him a favor. Little did either of us know at the time, but the favor would turn out to be all mine.
I remember him saying like it was only thirty-six years ago, “We could use some of those stories you’re always telling about growing up in West Tennessee.” Truth be known, I have written about growing up back home….three times longer than I actually grew up back home!
By most accounts a person starts to “understanding” his surroundings around five or six. I left home for college when I was eighteen. But let me tell you, those few short years in-between are about as special as it gets!
And when you are privileged to live them in a rural setting in the South, from the early 1950’s to the mid ’60’s, you’ve been blessed beyond all measure. Of course, I didn’t actually know that……until I started writing about it.
And I’ve heard from enough “small town” folks over the past three and a half decades to know I’m not alone in these feelings. I’ve just scribbled them down for all of us.
I thought McKenzie, Tennessee, was a uniquely wonderful place the first time I grew up there. But you have taught me that loyalty to such “hometowns” runs deep, profound and true……and across state lines, time zones, congressional posturing or geographical boundaries.
Everybody had a big brother like Leon. Or best friends like Buddy, Bobby and Ricky. Girls that were a bother in elementary school—you know, the ones that chased you down at recess in the third grade—wouldn’t be caught dead with you by their sophomore year.
I’ve written a hundred and sixty-three stories on that very subject!
Everyone had a Frank’s Diary Bar or a skating rink. Everyone worked on a homecoming float. Everyone remembers that first kiss. Most everyone backed at least one car into a ditch, failed to be home by curfew, blamed life’s problems on old fashioned parents……
I should have paid more attention! But I was in my own little world. And a bit selfish. And, quite frankly, oblivious often times to the beautiful folks that surrounded me…….
These articles have given me a second chance.
I haven’t simply jotted something down about the old days. I concentrated until I could see Jane Hill’s face. I relived the pillow fights in the back bedroom. My hands turned cold when I wrote about pulling David out of the iced filled pond. I smelled the old locker room from five hundred miles…..and thirty years away.
The stories put me back in touch with the place, the times and the people. You cannot believe how high and bright the sun could shine over our town square on a late April afternoon. And I don’t have the ability to aptly describe the genuine friendship and love that existed among young and old alike. The whole town would stand and cheer for you on a six yard run off left tackle in a high school football game…..
What a special journey the astute editor sent me on!
And it wasn’t always about the old days. If something crazy happened in the world, I’d come up with hopefully a witty and nonsensical slant on it. I have been ever so careful not to tell anyone how they ought to live or what they should, or should not, do on any subject.
That is not my lot in life.
People from all over the place and all walks of life have encouraged me through thirty-six years of this stuff. I am profoundly and everlastingly grateful for each one.
They also asked me repeatedly about a book. When am I going to write one? How can they get a copy? Again, I am humbled by their kind thoughts……but from my side of the fence on this thing……I have already written it!
Thanks For The Memories,