It is Memorial Day weekend. History Chip would be honored to have you share memories of loved ones who died in service to their country.
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The request, as I understood it, was to locate a photo or snapshot of something significant in my life that I would like to tell about. Going through all of those glimpses of past moments in time, I was struck by how many could evoke an unexpected somatic or emotional response. The snapshot of the adobe chapel outside of Chimayo brought back the sharp clean odor of pinyon and juniper burning in a beehive fireplace. The picture of the family gathered at the Lake conjured up the memory of warm sun on bare back and arms, and the sound of children laughing as they cannonballed off the diving board. There were snapshots of parties, vacations, weddings and all kinds of events, both exciting and ordinary. I chose this one. I don’t know the exact location – nor do I know the occasion. But I did know this child – and I’d like to tell a little about her. Just look at her. Have you ever seen any little girl as supremely secure and self-confident in the knowledge of her own specialness? She is obviously a happy little being. Why wouldn’t she be – her world is happy. Her Daddy has probably just said something funny to make her laugh. He did that all the time. Grandpa’s coat pocket always contained a surprise of some kind – a small toy, a chocolate bar, or sometimes two Chiclets in a little cardboard box from a subway station vending machine. (She liked spearmint the best.) On cold mornings when her mother went to the back porch and brought in the glass milk bottle – and the cream had frozen and pushed the pleated white and orange cardboard top way over the neck of the bottle – it was she, and no one else, who was given a spoon with which to eat that delicious frozen column. Because she was special! No doubt about it! Yes indeed, it was a wonderful world she lived in. Even an occasional skinned knee was promptly kissed and made better. Every night she said her prayers at bedtime. She didn’t quite have the God/Jesus/Angels thing all sorted out yet, but she asked God to Bless everybody anyway. (It seemed as though he was the one in charge.) Some nights when she wasn’t all that sleepy, the blessing list grew considerably longer, and included not only the immediate family, pets and friends – but shirttail relatives she hardly ever saw, the neighbors she barely knew on the next block over, all the shopkeepers and trades-people in the area, and ended up with “and everybody else in the whole world”. It made her feel good to think about all the people in her life that God would bless. She went to sleep every night knowing that tomorrow would be a happy day. All of her days were happy. Life was good. Many years have passed since then. Milk is homogenized. A cold winter morning no longer yields the delight of a column of frozen cream atop a cold glass milk bottle. The little girl is no more. In her place is someone who might be best described as an “old woman”. Mommie, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa, and all the people who loved her are gone. She’s alone. And the old woman wishes that she could, once again, feel that unabashed joy in being alive, and that same serene sense of security that she felt on the day when that snapshot was taken – when there was always someone to love her and hold her, take care of her and protect her. I guess it sure is really good that she finally got that God/Jesus/Angels thing all sorted out. Snapshot ca. 1934-5