Once Upon a Time, Long Before You and Me

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Saturday, October 12, 2013 A.D.

Once upon a time, long before you and me, my mother was born.

Yesterday would have been her 100th birthday.

“WOULD have been her 100th birthday” doesn’t sound exactly right. Actually, it WAS her 100th birthday, she just couldn’t be here to celebrate in person. Or rather, I couldn’t be where she is to celebrate. There are cosmic barriers to such things, you know.

Tomorrow, I will travel to Cuba, Alabama, to visit my mother’s baby sister, Aunt Margaret McGee Hardin. The occasion, husband Uncle Lamar’s 90th birthday, is as good an excuse as any…an excuse to enter the heart of the heart of the Alabama countryside and check up on the Theory of Relativity—that theory being, “In the long run, after all is lived and almost done, it’s Family that matters most, in both memory and reality.” No use trying to escape this theory, because olde times from childhood will not be forgotten, will continue to make themselves  known, will persistently rise up and remind you of your evolution from child of the womb to child of the universe to child of the unknown After Here.

On the way to Aunt Margaret’s home, Liz and I will pick up sister Barbara Reed Partrich at our mother’s home on Old Eastwood Avenue in Tuscaloosa. Barbara has traveled from Columbia, South Carolina, to attend Uncle Lamar’s party.

On the way back from Cuba, maybe the three of us will visit Mom’s burial site to wish her a happy birthday, and stand at the nearby graves of our father and sister Rosi.

We will chat and laugh and reminisce and wipe away an occasional tear, and the lively conversation will include all six of us, since we know in our hearts exactly what Rosi and Mom and Dad would say if we could only hear them.

It will be a nice visit.

And maybe—just maybe—once upon a time in the near future, someone Liz and Barbara and I have left behind will do the same with us, be we coffin-bound or ash-scattered. We’ll be Somewhere Else, but the reunion will be fun anyhow.

At least, maybe the remaining celebrants will get a chuckle out of my epitaph, which will read, NOT EXACTLY WHAT I HAD IN MIND

 

© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Born Beneath the Paper Mill Mist, Living Under the Truing Iron Man

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“Wah-CHOO!”

Early memories of my father always include the sounds of his four-second morning sneeze fit.

“Wah-CHOO!” again, and then it was all over.

Who knows where my father’s sneezes came from—there are suspects all around, but like all environmental irritants, it takes generations for subversive researchers to dig out the truth.

Could it be lung remnants of unregulated coal dust he breathed, working in the  1920′s coal mines of West Alabama? Could it be the rotten-egg-smelling mist that lay heavy on the morning air of Tuscaloosa back then, generated by the Paper Mill that dominated the town? Could it be some sort of undiagnosed allergy that today might be muted or mutated through mysterious prescriptions?

Maybe it was just hereditary, since I now have his same sneezes.

By moving from coal-mining country and paper mill stench in Tuscaloosa to densely-particulated air in Birmingham, back in 1969, did I manage to ameliorate my throat-clearing sneezing habits of old? Nope. Still do it, still don’t know the real cause, still muddle on through.

As I make these notes that you are now reading, I can see Vulcan the Iron Man through the window, a 55-foot-tall cast-iron statue of the Roman god of fire and armor—an unlikely overseer of Birmingham. He looks out over a vast valley where the particuates settle and are inhaled each day.

If you ever get to visit Alabama, don’t miss Vulcan. He’s what we have to show off—the world’s largest cast-iron statue. St. Louis has The Arch, Paris has The Tower, we have Vulcan.

Anyhow, one of the things I like about this enormous hulk is that, while macho and tough and stocky of build, he has a finer, more gentle side. For one thing, he is holding aloft a metal spear he is fabricating, gazing up the shaft to see if it’s straight and true, obviously taking great pride in his work above the hot anvil at his feet. The other nice thing about him is he’s thinking of his secret love across the valley, a 23-foot-tall gold statue of the beautiful (and nude) Miss Electra, symbol of the harnessing of electricity to make things work better.

There you have the romance and beauty of pollution. The unrequited affair of Vulcan and Electra, their pride in rising above the heavy, dusty mists, their stoic stances representing the spirit of all of us who are powerless to change the course of industry and nature, their very symbolism keeps us going.

No matter how tough things get, there’s always some hope that us little folk can keep our heads up, our pride intact, our babies nurtured, our kindnesses perpetuated, our love affairs familial and romantic and sustainable…

And each time someone nearby goes “Wah-CHOO!” it’s nice to reflect on what that strange noise means, it’s nice to raise a truing spear or a bolt of energizing lightning to the sky and give a silent salute to the meek—the meek, who will not inherit the earth but who can at least now and then contest the Will

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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F.W. Woolworth socks it to me

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I don a fresh pair of socks each and every morning of my life, always wondering when I’m going to run out of the really good ones.

That’s right—I go through fourteen clean socks a week. I’m an Activities of Daily Living guy who uses routine and ritual to contain my excited and artistic impulses. If I didn’t subscribe to certain repeatable and comfortable exercises, I just might wander off absent-mindedly while imagining my next story, my next speech or performance, my flights of fantasy that allow me to compose and edit and manage the Muse who tracks me, my acquisition of rare and unusual reading material for longing customers.

So, wearing clean socks is part of the act.

This particular morning, I find two holes in the right sock and, since no-one in America has darned a sock since 1959, I reluctantly toss it into the trash. The abandoned sock is one of the last really good ones I’ll apparently ever own. Can’t find soft, durable and comfortable ones anymore.

I’m about to run out of the last F.W. Woolworth socks in the known universe.

A sock is not just a sock, you  understand. These socks were purchased at one of the final real variety department stores, purchased decades ago when stores still had clerks who knew where things were, and who gladly assisted you in finding them, making sure they were right for you and checking to see whether you had an enjoyable experience in the process.

Wonder when the last real store clerk disappeared from view? Looking around, it’s hard to see any evidence that they ever existed except in the minds of geezers of a certain age.

For instance, at the library, librarians sit staring at computers and don’t voluntarily look up. You have to stand over them and clear your throat loudly to get them to tear their gaze from the screen. Even then, they only know how to vaguely point directions without removing seat of pants from seat of chair.

The branch bank on the corner seems equally bereft of eye contact. Employees sit and stare at screens or bow their heads in religious adoration of hand-held devices. They not only find it hard to look at me, but there is impatience in body language and demeanor. Just let me get back to the real virtual world! they seem to be saying. They don’t seem glad to see me.

It’s hard not to feel guilty, interrupting these clerks who have learned to respond warmly to electronic messages and images. What an annoyance we real people are!

Anyhow, I miss the days of one-on-one real-time real-presence social exchanges. I’m adjusting to the lonely world of sock-hunting on my own.

There’s proof in the message—if I tried to tell you this sad tale in person, you’d be fidgeting and creeping toward the door, longing to get back to texting or youtubing or facebooking snarky comments about other people’s lives. But the fact that you read this story online simply means that I’m already on your side, despite my whining. We are virtual people communicating virtual information in a virtual world.

Wonder what the real world is like? Maybe we’d better look up once in a while, just to get our bearings.

Now that the F.W. Woolworth socks are depleted, I wonder what virtual socks will feel like

(c) 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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