Mary Beth Writes

The photo is from Hiroshima. It's the shadow of what was there before the bomb. 

9/11/2022

Yesterday it was hot and muggy and sticky. Almost every day since May has been hot and muggy and sticky. We have a small house with air conditioning; utility bills are not prohibitive so I am a lucky that way.  It’s usually cool enough in here.

But spending time outside, as one ought to do, is perpetually hot and muggy and sticky. I’m weary of sweating. Most weeks my laundry has included nearly twenty spent t-shirts … just from me.

Today, suddenly, the world is 50 degrees and raining. I’m wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and I feel like a pilgrim returning to her native land.

Its 9/11; 21 years since that day.  Do you know exactly where you were when you first heard that terrible news?  Of course, you do. That moment is etched in us like shadows at Hiroshima. 

All of us have these memories. Moments where what was happening in the world etched itself into us.

Sputnik was tiny light arcing across the night sky. I was scared to suddenly be lifted from my bed into my dad’s arms, he carried me through the house and outside into the cool night air. I watched his finger pointing Sputnik out to me. I was not yet 5-years-old.

Our teacher went to the door, talked quietly a moment, turned back to us. “President Kennedy has been shot.” She turned on a radio that we’d never before listened to during class. Walter Cronkite announced that the president was dead. I heard sniffly crying and turned to see behind me. Tough kid Dougie had tucked his head under the flip top of his desk; he was sobbing as quietly as he could.

Sitting on the floor in our living room, watching the Bob Hope Christmas Special from Vietnam, with my mom. A banner in the crowd of soldiers read “101st Airborne Medics at Hue. “  Now mom and I knew where my brother was.

When the Challenger and the Columbia exploded. When Elvis died. When Mayor Daley died - I was a bank teller across the street from his doctor’s office when the street suddenly filled with cops and reporters. When Nixon resigned. Kent State. The Berlin Wall fell. Princess Diana’s car crash. Columbine.

None of us remember all those moments but all of us remember some of them and when we do, it’s not the journalists’ reports in front of us, it’s our memories. Where we were. Who we were with. What our friends did, our kids said, the temperature of the air, what we were wearing, and the way our heart thumped.

Sometimes we get so used to considering stories as they are given to us by others that we forget all these things happened to us. This is our life. These are moments and places where "out there" impacted "in here". 

We see what a narrow beam we walk and how high off the ground we are.

Yesterday our Madison grandkids were her for the afternoons. First of all, not to brag or anything, but go ahead, top this. I have TWO grandkids who like broccoli. 

I bought about 50 bulbs last week so that if they were interested, the kids could help me plant them. Hoo-boy, you want to know a person’s incipient style? Give them a small shovel, a patch of rock-hard dirt, and a bag of bulbs.

Mr. Six dug like a dog who had suddenly grown thumbs and was REVELING in flying dirt. I emptied my sock cuffs later. If there is a way to spend twice as much energy as is needed, he will find it.

Ms. Four helped her mom plant some grape hyacinths. “Mom, we are doing a Gardening Activity!”

Of my fifty bulbs, the kids helped me plant … six. It was a pretty good adventure. Next Spring when the alliums come up, I’m going to see flying dirt.

 

 

Comments

Some really strong memories in here. Thanks for writing this.

Thank you for the suggestion of reading material. I read "The Seed Keeper." and loved the book.
Mary Beth's picture

I'm glad you liked it. It was/is a strong story.

Aren"t grandkids the best? Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Yes! I love how they see the world so fresh and new and interesting or dull. We have a family of bathtub toy frogs around here, left from the last small child who grew up and away and left her green frogs behind. I put them in the sink before the kids arrived on Saturday. The littlest came downstairs after using the bathroom. "Grandma, they are FROGS in your sink, did you know that?" So I went back upstairs with her and sat there twenty minutes while she washed them with hand-soap and an old toothbrush. Possibly when she's an adult she will realize that was a ruse to make handwashing more fun.

Your comment is so true, about it not being journalist's reports that we remember, but our memories. When I've talked about some of those events with others - the "where were you when" moments - it's a binding shared time among us all of an intense event, but with very personal, individual stories.
Mary Beth's picture

Maybe if we talked more about what we shared, instead of what divides us ...

Well written ... well done!!!

I occasionally get a Facebook note that there is a comment on my Flanagan High School alumni page. I often look at it and think "ho-hum, that was never important to me and still is not!" However, I recently got a notice which was the posting of a photo of our four story high grade school. I immediately was back in 6th grade class where the imposing Mrs. McDaniel presided. (she never knew that we snidely called her "snowcapped mountains", meaning she had white hair and a very well endowed bosom). She was called out of the room by our principal, returned shortly, and with teary eyes, told us that our President, John F Kennedy, had just been shot and killed. The whole class struggled, and I do not remember if we got sent home early or had to limp through the rest of the day. It was amazing to me how quickly that memory surfaced, just seeing that one photograph, and the grief and trauma emerged from even so long ago. Little did we know what the future would hold!
Mary Beth's picture

It was such a powerful event in our young lives. My parents had been profoundly opposed to Kennedy. They LIKED Nixon and Goldwater yadda yadda. But when Kennedy was killed, my dad took the cover of the Life magazine which was a profile of JFK, put it in a fame, and hung that by our back door. To this day, that intrigues me. He despised Democrats, and yet, that loss of a fellow veteran got to him.

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