A friend of mine turned 70 not long ago. That’s happening more often than it used to, which has caused me to realize a lot of my favorite people are not spring chickens anymore. It’s possible they’re having similar thoughts about me, but I don’t think I’ll ask.
I sent my longtime pal a text for the occasion to say, “It seems like only yesterday you were 69.” That line needs to be retired, but good lines are hard to come by and not as easily summoned as they once were. Sharing that comment with him led me to reflect on some yesterdays of the distant past.
It seems like only yesterday I hitched a ride on the back of Uncle Murray’s truck without telling anyone. I was looking for Daddy and found out he was in Unadilla at Giles & Hodge Farm Center. Uncle Murray was headed there, so I climbed up the back bumper and took a seat atop the bags of seeds stacked higher than the cab. When people along the road tried to flag him down, he gave them a friendly wave back. That’s one of my earliest memories, probably from age three or four.
It seems like only yesterday I followed our boxer, Mug, into the wheat field and got lost. That also could have ended badly but once more a misadventure turned out fine. I’ve never been so glad to hear my mother’s voice. Nor have I ever gotten so much pleasure from cool water being splashed on my face at a backyard faucet. Plus, a good lesson came from that troubling experience. Daddy told me if I ever got lost again that I should look up.
It seems like only yesterday I was climbing aboard a yellow school bus for the first time. Mr. Bartlett, an ancient, gentle-natured man, was our driver. He graciously overlooked most of our mischief, even the spitball fights where wads of chewed paper were launched with rubber bands. Somewhere during those early grades, I lost my taste for paper, but I remember the flavor well.
Pinehurst didn’t have a kindergarten, but thanks to Captain Kangaroo I could sing the alphabet at age five. I still do sometimes, probably because it’s one of the few songs I know all the lyrics to.
Mrs. Kathryn Roberts was our teacher. Her motherly demeanor and unlimited patience made her perfectly suited for young charges with too much energy to pay attention. I don’t remember any details of our studies, just that I liked Miss Kathryn and knew she liked me. I was too young to understand she loved us but figured that out later and enjoyed her friendship for many years.
Reflecting on my first-grade experience reminds me of a story I heard from Wayne Peavy about ten years ago. His father, Mr. E. B. Peavy, had told it to him decades earlier. It was a local tale about Vienna Elementary School in the 1930s or maybe before.
There was a shoe repair shop in downtown Vienna owned by a Mr. Hampton, who was called Shoe by his friends and patrons. Mr. Hampton’s young son spent a lot of time at the shop, so someone began calling him Little Shoe, a nickname which stuck like the glue his father used to bond leather.
On Little Shoe’s first day of school, his teacher was conducting an informal assessment, trying to determine what each student might already know. She paused at Little Shoe’s desk and spoke softly, doing her best not to embarrass anyone.
“Little Shoe,” the teacher tenderly inquired, “do you know your ABCs?”
“Hell no!” said Little Shoe with substantial volume. “I ain’t been here but ten minutes!”
I’ll have to hide this week’s newspaper from the matriarch of our family, but that’s too good a story not to preserve the original. Mr. E. B. used to drop by Rooney Bowen Chevrolet when I worked there in the 1970s. He was a delightful gentleman, a retired farmer with a cheerful disposition and infectious laugh. My guess is he’s told St. Peter and several others about Little Shoe Hampton and had no complaints. It’s a humorous reminder that children tend to soak up whatever is spilled.
It’s nice to revisit old memories, to savor the sweet ones and be thankful for what we’ve learned from the challenges. If you want to give it a try, just find a quiet, private place when you’re not in a hurry. Close your eyes, let your mind wander, and see where it takes you. It seems like only yesterday………