From August, 1999
OK. Enough’s enough. But feel free to have yourself one more good laugh about the third grade photo of me that Cliff ran in last week’s Marlboro Shopper. For your convenience, I’ve posted it atop this column. So, go ahead…I’ll wait. There, feel better? I hope so. Glad I could help lighten your day. Now let’s just back away, and act like this never happened.
Seriously, while I was aware that that photo had been submitted, I was caught completely off-guard by the first comment I encountered about how “cute” I looked following its publication.
Thanks for the non-warning, Cliff.
And I particularly enjoyed the comments of those who noticed that, while my classmates stood in an almost militaristic manner – arms straight at their sides, chins tucked tight – I, on the other hand, appeared to be gazing off into the distance. A free spirit even then.
I guess some things never change.
Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I recall the sun being in my eyes when that photo was being taken.
Regardless, seeing that old photo certainly got the old gray matter, pardon the pun, going. You see, I presently work across the street from where that shot was taken over thirty years ago, and one day last week, after it’s publication, I took a few moments to just sit on the porch at “Shiness,” look at that old school, and take the opportunity to have a visit with my past, to recall how things were when that innocent little boy stood for that photograph.
I couldn’t help but smile at the memories of school recesses under the big trees that shaded the ground so well that no grass would grow in that area. Perfect for kickball games. One of those trees has recently been taken down. I felt like I’d lost a an old friend; I even went over and took photos of the stump and trunk.
And then there was the swing-set that we would gang up on, often hooking legs and attempting tricks until somebody finally banged their head against a support post and wound up crying. The only thing left there now are shallow depressions in the soil where our feet drug as we ground ourselves to a halt.
Remember the covered walkway that used to run from between the schools and out to the cafeteria and bus pickup area? That was a great spot for summertime daredevil bike tricks…especially if you spread a little sand onto the concrete walkway. The way I see it, we learned rudimentary mechanics simply by keeping our bicycles running after some of those crashes. A kind of summer school all our own, I guess.
Those walkways are gone now, as well.
I was enjoying my sentimental little visit to the past when the fact that, at that very moment, I was sitting within two blocks of the very same bedroom that I walked home to that afternoon after school crossed my mind. And I was reminded that, after nearly twenty years of either trying to be a proper corporate greed-head or wandering in search of my share of the American Dream, I was sitting in the very same neighborhood that I’d spent nearly half of my life in. And then spent the other half trying to get away from.
An odd turn of events when I remember a period of time when all I thought it would take to make me happy was seeing Bennettsville, South Carolina in my rear-view mirror. And as opportunities presented themselves, more than once I headed off to discover whatever lay around the next corner. Usually I’d also swear that I’d never come back to this one-horse burg for anything other than a holiday visit.
I can’t begin to tell you all of the places that wandering path has lead me. Towns and cities with names like Sandersville, Jimps, Statesboro, Augusta, Martinez, Buckhead, and Smyrna were once where I lived. And those are just the ones in Georgia. I also tried Alabama, North Carolina, and a couple of spots in South Carolina, even the Carribbean.
But none of them was ever called “home”.
From a year spent in Chicago one month, to nine months in Atlanta that seemed like a lifetime, from St. Matthews, South Carolina to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, it seems I’ve spent over two decades searching for peace of mind, only to finally look up a couple years ago and find it in my own backyard.
And probably just in time.
I’m convinced that returning home saved the last little bit of that kid you see in the picture left in me simply by reconnecting me to the things that are truly important; helping me get my priorities back in order.
So, while it may have taken me 33 years to get from the steps of the Murchison School across the street to the steps of “Shiness,” I’m not about to complain too much. Not as long as I can get the kind of feelings I do from things I can only do here. Things like seeing my mama laugh, or talking to people I’ve known for 40 years, or picking up a real nice Marlboro County arrowhead.
“The Kid” in me won’t allow it. Long live “The Kid” in all of us.