Hominy & Hash
WE HAVE LIVED PARALLEL LIVES
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- If you were a baby during the great depression, a child at the first New York World's Fair, a budding teenager during the years of WWII, and a bride or groom in the '50s, then we've lived parallel lives.
Where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
I was still eating birthday cake that Sunday morning following my 10th birthday. Having a birthday in double digits was very big. I was milking the moment, so to speak. But, I was not the center of attention on the 7th.
Until the very moment of President Roosevelt's announcement, I had never heard the word "war," had no idea where Pearl Harbor was, couldn't imagine bombs falling from the sky. We heard about the world on the radio, we didn't see it in living color on television. That concept escaped us. We still froze in our spot if a telephone call were long distance. "Shhh, quiet! It's long distance."
We can bounce backward and forward over this span of life so far to see ourselves at a given moment. Did you collect scrap metal? Did you wonder how they could turn those old cans and pans into bombs and bombers to defeat Tojo and the dreaded Axis? It would be two decades before we understood the concept of recycling ... and I'm still not sure how they do it.
The wonderful thing about remembering is the freeze frame. I see myself high on a seesaw -- I know now that my partner jumps off and I slam to the ground. But, I see myself aloft and I feel the welling thrill of high in the air, safely down to the ground, up again, down again. At times like that we learn the value of hindsight and a lesson in whom to trust.
What did you do the day the war ended? We ran up and down the street, yelling, hugging, laughing. The woman across the way put a roll of toilet paper on a stick and it streamed in the air as she ran in celebration.
My mother had a banner in the window with five stars on it. None of them was gold. She cried in relief. At last she could exhale. She didn't realize she had been holding her breathe all those years of writing letters, knitting socks, baking cookies, praying and trying to get on with it. It was just as it was where you were, right?
And, in our parallel universe, we fell in love. Love comes to most of us at some time. It's different for everyone and yet for everyone, just the same.
And in marriage, we think it's the beginning of life but we find it's the end of life as we knew it. The ring goes on your finger and it's the culmination of a dream. For some in this parallel living, the dream goes on to fulfillment, for others, it's the beginning of a nightmare. But, we do remember the ring going on the third finger left hand.
Where were you when Alan Shepherd lifted off into space, a launch or two after the chimpanzees? I was sitting on a round coffee table with my three-year old son, watching in anticipation for the lift off and praying for a safe landing. I can see myself and know my son saw something happening that he would remember forever. As young as he was, he focused.
The thing about freeze frames is they are not always chronological. I'm not writing history, I'm recalling it. A personal journal might revitalize thoughts enough to fill in the blanks on days you can't quite recall. But for those days when events were deeply etched into our beings, we need rely on nothing but knowing where we were and how we felt in the moment.
In our world where the decades are piling up behind us rather than in front of us, a common line is: "I remember the time ... " and he might recall laughing so hard he wet his pants. "What, you, too? I thought I was the only one who ever did that."
Those are just odd moments happening at one time or another as part of being human. How about the moments when the course of history is changed in an instant.
It was a Friday like any other at noon with Bozo's Circus on television occupying the children while I slathered peanut butter and jelly on seedless rye.
"Mom," five-year old Jack yelled, "bulletin." I glanced into the family room in time to see and hear instant news coming from Dallas, Texas: the President had been shot, further details would follow.
Bozo's Circus was a live show and Mr. Ned, the Ringmaster, was back on screen frozen in the moment, staring skittishly toward an off-camera monitor, or, perhaps, a producer. His discomfort didn't last long. Again, a bulletin took over the small black and white television screen as news anchor Walter Cronkite made the announcement, removing his glasses to wipe his eyes after stoically reporting that President Kennedy died in Dallas.
With bread in one hand and a peanut-buttered knife in the other, I stood silently watching as my son asked, over and over, "What happened? What happened?" The course of history changed between the peanut butter and the jelly.
The little boy who sat on the round coffee table to see Alan Shepherd go into space now sat with me and the two toddlers around us putting our lives on hold as we watched history unfold - right up through the Sunday morning when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot as we watched.
We saw what you saw and you know what you were doing. And, you'll remember as I do the thunderbolt shocking our souls when the Challenger exploded instantly taking the best, brightest and healthiest among us as they willingly explored our newest frontier.
I was at a computer at the University of Pittsburgh entering data compiled for the breast cancer study that soon determined lumpectomy was as efficacious as total mastectomy in curing this form of cancer. Perhaps women could be cured without disfigurement, left whole after the procedure. It took five years and thousands of women gambling with uncertainty to prove it.
Pioneers all, willing to explore new ideas to make the world a better place for us all. The Challenger's pioneers paid the price and our space program continues flawlessly. But, I'll never forget that thunderbolt ... not felt again until Sept. 11, 2002.
John called me at the office: "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center, I'm watching it live." Our thoughts and conversation continued somewhat calmly since we both harkened back to the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building when we were teenagers. It jutted out from the side of the building, not falling, not burning. It didn't change the course of history, but we remembered.
"Oh, my God," he suddenly screamed into the phone, "there's another one. This is no accident."
In that moment, not knowing all we know now, the course of history changed. We all watched the tower implode and the common denominator we share is the feeling of total helplessness. We could not do a single thing to change what was happening.
We don't know each other, you and I; our lives are neither intertwined, nor intermingled, except perhaps coincidentally. We are merely two parallel lines heading toward the finish. Because of those moments we recognize as our own memories, we can relate more closely to each other than to those who've actually shared our space.