by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
June 6, 2004
ROADS OF MEMORY, TAKEN ONCE AGAIN
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Everybody looks back at one time or another; when my children gaze into their rear-view mirror, they see scenes of their lives and their world in the seventies, eighties, nineties, and the few years since the millennium.
Just recently, a family round-robin of e-mails, spurred on by "Miracle," the story of the United States hockey team's win at the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, awakened the memories they share for having been there when sportscaster Al Michaels shouted, "Do you believe in miracles?"
In truth, though, their memories don't always jibe:
"Speaking of Miracles," writes Tom, "those of us who went to Lake Placid will enjoy the real and recreated footage of the Olympics. First, they show a stadium shot of the opening ceremonies. The shot is actual footage and it brought me right back to that day. Dad and I were in those stands. The only possible flaw is when they show a scene where the weather is snowy and blustery. I only remember warm temperatures (40s) and no precipitation."
Nancy responds: "There was snow ...the roads were always snow covered ... I do not remember seeing pavement ... even now when I smell exhaust, I remember the Olympics at Lake Placid. I remember the music, too ... Michael Jackson's 'I want to Rock with You,' that takes me back ... and 'Sara.'"
Tom counters with: "Funny, I remember the exact opposite of what you remember about the Olympics at Lake Placid. Don't you remember Sven? 'Are you cold?' he asked us. 'Do you want to come in and warm up?' It was the only time I've ever been inside an ambulance. Dad and I endured horrible snow storms on the way to, and back from, the games. Regardless, there were some mild days, but I can't believe it was 24 years ago."
Wendy adds, "I do remember Sven. And, 40 degrees is cold when you're not moving."
Memories, obviously, are selective. (I have little confidence in eye-witness accounts.) But, just as "Miracle" triggered memories in the minds of the Daleys who made the journey to Lake Placid in 1980, flooding their minds with sights and sounds of the time, so also have I been catapulted to 1942. Today, Ronald Reagan died.
My sister Lenore bursts through the door, tossing her school books on the couch and simultaneously turns the radio dial to WNEW just in time to hear announcer Martin Block invite the teenage audience to dance to the tunes he played at The Make Believe Ballroom. The theme song comes to me as easily as Tommy Dorsey's Boogie Woogie; Glenn Miller's In the Mood and all the swing music continuing in popularity to this day.
It's the make-believe ballroom time
My sister continues to dance, shedding the cardigan of her sweater set as she warms up. This show is the forerunner to Dick Clark's American Bandstand where teenagers do not have to make believe but take to the real dance floor at the studio.
Mama called to Lenore, a little louder than usual to be heard over the trumpet of Harry James and the drumbeat of Gene Krupa: "Lenore, you have mail." Lenore runs to the kitchen to see what it is and finds an 8x10 manila envelope and a postcard from a friend.
Mama and I hover but she clutches the envelope to her chest and dramatically goes to her room -- our room, actually, but I don't dare follow. After all, she is 17 and I am 11. Rank has its privilege.
Lenore says nothing but comes from the room with the smile of a Cheshire Cat. "Want to see what I just received?" she invites. "Yes," we say, nodding and following her. At first the difference in the room doesn't strike us until she gestures toward an 8x10 glossy of Ronald Reagan, signed. "To Lee" and signed "Ronald Reagan," tacked above her bed with a single thumbtack.
"Who is that supposed to be?" I ask.
"That's Ronald Reagan, he was in 'King's Row' with Ann Sheridan. I wrote for his picture. Isn't he handsome?" she gushes. "I told him my name is 'Lee.'"
"Yeah," I say, without enthusiasm. Today, sixty years later, I see the same features that have been a presence in my life ever since Lenore tacked a picture over her bed in our room. I see the room, I see the kitchen, I see Mama. I remember Ronald Reagan's face; the sweater he was wearing, his smile.
He was always worth the time it takes to listen to him, whether as an actor, a spokesperson, a Governor or the President. The air around him became a comfort zone. Thus, I became a Reagan Republican simply because I trusted that man.
The blurb next to his picture in his graduation year book said: "Life is a song; Let the music begin." Somewhere in his early years, his attitude was set for life. He decided to "stand tall" and admonished us, Americans, to do the same -- and we did.
Ronald Reagan was the star of his own life and I applaud the way he lived it. In order for him to make his exit, however, in his typical, graceful way, it became necessary to relinquish center stage to the love of his life: Nancy Davis Reagan.
From what I've observed, Mrs. Reagan's role in furthering her husband's career was to love him, unconditionally, and watch from the sidelines as he carried the ball.
Perhaps I'm yielding to Show Business analogies because they are so easily employed, but Ronald and Nancy Reagan were not acting, they were simply a class act.
There is little doubt that in the next few days former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, will send her husband forth with a funeral and memorial service that will leave us standing tall just for having lived in a time when the American Dream still holds true: A person can be born in poverty in this country and still become President of the United States.
The televised slide show that began mid-afternoon yesterday and is continuing as I write shows the same face I first saw 60 years ago triggering in my mind a time before all the important events of my life.
About Ronald Reagan, it can honestly be said, as St. Paul said: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."