Do You Remember?

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Poetess Emily Dickinson wrote,“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” I believe Emily was saying we should savor all the “enjoyables” in our lives as they provide balance in our total life experiences. They don’t have to be monumental events or people, and I’ll wager you have a collection as I do.

I often hear locals preface a memory with,“Remember when . . .?,” and I know something has emerged from their “sweet life” file. It is almost always in question form because they want to receive agreement with a memory of perhaps better times.

“Remember the old ice house?” Yes, I do. All the green-paint-over-brick in the world can’t hide the cold, frozen magic that was behind those doors.

“Remember when our local paper was thrown onto our porches, neatly folded into a triangle or rolled up and tied with string?” And yes, I do. They occasionally were also found on top of the house or in the privet hedges. Teenage boys threw them from bicycles with tube-tire tread sometimes as thin as the newspaper pages themselves. Through rain, sleet, snow, heat, or a jeans leg caught in the chain, it seemed worth the 10 cents per customer.

Remember when the old steam trains sounded like they were outside your open bedroom window on a summer night? Indeed, I do. Through my screened window I heard all the night sounds, which included the soulful, husky intonations of the train mixed with the hand-sized sycamore leaves clapping from the tree next door. The tree is gone now as it didn’t thrive in the middle of a later-added concrete driveway.

“Remember when downtown stores had everything we needed?” Yes, and that our parents told us, “No running,” and we could look but not touch items. But how does one know how a 15-cent balsa airplane kit is going to look when glued together and ready for flight?

“Remember when Donaghey Avenue was gravel from Prince Street and past the dairy pastures? When cows had the tastiest butter because they grazed in those fields? When the Kuykendall house, still there, was the only structure at the top of the hill?” Yes, and I recall they wanted the paperboy, Ken Parker, to park his bike down at the mailbox where they usually received their paper and walk their daily edition up to the front porch. Interestingly, that didn’t happen.

“Remember when the expanse of empty fields west of the hospital was beyond the city limits?” I absolutely do because my best friend, Carolyn (Hazel) Lewis lived “out there” on the road also inhabited by yellow, undulating tickseed flowers, buzzing dragonflies, crickets, and hovering fireflies at night. Seldom-seen fireflies seem to be becoming extinct. They used to practically lead me to our front door by their “tail lights” when I finished playing in the yard after dark.

“Do you remember when we didn’t hear many sirens?” Yes, now and then we heard the single warning device at our only fire station, as well as the daddy-sang-bass droning of an infrequent ambulance. When I heard an ambulance coming, I ran to the end of the long front walk, waited for the vehicle to approach, then waved at the drivers who waved back.

I think we all can remember pets we place in our sweet life files, and they include cats, dogs, goats, chickens and rabbits. And that was in town. Everyone knew everyone else’s dog although it might be far from home. Without leash laws, they visited whoever would throw them a biscuit. I had two cats – father and son. We thought the father had somehow gotten its tail cut off until the neighbor’s female cat had a litter of carbon-copy bob-tailed versions. They are otherwise known as Manx cats, originating from the Isle of Man. Pretty dignified heritage for a cat that relished resting under a dripping water faucet.

In adulthood, among the menagerie of my life’s pets was a cat named Smokey, another cat named Weird Harold, a dog named Boogie, and my dad’s Basset hound named Ferguson. We treat our pets like family, don’t we? We christen them with names and talk to them and they listen. Or so we think.

I was reminded of this recently as we attended a church picnic. A few attendees brought their small dogs and puppies. One family brought a small, curly-haired, black puppy, and I was moved to inquire about its breed. The woman said, “He’s a cockapoo.” I knew but had to ask. Here was a life-detail going back 45 years. My oldest brother, a pediatrician, had a patient who “gifted” him with a box precariously overloaded with three champagne-colored cockapoo puppies. We were suckers, as he knew we would be, and took one of them home to join our other dog, who was “genealogically challenged.”

I don’t know why, but we named him Ollie. He was beautiful. He was also a groomer’s financial dream. We had him a long time until he finally became ill and we lost him. So now I bring you back to the church picnic and feisty puppies. We somehow ended up back in the presence of the woman leashed to the bouncing cockapoo. We watched his zany antics for some time, and I casually asked, “And what is his name?” She said, “Ollie.”

Some things you just don’t question if they remind you of something sweet in your life. Just know there is a reason.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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