This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Well, here we are again, on the downhill slide into next year, and with no way to put on the brakes. I remember my folks talking about how much faster the time goes as you get older, and I thought they must be crazy. Everybody knew that time was endless, and the distance between daylight and dark sometimes took all day. In a day, you could do practically anything, dream any dream, play any game, hatch any plan. Heck, you could probably finish it all before dinner.
Well, times change, don’t they? Time gets shorter as the world seems to get smaller, and the opportunities for adventure, fulfillment, love, seem to dwindle at about the same rate. Then the generation before us begins to die off, the ones who hold on become frail, and all of a sudden we can’t look to the older generation for advice, because they’re us. How does that happen?
The end of any year always turns our thoughts to endings in general, and this year we’ve seen quite a few, near and far. In my hometown, or next door to it, they’re digging up a lengthy section of sidewalk that’s in the way of a new project, and that wouldn’t be anything unusual, except it’s the section in front of the old Cassville High School building, itself long gone, and it’s the section that was poured in segments, once a year as each graduating class passed into history, and each student’s name was stamped into the concrete. It includes the classes of the early 1940s, those 18-year-olds who went to war, and as the song says, “they came back different if they came back at all.” It’s hard letting go of things like that. Hard to find a good way to look at it – a different perspective.
I experienced something similar when I was first on my own, and had gone out to seek my fortune in the far west, without a single thought that anything in my little village would ever change. How could it? Noting had ever changed, so far as I knew. And of course, at 19, I knew everything.
But then both my parents died, my father from heart trouble or from his temper, and my mother four months later from cancer, or heartache. Once the funerals were over, I returned to California and stayed 10 years before setting foot in my little town again.
And when I did, the most curious thing happened. Things had changed, and I expected that. Some houses were gone and others erected. They’d torn down the berry shed and Goldie’s Cafe, and the little rock house where I was born. And the people from my childhood had vanished. The Hardaways were gone, and Martha Hinson and Mary Cain. Even Uncle Hugh and Peggy were vanished, sent to some other realm beyond my imagining. And yet… and yet... my brain totally refused to make that large a shift in perspective. I couldn’t make myself see it. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. For I’d been picturing that little town, its streets, its people, its own memories of itself, for every day of my 10 years away. Martha Hinson’s house was gone, but I could see it. Perry and Polly’s little shack by the railroad crossing wasn’t there anymore, but I saw it. And I knew as sure as I’m standing here that behind those two new houses south of the hotel where my family had lived, there was still an indentation that formed an x worn into the ground by wagon wheels before there were streets. I bet if I looked hard enough, I could still see that massive old fir tree out in the field across from Mac Harrell’s house that was the last vestige in my day of the old city park that still lay there under the pasture grass, just as described to me by my grandmother.
It’s curious the tricks that memory plays, letting us see what was with greater clarity than the present view. Letting us see within the weathered faces of ourselves and our contemporaries the fresh young faces we once wore. Hearing still those same young voices, so full of humor and confidence.
Yes, this is the month of endings, another year in which we hope we’ve collected not too many regrets, wasted too much precious time, or followed too many rabbit tracks down too many trails. But if we’re lucky, and we are, there will be scattered among our travels a great many things for which to be grateful, times spent swapping tales and sharing adventures with friends, wrestling garden beds from the reluctant earth, drifting out on the wide waters, drunk on moonlight.
Time grows old, the song says, and love grows cold and fades away like morning dew. But not always, and not if you’re paying attention. Some of our times grow much sweeter in memory, and some loves grow much dearer with age. It’s all a matter of perspective. We can choose to see through a glass darkly and catalog our mistakes, our regrets, our misfortunes and missteps. Or we can raise a glass in gratitude for every day and every experience that has led us all the way down the years from our callow, arrogant youth to a viewpoint wherein we behold the wonders of a vast universe in which we are only tiny sparks of awareness, significant only to ourselves and those who love us, but immensely grateful for the view.
This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills, wishing for you the best of adventures and a flawless landing in the next brand New Year.