This is another occasional post in a series I call ‘can’t think of anything worthwhile to say so let’s insert my last newspaper column. ‘ This one was published the week of January 23, 2012.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a problem I was having with my meat loaf falling apart in the pan. Then yesterday I received a nice note from a lady who sent me her recipe for making a good meatloaf. In order to protect her privacy, I won’t tell you her name but her note went on to tell me that she grew up in Smalltown, Indiana, a neighboring town not far from where I grew up. She also knew some of the same people I knew and in fact, with her girlfriends, haunted some of the same places that I did growing up. Then, when she mentioned her age, (the same as mine), it really gave me pause. Good Lord, we went to different schools together. Although she did not mention knowing me as a teenager, I should have known this lady, at least when she was a teenage girl.
I racked my brain, mulling over long ago nights in the cafés of my hometown of Loogootee, Indiana, trying to recall if I had used one of my famous pick-up lines (note 1) on any girls from Smalltown. None of the dim, shadowy memories of young people crammed into booths at the Arrow café produced anyone with this lady’s name. For the life me, I couldn’t recall any meetings although that’s not too say it didn’t happen. I’m not as young as I used to be, you know.
She mentioned her evenings with friends at the skating rink in my town and I wondered if she could have been one of the girls who ignored me as I stood around with my nerdy friends waiting on a member of the fairer sex to take my hand and pull me out onto the rink floor for the romantic Sadie Hawkins skate. (Note 2)
She also talked of being friends with Ernie and Keith, friends of mine as well. Both Ernie and Keith were killed in a car accident in 1956 and her note told me that she had a crush on Ernie although he never knew it. This left me wondering if she had been at one or the other of their funerals? Would I have even noticed?
The note ended with her telling me about her family, her husband and children of which she is rightfully very proud. I gave up trying to figure out if I knew this lady and handed my wife, Susie the note. As she read, I could feel a barely perceptible sadness creeping into my sunny disposition.
“That was very nice.” Susie said, handing me the note.
“Yes it was even though it leaves me feeling a little bit sad.“
“Sad? Why? Why would you be sad?”
“I don’t know. I just am.” It was true. I didn’t know why. Our neighbor and friend asked me the same question when I showed her the note. I couldn’t tell her either although I tried. I just wasn’t able to articulate what I felt. I was able to say that it bothered me, not being able to recall meeting this lady and her friends. I would like to have had the opportunity.
“Well, you can’t know everyone.” My friend told me and she was right. But still there are so many stories out there to hear and I hate it when I have missed one.
“Why would you even expect to meet everyone?” Susie chimed in.
I didn’t bother to explain. Susie, like other folks who grew up in the big city, would never understand the camaraderie of a small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and being from the wrong side of the tracks meant almost nothing. It was just another place to watch the trains go through town.
One thing that might have been the source of my sadness was the reminder of Ernie and Keith’s accident 55 years ago. Still, I came to terms with that a long time ago so it shouldn’t have bothered me. Another possibility is that I realize I didn’t take the time then to appreciate what a great part of my life those growing up years were. I was too busy wanting to get on with living and now I’m sitting here wondering; what the hell was my hurry?
I don’t know but I give up. I’m never going to figure it out. I guess neither you nor I are going to find out why the note produced that feeling of sadness but its okay. I don’t need to know now anyway. The moment has passed and right now, I’m off on another undertaking; trying out that meatloaf recipe.
I’ll let you know how it turns out.
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1. One of my favorite pickup lines: ‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, you walked into this one. This must be my lucky day.” Yep, that’s right. In those days, I looked a little bit like Humphrey Bogart. .
2. Never happened. No girls ever came to my rescue. A pox on Sadie Hawkins.