Remember, Don't Fah’get Aboud’it
I'm back on my block now, the street I grew up on. Driveways to concealed garages and postage stamp lawns. A still life in right angles. The year is
about ’63-’65 or so. I would have been about 7, give or take.
Whatever year it was, that winter it snowed heavily. Was it the “Lindsay blizzard?” I don’t recall.
The morning after the snowing stopped, husbands and children came out to do the shoveling ritual. Maybe 30-40 feet of 36-inch-wide sidewalk plus the driveways between the buildings plus the sidewalks of older neighbors who could not do it themselves. If the snow was deep, more than 2 feet say, this was an entire morning’s work, arduous but a beautiful scene.
In super bright reflected white light with snow dust in the air from emptied shovels, one might, with a squint and a tear of imagination see peasants threshing wheat or clubbing jack rabbits.
Add to this urban pastorale, the wives of the husbands up and down the block yelling from doors and windows, “Sol, put down that shovel,” “Harry, you gotta go to work tomorrow,” and my favorite, “Jack, you’re gonna get a heart attack.”
In years to come, much of that work was assumed by older kids, ambitious mercenaries. For a time, I would become one of those.
Anyway, that year to which I first referred, taking in the whole scene, I suggested to my Dad that if everyone chipped in a little, we could get one of those mini tractor snow blower/plow things which might be stored easily in any one of many spacious garages and all the driveways and sidewalks and anything else would be effortlessly plowed clean. I generously volunteered to drive the lil’ tractor around myself, for free, so that nobody should get a heart attack.
My Dad mulled it over a couple of seconds and then abruptly as a camera flash, hauled off and smacked me. That’s okay, no big whoop. But why? I wondered for years. He said nothing but to be quiet and finish the job. It was not the moment to pursue it and I forgot about it, mostly.
Might have been innocently and even unknowingly but I had proposed a socialist arrangement. Was my Dad a rabid anti-communist? Certainly not. He was a store owner paying off a mortgage, working 6 days a week, a war vet, a lodge member and a bowler.
Those years, now sealed in a snow globe, were the Golden Age of the Cold War. The smell of burn still stung in the minds of Americans. The Rosenbergs, McCarthy black lists, air raid drills in public schools, the missile crisis, Prague Spring, Korea, Vietnam and Stalin grinning away from under his hat at Yalta....
He’s got lifeless eyes,
Like a doll's eyes.
Kennedy’s assassination established beyond doubt, that anyone could be got to. If in that “great” age, that moment, you were not terrified to the shores of pedestrian madness, you were not paying attention.
So why’d my Dad smack me? Maybe, he worried; if someone, a neighbor, who behind closed doors was a rabid anti-communist, overheard me making this utterly seditious proposal, this would be reason enough for a call to that nice Mr. Hoover and his FBI. After all, Che was recruited young. So were Stalin and the James boys. Infractions like that might cost you your livelihood or your home or your liberty. Where, tell me, does it say there are rules?
1965 to the present, 55 years, not even a lifetime in my book. Kitty Hawk to the moon, ’03-’69. That's not even possible – how do you do that. We sat in the living room and watched on the big console B&W TV as Armstrong descended the ladder to the moon. My Mother told me when she was a child, (1930 give or take) they might run out-of-doors to see a zeppelin.
One hears a lot of flapdoodle nowadaze about what people think or what people believe. Won’t catch me engaging that conversation, no ma’am, not in this lifetime. What I would like to discuss is what folks might remember and what folks might forget. Both are a wonderment to me.
After years and generations of forced labor, degradation and suffering, Moses, with an iron will and a few big-league vindictive miracles, gets the kids out of slavery in Egypt. Once safely in the wilderness, Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to receive (directly from you-know-Who!) the 15 commandments on 3 tablets. That took a couple of nights. On returning to terra firma he is confronted with a spectacle so shocking, he drops one of the tablets. “TEN.”
The now liberated slave nation of Israel forgot everything that had happened to them. In their tireless leader’s absence, they lost their minds, started fabricating golden idols, frolicking, debauching, so on and so forth. Son of a gun.
Here, like in other significant ancient texts, is the common wisdom and essential grasp of the human condition revealed in the scriptures. Folks have a remarkable capacity to forget really important stuff. Even the stuff that comes right out of their own experience. Amazing.
Evolution provides us a pantheon of endowments. Often, we fail to consider or value some of these endowments as real or precious compared to the way we appraise opposing thumbs or sweating. Evolution of intellect matters, trust me.
Self-awareness is the first endowment discussed in the Bible and it came in a lovely fruit basket. But imagine the crushing despair of that awareness were it not co-endowed with denial. Without denial, maybe most and likely many could not endure the evident truth of our mortality.
Slings and arrows baby, slings and arrows. Sometimes, denial can manifest in useful things like culture, less useful things like religion and occasionally dreadful things like madness.
Like our self-awareness, sapient memory is an awesome and defining endowment of our evolution. But memory would be as a plague if it didn’t come with forget. Fah’get aboud’it! Let it go?
Thank you, Apollo, for letting us forget pain. Suffering and grief are different though, they lean more towards “electives.”
How did we get here? How is it we have come to this place? To know this, we’ll need to remember. Remember what?
Remember what we forget. Remember Hard Times. Remember the forgetting that brought Hard Times in the door. Remember where you woke this morning and believe no promise it will be so next you rise. Remember every Heart and every Soul and every Mind now in dateless slumber who resolved to make it better even if better was only to fix a mistake. Make it right again. Now is not the time to forget. Don’t forget to remember. Remember not to forget.
And let’s not forget, evolution has a reverse gear – it is called de-evolution. It’s the monster in the closet and under the bed. The snake in the grass, the fine print, caveat emptor, the devil in the details, the Duke & the Dauphin, the flim-flam man.
Let us pause in life’s pleasures
and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh! Hard times come again no more.
’Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered
around my cabin door;
Oh! Hard times come again no more