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"Time Snapshots"

I was looking at the cracked sidewalk 
in front of my grandparents' house on Bird Avenue. 
The concrete was being pushed upward, 
by the roots of a big elm tree. 

Every house in Buffalo had an elm tree then. 
They're gone now. 
Dutch Elm Disease swept through our town 
like the Grim Reaper, 
leaving a scarred and alien landscape. 
I'm happy to report that the young trees 
since planted by my homies 
are looking pretty good. 

Anyway, I was hanging around under the old elm 
in my shorts, tennis shoes, and striped polo shirt, 
on this sunny summer day, 
when a man walking by asked me this question: 
"How old are you?" 
I said "Six." 
He seemed to think that was quite an accomplishment. 

That's all I remember about my sixth year of life. 
In fact, my whole life is like a bunch of snapshots 
pasted on one large page. 
I remember only snippets of my existence... 
a still shot here, 
a bit of conversation there. 
It seems like a waste. 

Maybe someday I'll get senile 
and remember it all. 
Until then I have to rely upon the word of others, 
like this legend:. 
My parents were on a trip to Mexico, 
and my grandmother was left in charge of me, 
or so the story goes. 
It was just after Christmas, 
and my grandmother tried to get rid of the Christmas tree 
by burning it in the big expensive white fireplace. 
Firemen rushed to the house at Delaware and Delavan, 
but not soon enough to save the ornate fireplace. 

I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, 
but for years there were a lot of laughs at Grandma's expense. 
She responded with absolutely no expression, 
until the hilarity passed. 
I wish I could remember all that, 
but I was seven months old 
and had other things on my mind. 

(Right here I stopped writing this piece.) 

*     *     * 

I've been away from my desk for ten or fifteen minutes. 
Here's why: 
I was hit with the worst chest pains I've ever had. 
Scared the hell out of Misty and me. 

I did all the things I've read that you should do 
during a heart attack. 
I took aspirin, 
loosened my clothes, 
coughed deeply from the diaphragm, 
took a mild sedative 
and some Gas-X in case that was the problem. 

I took a chance on a couple of clumsy prayers. 
I'm out of practice. 
Something worked 
because it eased up after seven or eight minutes, 
and I'm OK now, 
as far as I know. 

But one thing is different. 
I plan to pay more attention to life as it's happening. 
I don't know how long my new outlook will last. 
New outlooks have a way of sneaking out of my head. 

I do know this: 
Right now I'm going to take a slow walk 
in the park across the street, 
and take in all the details. 

It would be nice to visit Buffalo, 
and put some of the time snapshots together.. 

Copyright  August 26, 2005 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.

 

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