V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of V-E Day, when World War II ended in Europe with the utter defeat of the Nazi regime.

That military conflict is the one with which I most closely connect, primarily because, as my interest in history developed, most of the books I read tended to be about that war. Although I grew up during the Vietnam War, it was too current for many books to have been written about it when I was developing my love of reading. Besides, I had an uncle who was directly engaged with the earlier war in Europe, and I saw his military souvenirs from that conflict. As an adult, I became interested in tracing his footsteps through that war in an attempt to learn as closely as I could where he had been and what he experienced.

Although the infamous fire in the St. Louis record depository destroyed his (and thousands of other servicemen’s) military records, I have been able to piece together enough through the history of the units he was part of to get a pretty good idea of the path he trod.

Uncle Dillon Summers was inducted into the U.S. Army in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as part of the 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion (patch shown here), 3rd Armored Division, First Army, under General Omar Bradley. He trained in armored warfare at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and the Desert Training Center in California and then had advanced artillery training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. On September 3, 1943, he embarked for England with the 3rd Armored Division aboard the S.S. Shawnee. He got further training in Warminster, England, before landing on Omaha Beach on June 25, 1945, D-day + 19. The 391st AFA began firing on the Germans the next day.

 

 

Dillon was a tank driver for artillery forward observers (FOs) of Combat Command B (CCB). FOs moved out in front of the main lines, identified enemy targets, and called in 155 mm artillery strikes against them. As such, he was in constant danger. He was involved in the Battle for St. Lo; Operation Cobra, the breakout from the bocage, or hedgerow country of Normandy; the closing of the Falaise Gap; the drive into Belgium; the breaching of the Siegfried Line; the crossing of the Rhine near Cologne; and the liberation of the concentration camp at Nordhausen/Dora Mittelbau, where the Nazis used slave labor to make their V-2 rockets.

As best I can ascertain, combat for Uncle Dillon’s unit ended on April 24, 1945, when CCB was relieved by the 9th Infantry Division and went into a period of rest and maintenance in the vicinity of Sangershausen. I assume that he was still there on May 8, 1945, when they received word of V-E Day. (On May 12, the unit moved to occupy Neu-Isenburg, a sector south of Frankfurt. They moved again on August 14 to a sector between Stuttgart and Nuremberg.)

 

Although I can trace (with some frustrating gaps in information) his general steps throughout his active combat duty, I have no idea what his reaction was to the end of hostilities. Was it elation? Was it a heavy sigh of relief? Was it an anticlimactic shrug? I’ll never know. I only know that what he witnessed firsthand changed him, and he never (in my hearing anyway) talked about it.

But the United States clearly won that war, unlike the Vietnam War, from which we merely withdrew to allow the enemy to walk into and seize their original objective virtually unopposed. Maybe that is another reason I feel such an affinity for the history of World War II: it was a clear, decisive victory.

Be that as it may, we all owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who fought in World War II, whether in Europe or the Pacific theaters and whether on the front line of battle, as my uncle did, or in the far-off and virtually unknown theaters of relative inactivity, such as the Aleutians (see my article “The Forgotten Theater: The Aleutians Campaign” in World at War, June-July 2018, which, I learned this past weekend, is available at Barnes & Noble). That generation is fast passing from us, and we should both learn as much as we can from them and express our gratitude before they are all gone and we lose that opportunity.

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

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Tell Us a Farm Story, Daddy!

When my siblings and I were just youngsters, our father often told us stories from his Depression-era childhood, when he grew up on a dairy farm. Daddy was a sole son, so he had a lot of responsibility on the farm, but he also collected a lot of experiences that became grist for his story mill.

Although we kids viewed his storytelling as a means of our entertainment (and maybe Daddy also was entertained by telling them), there was a greater purpose behind them. He wanted to preserve our heritage for us, and he hoped that we would remember not only the stories but also the lessons they taught.

We called Daddy’s stories “farm stories,” although the setting for some of them was not the farm. “Tell us a farm story, Daddy!” we’d cry in chorus when we’d see him sit down in his recliner after supper. Sometimes he would be too tired from a long day of work. But often he regaled us with several stories, much to our delight, even if we’d heard the same stories over and over.

Sometimes he told stories other than “farm stories.” Such as Peter Rabbit. But it was his version of that story, because he always added some details that weren’t in the traditional version. For example, he might start out, “One upon a time, there was a family of rabbits: Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter–and Sharp!”

Having heard the story repeatedly, we knew that Sharp was coming, but we always interrupted him at that point to ask, “Who was Sharp?”

He never told us; we just accepted it as an unexplained but essential part of his story. We accepted the added character so readily that whenever he began to tell the story and commenced listing the characters, we all chimed in unison at the appropriate instant, “and Sharp!

Part of our growing up included my parents’ instruction in important life values. The farm stories that Daddy told included, subtly, those values. Our parents sought to instill those values in us with the hope and prayer that they would one day become our values, values that we accepted not as theirs but as our own convictions.

Preservation of such values comes as a result of tales told generation after generation. Failure to tell and retell them and failure to listen to and heed them or to think lightly of them leads to their loss. I hope that doesn’t happen to our family’s stories and values and heritage. That’s why I told Daddy’s “farm stories” to my kids when they were growing up, with a few of my own stories thrown in for good measure. And I hope that my kids repeat those same stories (with a few of their own thrown in) to my grandchildren.

When I’m gone or unable to tell those value-laden stories, I hope that my children and grandchildren will be able to hear them from other sources, including reading them in the articles and books I’ve written. That was the main reason behind my writing of Look Unto the Hills: Stories of Growing Up in Rural East Tennessee https://www.amazon.com/Look-Unto-Hills-Stories-Tennessee/dp/1975798899 .

What about the stories of your own heritage? What are you doing to preserve and pass on that family history? Make it a point to tell or write down a few of your own stories, “that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psa. 78:6-7).

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

Growing Up Rich

With all the hoopla about the newest birth in the British royal family, I got to wondering what it would be like to grow up rich. Growing up as a child in rural East Tennessee, I never realized that my family was poor; I thought the way we lived was the way everyone lived.

Oh, I saw that some people had more things than we had, but I never equated that with poverty. Only as I got older and heard talk about government-derived (or -contrived) “poverty level” designations did I realize that my family was “poor.”

About the same time, I noticed that some of my classmates’ families lived in newer, nicer houses than we did. They didn’t live on dirty, smelly dairy farms like ours; they lived on small lots in neatly organized and planned subdivisions, closer to stores and downtown Knoxville.

They always bought their lunches at school, whereas I often brought my home-made lunch in a tin lunchbox. They bought the 50-cents-a-dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts during the band’s fundraisers, whereas Mother and Daddy refused to do so because they said the price was too expensive.

My classmates didn’t have to work, either at home or with one of their parents on their jobs, whereas my brother and I always had chores around the house and garden and were required to go to work with Daddy anytime school was out, especially during the summer.

If those were the standards, then I suppose we were indeed poor. But poverty, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If my classmates thought that my family was poor, we were wealthy in my eyes, and that conviction only grows as I age.

How so? Here’s how.

First, Mother and Daddy were never in debt. Daddy built our house as he had time and money. He never made a mortgage payment in his life because he never had a mortgage. The only time payment he ever made was $10 a month to Uncle Dillon for the well he had drilled, and that debt he paid off quickly. Many of the people who lived in nicer homes in subdivisions were debtors and would not repay their debts for decades. Neither did Daddy have a car payment despite the fact that he always bought new cars, (I only recall his buying one used car, and that was when he gave me his car to take to college during my senior year.) He always arranged to pay “90 days, same as cash.”

Being debt-free allowed Mother and Daddy to provide other things for us kids, things that would not depreciate or erode or wear out. One of those things was a long, unforgettable trip “out West.” Other trips included Florida; Cape May, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C. We were well traveled as “poor” kids!

Second, we were rich in family. Whereas some of my friends’ parents were divorced, my parents remained happily married until death separated them. The same was true of both sets of my grandparents. And our wealth in family included extended family. We had aunts and uncles and cousins all around us. In fact, I grew up thinking that we were somehow related to just about everyone in Halls.

The people who weren’t related to us were, more likely than not, people who had gone to school at Halls High with our parents. Their annual class reunions in the summer gave us ample time to get to know those people, and we ended up going to school with their kids. The Clarks, Dunsmores, Holberts, Elkinses, and other families who were of no blood relation to us seemed like part of our family.

Similarly, we had good neighbors, people who didn’t butt into business not their own but who were ready and willing to help us if we needed it, just like family. We never had any trouble with any of them. But if we kids did something wrong and the neighbors noticed, our parents soon found out about it, and we were in trouble!

Third, our teachers were another part of our wealth portfolio. A few of them, like Mrs. Garret, had taught when our parents were in school. Others, such as Alberta Loy, had been school classmates or neighbors of our parents. And many of them taught each of us kids. Mrs. Zachary, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Smelser were all teachers who taught each of us Peterson kids. Even the principal, Mr. Lakin, had been one of the teachers when Daddy attended two-roomed Fort Sumter School.

Fourth, we were wealthy in our religious upbringing. Mother and Daddy were always heavily involved in their church activities. Teaching Sunday school, serving on committees, helping with construction, and other activities. (Daddy learned his profession of brick laying when they were constructing the Beaver Creek church building.) We were in church practically every time the doors were open. But our parents’ religion was something they practiced daily at home, too. We grew up with preachers, missionaries, and evangelists as guests at our Sunday dinner table. We grew up memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Bible verses and having nightly family devotions. And through it all, we were learning important truths about life as it should be lived, holiness, separation from evil, and the development of biblical convictions.

Finally, we were rich in the benefits of living in a rural environment. We were able to play outside in the fields and forests of my grandfather’s farm, roaming and exploring and learning, using our imagination, and developing our young bodies. Working outside in the family garden and on the job site with Daddy helped us develop not only muscles and a strong work ethic but also the darkest tans in the school when we returned to classes in the fall.

From all of these influences and experiences, we kids learned the meaning of true wealth. It’s not money or material possessions; it’s things of lasting, eternal value. No, we were not wealthy in the world’s distorted valuation of things, but we certainly were rich in the things that really count.

House of Windsor, eat your heart out!

[Adapted from Look Unto the Hills: Stories of Growing Up in Rural East Tennessee, copyright (c) 2017]

The Family Just Keeps Growing!

News Flash! Dateline North Carolina–Thurs., April 5, 2018

We’re grandparents again! Our daughter Rachelle gave us Number 7 yesterday morning. That makes five granddaughters and two grandsons.

Dakota Grace Anderson was born via C-section at 7:43 a.m., Thursday. (Because the parents moved down to North Carolina from Wisconsin last summer, we told them that she’s South Dakota!) She weighed in at 6 lb., 15.7 oz. and measured 20 in. Mother and baby were doing as well as could be expected as of this writing. Because Dakota had some fluid in the lungs (common for early-arriving babies), she was on oxygen to flush it out, so she might be in NICU for anywhere from a few hours to up to 72 hours.

We’re not old enough for this! But the responsibilities are great. We’re praying to have a good influence on each of the seven grandkids. With the geographic distance, that’s more difficult, but. . . . We’ll do what we can and pray for opportunities.

Late-Breaking News!

And this late-breaking news about another of my “babies,” my book Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries: 73 major university libraries (both U.S. and international), historical societies, and museums have now purchased copies. (Harvard actually purchased two, one for the main library and another for their HCL Technical Services library!) May the Lord continue to bless its sales in His perfect timing. I also have a couple of other book manuscripts “in embryo.” May He see fit to place them with a “good home” soon!

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

A Week for Friends and Family

The much-anticipated week has come and gone, and when I look back on all that happened, it was good, a refreshing break from our routine and a time of reminiscence and nostalgia. And it all began with a pleasant surprise, something that we had not planned as part of our busy schedule.

About 4:00 p.m. of the Friday before the Monday on which our scheduled visitors were to begin arriving, my wife got a call at school from her sister Faith. She and her husband Roy were on their way to visit their parents in central and southwest Florida via their son’s in Atlanta. They were only about 45 minutes away and wanted to stop by to visit briefly before continuing their journey. We rushed home and arrived just minutes before Faith and Roy. After chatting for half an hour or so, we went out for a laughter-filled supper at one of my favorite restaurants, Fatz Cafe. Their visit was much too short, but we appreciated the unexpected treat.

On Monday afternoon, Craig, one of my college roommates and a groomsman in my wedding (as was I in his), and his wife arrived. And talk about a time of reminiscing! We had seen each other only about four times since we graduated college, so we had a lot of catching up to do. During the days they were with us, we toured downtown Greenville, explored the campus of our alma mater, sat in on the last few minutes of the daily chapel program, and chatted with a professor friend and former churchman of Craig’s. Near the end of Craig’s visit, my brother Dale arrived from Michigan, and the five of us went out to eat–at Fatz. (No wonder I can’t lose that spare tire!)

While here, Dale met with one of his former professors and several of his friends, none of whom he had seen in quite some time. Also, the two of us did a lot of reminiscing and went target shooting. But the main reason Dale came was not to see us but to see and hear a renowned speaker and athlete: Tim Tebow. Dale was accompanied on his trip from the still-cold northlands by his friend Bob, who had an extra ticket to the Tebow event, and he graciously invited me to accompany them (including his son, grandson, and son-in-law). We all had a wonderful time not only fellowshipping together but also hearing Tebow recount some of his life experiences, from growing up in a family of missionaries in the Philippines to playing T-ball to events of his college and pro football days. The heart of his message, of course, was the role his faith plays in his life and the consequent influence he has had helping others in need. (Photo courtesy of Robert McCall.)

From the euphoria of all those reunions and activities, Connie and I had to return to the real world of yard work this past weekend. The main task was cutting down our pampas grass and burning the flags and leaves on an increasingly windy day without allowing the flames to get out of control. (Thankfully, a burn barrel does wonders for the containment of embers!) By the time we finished, we were both exhausted, and our clothes and hair reeked of smoke. The odor of smoke washes off; the exhaustion has carried over into the new week!

As quickly as it came, the week of excitement and enjoyment has passed. Not every week can be so fun-filled; the real world demands work and exertion and sometimes exhaustion. But the memories remain, and they will carry us forward to the next time of similar refreshment. As I age, however, I’m finding that I just can’t take much of such excitement, at least not all at once!

Exciting Week Ahead!

Sometimes one gets bogged down in routine. We get up (tired); go about doing the same daily tasks; eat our meals at the same time, often the same menu week after week; do the regular routine chores, following the same pattern or schedule; and then go to bed (tired), sleep, and then get up to start it all over again the next morning. But occasionally a few unexpected, non-routine events come along, disrupting that hum-drum routine and bringing a bright spot to the otherwise gray, predictable, hum-drum schedule. Looking forward to such moments (or hours or days) is good. It helps one get beyond the routine.

I’m not saying that I’m bored or in a rut. Actually, I thrive on routine; I dislike change or disruptions to my schedule. But I’ve been looking forward to next week in anticipation of a welcome break from that routine.

My brother, whom I see maybe once or twice a year and that for maybe a day at the most, will be visiting us for about two and a half days! Granted, he has other people he also wants to see during that time, but it will still be the longest time we’ve spent together in quite a while. I’m looking forward to talking and laughing and drinking a lot of coffee with him. And I’m sure there’ll be a fair share of good-natured, brotherly ribbing.

I thought that nothing could top that momentous upcoming event, but then I got a call from Craig, a friend and former roommate from our sophomore year

of college. We not only were roommates but also were both history education majors, so we had many of the same classes together. We crammed for exams together; read each other’s term papers; discussed economics, history, and politics; played practical jokes on each other; worked together in the same extension ministry; and were in each other’s weddings. Then life happened. We each went our separate ways.

I haven’t seen Craig in six or seven years, and then for only an hour or so. Before that, we had reunited only one other time in about 35 years. During our recent phone conversation, we reminisced and laughed a lot. And then Craig said that he’s coming to town next week and would like to visit for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more laughing and reminiscing with him next week.

Now when something as momentous as these two events occurs–and both in the same week at that–even an old tied-to-routine guy like myself is willing to cast aside that routine. All the people who think of me as always having my nose in a book will be shocked; I won’t be doing any reading next week. Everyone who thinks that all I do is sit behind a computer tapping out articles and books and other drivel will be similarly disappointed; I won’t get any writing done next week. And all of you who think that since I work from home I’m retired and don’t really work at all but have all the time in the world to do as I please will, for once, be almost right.

Only one week, and such a rare one! I’m looking forward to relishing every minute of it. Reading, writing, and routine can wait!

Twice- (or More Often) Told Tales

Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Some books are to be tested, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

Such is similarly the case with stories, especially stories that involve one’s family. Some family stories are good for one or two tellings, but a few stories are to be told over and over again. They are, like the title of a set of books that I was given as a child, Stories that Never Grow Old. And they should be told and retold so often that one’s children can tell them accurately to their own children, and their children’s children to their children.

They do not have to be long, elaborate, detail-laden stories; they might be mere passing incidents. But, told and retold, they become part of family lore and potentially carry with them strong family values. That’s how the children of Israel passed their religion from one generation to another with the purpose “that the generation to come might know” (see Psa. 78:1-7).

For example, when our daughters were young, my wife and I were driving in the city with them one day. We were driving the speed limit, but when a traffic light that we were quickly approaching turned yellow, I couldn’t stop safely, so I sped up ever so slightly and sang out, “We’re going through! The commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking.”

In response to my daughters’ curious inquiries of “What was that?” and “What did you mean, Daddy?” I told them about Fred, a college roommate who was a cinema major/speech minor. Fred had a lot of speaking assignments for his classes, and he practiced all of them before the mirror for hours on end. One night, when I was trying to study int he room, he was practicing an excerpt from James Thurber’s story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” As he practiced, he was increasingly dissatisfied with his rendition of one particular segment, and he kept repeating it in attempts to get it right–the right sound, volume, tone, and intensity of feeling. In fact, he repeated it so often that I had that part of the story memorized as well as he did by the end of the evening. And I’ve never forgotten it.

When I went through the caution light, the situation reminded me of Fred’s story line, and I instinctively repeated it aloud. After I had told the story to the girls, I used the phrase every time I went through an intersection on a yellow light. They soon became so familiar with it from my repeated recitation that they started saying it before I could.

The other day, one of my daughters told me of an incident that occurred as she and her husband were driving in their city. They had almost entered an intersection when the traffic light changed to yellow. Reflexively, she cried out, “We’re going through! The commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking.”

Her surprised husband looked at her strangely and asked, “What was that outburst all about?”

Suddenly realizing what she had done, my daughter burst out laughing.

“What made you say that?” her husband pressed.

Between fits of laughter, she explained the whole backstory of the exclamation. Now he knows. The story is spreading.

My sons-in-law are getting used to such things as they happen often in our family. Just as they’ve become used to saying, in chorus, “We were meant to be here!” whenever we’re out shopping and find a parking spot close to the store when the parking lot is crowded.

I recounted that lengthy explanation as an illustration of how family stories, legends, and even values get passed from generation to generation. That particular incident is inconsequential, but some family stories are critical to an understanding of who we are as a family, how we got to where we are today, or what makes us tick as a family.

What stories do you have to tell your descendants? Tell them! And then retell them–over and over again. Your family will, in turn, tell them again. “That the generations to come might know. . . .”

 

 

Trip Revived (and Produced) Great Memories

My wife and I celebrated the Labor Day weekend with a quick trip to visit two of our three daughters who live in the Thomasville-Sophia, N.C., area. (The third one thought she and her husband would run off to Charleston, S.C., to celebrate their wedding anniversary rather than see us!) This trip was a real treasure to us for a variety of reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Granddaughters were at the top of that list of reasons, of course. Three of our six grandkids live in that area, our most recent addition having just recently moved within driving distance. (A three-hour drive across the state border sure beats going all the way to Wisconsin!) We enjoyed each of them immensely–(according to age, oldest to youngest: Regan, Morgan, and Ryleigh). But we fully understand why God gives little kids to young, strong young people who can get along with little sleep and who have a lot of energy!

Another reason the trip was memorable was because I was able to meet up with a guy, Keith Nance, from my college graduating class who was also in my literary society, Chi Delta Theta. We hadn’t seen each other since we graduated in 1975–42 years ago! We managed to work out a time to meet at a Chik-fil-A in High Point, where we spent about an hour and a half reminiscing and catching up (while the grandkids played in the kiddie area).

We both ended up teaching school, he English and physical education/coaching and I history and English. We both are now semiretired but still active in education, he teaching part-time in public education and I writing, at least part of it dealing with Christian education. But Keith has a story that’s simply amazing and puts me to shame. Keith has an adult son, Jordan, who has cerebral palsy and is paraplegic. One day, the Nance family attended Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, N.C. (Mount Airy, for those of you who might not be aware of the fact, is the real-life town where Andy Griffith was born and reared and the town on which many aspects of the Andy Griffith Show was based. Connie and I also once attended Mayberry Days.) But for some reason, Jordan was more interested in observing the elderly man who was sitting behind him broadcasting the parade remotely for a small radio station, WPAQ, than with the parade itself.

To make a long story short, Jordan ended up directing a television documentary on the history of that radio station, a country/blue grass-dedicated station, and its founder, Ralph Epperson. Keith sent me a link to a newspaper story about Jordan’s production, but it didn’t include the whole story; the link that it gave to continue reading the rest wouldn’t work. So I Googled the documentary title and found the entire broadcast. At the end when it ran the credits, it showed several photos of Jordan and his parents. As I finished, I was blown away by how much such a young man could accomplish in spite of his physical limitations. I have no such limitations, so what’s my excuse? Makes one think!

This reminds me of a poem that George Washington Carver used to quote whenever he spoke to high school students:

Figure it out for yourself, my lad,

You’ve all that the greatest of men have had:

Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,

And a brain to use if you would be wise.

With this equipment they all began.

So start from the top and say, “I can.”

Thanks, Jordan, for the challenge!

Secret Surprise

Combine the need to keep a secret with a growing forgetfulness in the secret-keeper, and you have a potential major problem. That was my situation most of last week. I’ve already posted some comments about my worsening memory, so you know what’s coming. Or maybe you just think you do.

I got a call from Daughter No. 1 early last week. She, her husband, and their nine-month-old daughter Ryleigh recently moved from Wisconsin’s frozen wastelands to the sunny, hot, and humid South. We were planning to go see them as soon as they got a house of their own, but life has intervened–school, work, etc. Daughter No. 1 decided to surprise us and come to visit this past weekend. As busy as things are for my wife and me, however, Daughter No. 2 warned her that she’d better tell one of us to ensure that someone was home when they got here. I was the one she chose to tell. “And don’t let her know we’re coming, Dad!” Daughter No. 1 admonished me. “It’s supposed to be a surprise.”

I knew I was in trouble. But I surprised myself. Despite my several near slips of the tongue, my wife never heard my slips–or at least never caught on to what was happening. Much to my daughter’s surprise (as well as my own), I kept my end of the bargain and never let the word escape. But it wasn’t easy. My wife wanted to go shopping as soon as she got home from school on Friday, and my daughter and her family were hoping to arrive by 4:30, but it all depended on down-to-the-minute timing and traffic and a host of other factors. Would I be able to delay Connie enough for the rest of the family to arrive? Or would I have to do something drastic, like pull off a fraudulent sudden “illness” or “accident” to slow things down?

Circumstances, however, helped me out a bit. Connie left school a few minutes later than she had planned. Traffic was a little heavier than normal for her. She still would have to change clothes and put away her school paraphernalia. I could drag my feet getting ready too. And then I had planned a scheme for delaying her beyond that, if necessary. I had earlier in the day received a long-awaited foreword for a book, and (with the author’s permission) I had edited it for length and organization. When Connie arrived home and I had depleted all of my other delaying tactics, I pulled the “hey-could-you-listen-to-these-two-versions-and-tell-me-which-one-is-better” routine. I read slowly, enunciating carefully and dragging it out as long as I could without making her suspicious.

Just as I was finishing my reading of the second version, I glanced out the front window just in time to see my son-in-law’s car come pulling into the driveway. I proceeded to ask my wife an endless stream of questions about the two versions of the foreword and her opinion of them, stalling long enough for the kids to get our newest grandchild out of the car and make their way to the door. Finally, just when I was running out of questions to ask Connie about the manuscript, the doorbell rang.

I answered the door while Connie got her shopping list ready.

“Connie, it’s for you!” I called from the front door. She came from the kitchen with a wondering look on her face.

“Who could that be at this time of day?” she asked under her breath.

When she opened the door, she was duly surprised. And then she basked in her glory as a grandmother the rest of the weekend. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t spilled the beans. And, knowing my memory, that’s no small accomplishment! (Oh, and I enjoyed the surprise too–especially Ryleigh!)

 

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, baby and closeup

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

 

Pleasant Distraction

While passing through our utility room on my way to the garage the other day, my attention was attracted to (or perhaps distracted by would be more precise) a shoe box on a shelf above the dryer.

Now what could that be? I wondered. Although I’d passed through the room many times a day, day after day, I couldn’t recall seeing the box there. I forgot why I was going to the garage and stopped to take down the box and examine its contents. What I discovered inside held my attention for the next hour or so. (I don’t think I ever made it to the garage for whatever it was I was seeking.)

Inside that box were old family photos from when our four daughters were infants and toddlers, when we lived in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and the kids were growing up–and when my wife and I were much younger.

Going through old family photos can take up a lot of time, but it sure can bring back a lot of memories! And it can make you think. As I perused those old photos, I was struck by several thoughts.

  • How much fun we had “back then.” We didn’t have much money, but we did enjoy the time with the children–and the photos show that they, too, were having fun.
  • How innocent and carefree life was for the kids. The problems of life–work, money, taxes, government intrusions into private life, etc.–none of that fazed them.
  • How much our grandchildren resemble our own children when they were young. (I can also see now how much like my grandfather my dad looked when he was a kid. And people tell me that I look like him.)
  • How much younger–and lighter–I was back then. The cares of this life, the ravages of time, and overindulgence at the table can sure change a guy’s appearance!
  • How fun-loving my own parents were, such as the Christmas when Daddy got all of us men–my brother-in-law, my brother, and me–overalls and bandanas. We never understood why.
  • How organized I kept the old photos–in contrast to the jumble of files and flash drives I must study to find the image I’m seeking today. I once was super-organized, so much so that I could feel my way through the closet and find just the shirt I was looking for–in the dark. But ever since we moved from Tennessee to South Carolina thirteen years ago, organization seems to have vanished from my list of skills.
  • How glad I am that I can revisit those times with a hard copy of the memory and not have to rely on an electronic gadget–and risk losing the images to a crashed hard drive, an accidentally deleted file, or a lost flash drive.

Technological advancements surely have made it easier for us to capture memories as images. The passage from 35 mm film and flashbulbs to Polaroids to Instamatics and from slides and prints to digital images has been wonderful for picture taking. The quality of photography possible today is phenomenal. And you don’t really have to have an expensive digital camera with all the bells and whistles to get good photos. Sometimes photos taken with a cheap cell phone today rival anything the professional photographers could produce “back then.” (Well, my wife still cuts off people’s heads, and her shaky hand produces some blurry images, but that’s not the fault of the technology.)

It certainly is less expensive to take pictures today. In the “good ol’ days,” I had to send my exposed rolls of 35 mm film out to be developed, and even the cost of sending it to “economy” companies like Clark and York got pricey after a while, especially if you, as I did, ordered double prints of everything. But now I’m glad that I ordered those double prints. As the kids married and moved away, I noticed that our photo albums’ contents seemed to dwindle as the kids expropriated their favorite pics for their own albums.

But even that purloining is good because it shows that they, too, have valued the times and memories of their past. Those old photos ensure that the memories will live on and the girls will tell their children stories of what life was like when they were little. Their heritage will continue to future generations.

Now, if I could only recall what I wanted in the garage before that box of old photos distracted me!