Here it is New Year's Eve, and I'm considering resolutions to improve my life in 2017.
Our Christmas company has gone, and we're putting the house back in order. You know the routine, that familiar business of laundering the guests' sheets and towels, breaking down a mountain of cardboard boxes, stuffing bits of ribbon and hunks of brightly colored paper into a couple of garbage bags, taking leaves out of the table, hanging the extra chairs back on the hooks in the garage and generally turning a holiday party palace back into a quiet haven for a couple of old folks.
The family Christmas tree was a lot like Santa Claus when I was a kid. It just showed up. I never saw Santa, but he always delivered. Somehow, often when our dad was showing us the wonders of the night sky as we bounced across the frozen pastures in a Jeep, Santa swooped down and dumped our gifts. Our mom spotted him a time or two, but the rest of us? Not a glimpse. Only the presents showed us he'd visited. That's some kind of Christmas magic.
I wrote a while back about what a hero former astronaut John Glenn was to people of my generation. When he rode Friendship 7 into space, orbited the earth three times and returned home safely, he made us proud. We were relieved, too. We could compete with the Russians in the space race. Glenn's successful space mission boosted American morale in a big way. In those days, communist Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, loomed as a threat to free people everywhere.
It was about this time of year back in 1967 when my best friend, Mike, used my newspaper camera to take a picture of me, Nancy and our new baby girl. It's a simple black-and-white snapshot; a sleeping infant wrapped in a blanket and nestled in the arms of a terribly young-looking guy who is grinning as happily as is the long-haired, dark-eyed young woman sitting close on the sofa. It's a favorite among the oodles of family pictures in albums and boxes in our closets and garage shelves.
I'm one of those people who thinks of a good answer about an hour after a question is asked. I answer when asked, of course. It wouldn't be polite to do otherwise, and I'm nothing if not a people pleaser. Then I spend the rest of the day or week or month thinking of other, better answers, ones I should have given. Yes, I'm one of those people. You must have one or two among your friends.
Heroes walked the land when I was growing up, and John Glenn moved onto my heroes' list in the winter of 1962 when he orbited the earth in an American space capsule. My list of heroes changed from time to time, but it usually included the Olympic decathlon winner, a couple of Boston Celtics and Audie Murphy and Jimmy Doolittle, both for their courage and fearlessness in World War II. Astronauts joined the list after the Soviet-American space race heated up in the late 1950s. Glenn rocketed to the top spot on the list when he made his successful flight around the earth.
When South Dakota dedicated its memorial to the men and women who served in the military during World War II, the nation had just been attacked by terrorists.
On this date, the anniversary of my dad's birthday, I always remember the one time he almost spanked me. He'd driven 8 miles from the farm to Reliance to pick us up from school, me, my big brother and sister and three or four other farm kids whose homes were along the way toward our farm. The rule was: When school ends, be at the front steps. This day I went with a classmate to play in the lumber yard. First-graders do that.
I grew up reading the newspaper, usually the Daily Republic. When we lived on the farm, we received the mail edition a day late at the beat-up tin mailbox a mile up the road from the house. I was maybe 10 years old when I first started looking through the newspaper, mostly for a few baseball or basketball scores and the cartoons. We didn't have a television yet, so the news came from WNAX radio, gossip around the Co-op or the newspaper.