Things I’ve never done
Some I’m proud I never did,
While wistfully thinking of those I’ve never tried.
When a divine force snatched me
As I teetered on a limb
I’ve never helped an old man cross a street
Just neat, maybe sweet
Liking when they responded to:
“If I may be so bold.”
Not enough paper could hold
The places I’ve never been
Lists upon lists longing for more years to unfold
Stories yet to be told.
Not in envy of people do I sit
Irritating, they brag of journeys
The Rhine, Danube, and the Tuscan hills
Paris city when lights are lit.
Somehow pictures don’t serve to assuage
As time becomes too realistic a refrain
My lady suggests solace
Believing a way could be found
By train we rode together
And within the Santa Ynez Valley Wine land
A place to visit
Where music, sun, and spirits abound!
What I have done, is work; it runs in the family. My Dad began his work life long before people, or our government worried about child labor laws. Growing up with him I don’t ever remember hearing the word career. Survival of the fittest would best describe so many of the immigrants who feverishly fought for family and country during the earliest first one third of the twentieth century. Their concerns weren’t over the places or things they had not been able to do; theirs was the day-by-day combativeness, and competitiveness of life itself.
At age fourteen, my Father and most of his friends worked to bring home some cash. The year was 1916.Effectively, in that era, childhood ended at age fourteen. At least that was the case on the lower east side of New York. You might say birth control wasn’t in vogue as yet. My Moms brothers and sisters totaled eight (kids) who managed to survive. Dad had nine in his family brood. The word welfare was non-existent. To get the proper prospective, here is a short list of what they didn’t have:
Multiple bathrooms (a waiting line)
Two ply toilet paper (many used news papers)
Elevators (multi floor tenements to walk up)
Refrigerators (ice boxes were the thing)
No radio or TV (they actually had to speak to one another)
Electric lights (just being introduced)
No car to drive (wagons, walking, & bikes)
Telephones (party lines for the upper middle class; separate private numbers for the rich)
Washing machines an dryers (forget about it)
And speaking of washers and dryers, the stories of the old timers and what they went through to get the families clothes laundered are to be cherished. The wintertime was especially challenging. Every kid had a pair of long johns; well actually they weren’t a pair. Most of them were one piece, buttoning up the front, with a flap in the back for when nature called. My Dad told me he was always reminded to drop his pants and to drop the flap. I loved the story my Father would tell about the great silent movie escape artist.
“The guy was trapped in a burning log cabin in the middle of a winter storm. There was only one window in the part of the cabin where he was being held captive. His back was pressed up against it. The sweat began to pour down his body. The heat of the fire was becoming too much for him to stand. He banged his head against the window until the glass splattered allowing the freezing chill to rush through the broken panes of glass. In nothing flat his long johns were frozen solid. He flipped down the rear flap and escaped out the back. The frozen underwear was left standing as his ladder to freedom flap.”
At this point all the kids were leaning in, mesmerized by every word my Dad would relate. The more dramatic he became the more they loved it. The way Dad told it, he was now a man sixteen years of age; the year was 1918. He’d tell those kids about the same escape, over and over again. But the absolutely amazing part was the way the kids were hooked on every word he had to say.
I remember a time in the army when I found myself in the predicament of having to wash my combat fatigue uniform in a frozen over Hahn River in South Korea. I hung the two pieces out to dry that evening. When I awoke the next morning I was instantly reminded of my father. The fatigues were frozen solid as if that was my intention to begin with. The arms and legs stretched out in a tee forming a perfect scarecrow. You can guess what my thoughts were in that moment.
Wholesome reflections don’t promote what you haven’t done. I will think of Santa Barbara, and the riches nature provides; the importance of properly decanting a bottle of fine wine, and being there to sample the splendor of another time. I’m free to think of it over and over enjoying the same story each and every time.