"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Momma's glasses

“Those are Momma’s glasses,” I said to myself.

I was digging through an old box in the garage over the weekend, rummaging through old letters, faded photographs, artifacts of an earlier time.

There they were--thin gold octagonal wire frames, around slightly scratched bifocals. Beside them was a Mothers Day card colored on torn, faded construction paper by a little boy named Terry. There were yellowed photos of a young woman and friends in flapper dresses, old cars, brittle brown envelopes with three-cent stamps and hand-writing scribbled on them, postmarked in Texas in the 1920s and 30s.

I was sitting on the concrete floor, trying to straighten up and sort through the boxes one more time...you know, a typical clean-out-the-garage chore. Among the boxes of junk--junk that is too valuable to be thrown away--were baby pictures, kid pictures, young adult pictures that record the passing of time in individuals, in families.

Days like that, family reunion days you sit and visit with people you’ve known for years, watching them grow older. Some with walkers, some with oxygen tubes, kids and grandkids and great grandkids scrambling around, people feasting on a smorgasbord of food and faces and family.

And then you think about them watching you grow older...like the stuff that spills out of an old box...guest book of a wedding or a funeral, scribbled family history notes with dates of births and marriages and deaths of brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children...tears of memories in small items like a tiny black leather coin purse stuffed with a black and white photo of a young woman, carried by your mother 80 years ago.

Certificates of membership, graceful handwriting you immediately recognize...and the boxes they’re crammed in. Old magazines, newspaper clippings.

A musty smell of growing older, perfumed with slices of time frozen in eternity. It brings tears, until you think about your own children growing older, and what they’ll look at and remember some day when they’re sifting through boxes, wondering when certain snapshots were taken, who all those other people are. The tears are of sadness and regrets and memories, but not of growing older. Years and memories are like children, the more you have the fuller your life becomes.

I picked up Momma’s glasses and looked through them briefly, and they gave me a new outlook on all those boxes in our lives.

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