2016 Greeting for Home From Frostbite Falls
We can’t even be called middle-aged any longer. We’re now all in our fifties and many of us will start falling at an increasingly rapid rate. Growing up in small town America in the 1960s and 1970s was a challenge while young but looking over my shoulder I can see we were blessed, although. Even small town living was stratified. We were segregated not by race or ethnicity but by where our parents worked and by the neighborhoods in which we lived.
There were three traffic lights downtown in the 1960s but the one at West Main and Elm Street always seemed to be on the fritz and was replaced by a 4-way stop sign. So we grew up not in the proverbial one stop-light town but with at least two. The back pages of an old atlas I was thumbing through as a kid put the population of Cuba, New York under 3-thousand. Most lived in the village which had a population of roughly 17-hundred. A few hundred lived in winterized cottages hugging the lake and the rest called dairy farms home.
Our parents always had jobs and if they didn’t like the one at which they were working they could walk away on a Friday and have another on Monday. Small factories dotted nearly every small town in Western New York State and across Northwestern Pennsylvania as well. The work may have been monotonous but there was tremendous security. You could buy a house and know in half-a-dozen years there would be a paycheck coming from any number of choices.
It isn’t like that any longer. At least not on the New York side where fracking is prohibited by a government far away in Albany and staffed with cultural imperialists from New York City.
I remember graduating high school in June of 1980 as if it happened yesterday. The day was cool. The entire summer was cool as just weeks before Mount St. Helens had popped its cork. The dust filled the atmosphere and drifted across the continent. After graduation rehearsal I went to a party and noticed something strange. The old cliques we’d known since kindergarten or even before suddenly were suspended. I spent 13 years on a journey with a great many people I didn’t always like (many of us were together the entire K-12 experience) and suddenly you look around a room at faces and realize it’s the end. It sobers you quickly to reality.
I was at work at 6:00 A.M. the day after graduation. Many of the guys left immediately for induction into the military. Others were up early milking cows. I was thumbing through old yearbooks and memorabilia a little over a year ago as I was preparing to move a lot closer to Mount St. Helens (may she please stay quiet until I get an escape plan readied!) There are things I collected in boxes and some of those boxes went unpacked for decades. When you finally open them you’ve got some thoughts and emotions and you’re unprepared. “Why did I save that?” is a common question. Then you look at old faded photographs (I’m amazed how much color fades even enclosed in a box) and realize you haven’t seen some of those people in 30 to 35 years. At college I had a similar experience. After graduation I saw a friend at the bottom of an outdoor staircase. We shouted we wouldn’t be strangers. Then I never saw the guy again until the arrival of Facebook. This online thing does bridge some of the divide but it’s nothing like pulling up a chair in a diner and getting acquainted once more with old friends over a cup of coffee. As a former paid spokesman for an instant coffee brand I may jeopardize any future payments by saying I prefer something brewed versus the gunk I had to peddle from a plastic jar.
It’s a New Year. I was up this morning at 3:45 to feed the cat. His idea and not mine. I went back to bed and was up just before 5 o’clock. His idea and not mine. I watched a movie about Don Cherry and went to bed early on New Year’s Eve. When I got out of bed I checked the Drudge Report to ensure there were no terrorist attacks at last night’s celebrations. There’s something we didn’t worry about when we were kids. Maybe it’s why we all get along so much better now than we did 40 years ago.
It’s 7 below just before 7 o’clock here in “Frostbite Falls”. I’ve gulped nearly an entire pot of coffee and shortly I’ve got to go outside. I understand back home it’s unseasonably warm so far this winter. Don’t gloat. Last year it was your turn and if we’ve learned anything after more than half-a-century it’s to endure whatever gets thrown our way. Happy New Year!