I often wonder why our brains hold on to some memories and discard others. How sometimes some of the most mundane ones - like the first time I heard the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and all I was doing was sitting at my bedroom window, staring down at the house next door. And others - like the day my mother died and I arrived only moments after she'd gone, in time to kiss her goodbye while she still felt as warm as she had in life - that are hard to bear and yet I won't ever want to forget it. Strange, isn't it.
This morning as Dear Hubby and I were riding in his truck - I have my truck, he has his - out to the archery range in Carlton I had a long ago memory come to mind, one that I don't think of very often but I still remember it as plain as day 44 years after it happened. And it had to do with me mentioning men's fedoras. (I put a link to Dictionary.com there for the younger generation who might not know what a fedora is.) When I was a little girl a lot of businessmen still wore them. My dad, an insurance salesman for many years of my childhood, had a couple of them. They were almost as much a part of a man's work attire as white gloves and hats were for women going to church or out for a day of shopping and lunch with 'the girls'.
Anyway...as always...I digress.
In the small town I lived in there was a lake on the outskirts of town. In the summertime my Dad often took my brothers and me and a load of neighbor kids there for a few hours on hot afternoons. My family also had many picnics there. It is where my younger brother, his wife, Dear Hubby, and I went to have our own little private memorial when my dad died. Sometimes, if there was no ride available, we kids would walk to the lake. It was a couple of miles from my house but back in those days no one really thought much about walking that far or riding our bikes even further. The walk there wasn't so bad. It was the walk home that would do us in after swimming and playing in the sun for hours.
I remember a particularly hot day, one that must've crept up in to the 80s which, for the part of the country I lived in, was really warm. My younger brother, my best friend Angie, and I had walked to the lake earlier in the day and were heading home. The road to the lake was paved but it was narrow and lined by huge Douglas fir trees and lots of thick vegetation on both sides as it wound around sharp curves. As we trudged along an old sedan pulled up next to us. At the age of 11 I don't think it's easy to gauge someone's age but the man inside seemed ancient to me. He slowed to a stop and opened the passenger door and asked if we'd like a ride back to town. He'd buy us ice cream on the way home, he said. He wore glasses, a rather ratty old navy blue suit, and a dark fedora. Angie and my brother said "Sure!" and the man reached over the seat and opened the back door of the car and urged us to climb in. As my brother and Angie started to climb in, I grabbed them back and pulled them out on to the road with me again. I locked eyes with that old man. And I very adamantly told him, "NO!" He held my gaze for what seemed like an eternity, then muttered some kind of disgusted oath under his breath, slammed the door, and sped away. I had never ever seen him before in our small town. And I never ever saw him again.
Sometimes I wonder about that moment. Sometimes I wonder what I might've saved us from. What voice spoke up inside of me and told me it wasn't safe to go with that man. What made me brave enough to tell him no when I'd been told to respect my elders all thru my childhood. But I'd also been told to be leary of strangers and I'm glad that on that particular day I was.
Bad things happened to kids in the 'good old days', too, you know.
They just weren't talked about.