I feel like we’re standing on the edge of something good here.
Just the words “something good” bring to mind one of my favorite images: a trio of little boys (about 3 to 6 years old), peering over a Redding ice cream counter. I wrote about them last year. It’s one of those memories I pull out when I need a boost.
As the Rite Aid clerk hunched over the freezer case to muscle ice cream scoops from colorful cardboard tubs, the oldest boy started a spontaneous chant, with choreography.
With his elbows bent like double Ls and his small fists clenched like a shrunken boxer’s, he alternated his scrawny arms back and forth, like a runner. His feet joined in – synchronized with his arms – and scissored in place. He punctuated each word with a fist punch forward into the air and a foot stomp down onto the floor.
“I think it’s gonna be good! I think it’s gonna be good! I think it’s gonna be good!”
His enthusiasm was infectious. His younger companions joined the chorus under the flicker of fluorescent lights.
“I think it’s gonna be good! I think it’s gonna be GOOD! I think it’s GONNA BE GOOD!”
The young man and woman who’d brought the children to the store reddened, winced and tried to shush the boys. But the kids were totally oblivious to adults’ stares. As everyone could see, those boys were in their element.
That’s where I am right now. In my element (trying to ignore the stares).
I can relate to those boys. They expected the ice cream to taste delicious – even before they’d grasped their cones; even before their small pink tongues sampled the scoops of frozen Thrifty’s ice cream. They knew it would be good. They could feel it.
I can feel it, too. I expect that whatever work lies ahead will be good.
I also expect that it’ll take a minute or two or three (or four or five, I’ll keep you posted) before I can step nonchalantly over the corpse of what was once my newspaper career. And walk away.
Mourning is the name of my train today, and I’m its conductor.
Right now Mourning’s barely rolling as I crane my neck toward the window and scan my retreating landscape:
Ten years’ worth of newspaper columns and stories. Ten years’ worth of acquaintances, relationships, story sources and subjects. Ten years’ worth of revolving editorial staff. Ten years’ worth of desk changes, computer upgrades, stylebook updates and newspaper redesigns. Ten years’ worth of group-signed cards to wish colleagues farewell, get well, so sorry, congratulations on your wedding, new baby, new home and retirement. Ten years’ worth of readers’ tales, complaints, praise, phone calls, faxes, postcards, e-mails and snail mail. Ten years’ worth of attending colleagues’ weddings, baby showers, open houses and even, in the case of the wonderful artist, Steve Jacob, a funeral.
I was an entirely different person when I joined the paper as its education reporter more than 10 years ago. I was a divorced woman with three teenagers. We lived in a Redding subdivision. I drove an ancient yellow Volvo station wagon that my oldest son rode as a passenger in a crouched position, so his friends wouldn’t see him.
I’d worked hard and frantic after my divorce as a 30-something “re-entry” college student, which always sounded like a sexual position to me. (There’s something I could never write in the Searchlight.) I graduated and became a journalist. I felt elated and proud when I was hired at the Record Searchlight. My hometown paper.
The 10 years sped by. My daughter left for college. Bruce and I married. I became a columnist. Josh joined the Marine Corps. Joseph moved out. Josh fought on the front lines of Iraq and returned home alive. Bruce’s sister Mindy died of cancer at 47. My twin’s daughter Brooke got married and I catered her reception that ran out of every bit of food except parsley. The boys helped Bruce and me build our house in Igo, out in the boondocks. My little sister Bethany got cancer at 46 and lived. My twin’s youngest son Matt got cancer at 19 and died. My youngest son moved to the Czech Republic and married the love of his life.
I wrote about everything. My life was pretty much an open book. I also expressed many opinions about politics, war, sprawl, downtown, homelessness, foster homes, big-box strip malls, small-town good ol’ boys and other stuff. Readers seemed to either really love or really loathe those columns. But my favorite columns and stories of all were about ordinary people who possessed extraordinary talents, quirks, problems, achievements, kindness, abilities and habits.
Wait a minute. The train’s picking up speed. Those 10 years — they blurred and disappeared.
Nowhere to go now except forward. Look, up ahead: wide open sky, a still horizon, and many years and many unexplored miles ahead.
Feel free to join me. All aboard!
Forward is the name of my train today, and I’m its conductor.
I think it’s gonna be good.