Today, my sophomores finished watching Act Two of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Afterwards, as a lead-in to tomorrow’s viewing of Act Three, I had them write a about a memory of an insignificant day in their lives—one that may or may not have turned out to be significant later on. I gave two examples from my own life to show them what I meant, both involving my grandpa.
Both take me back to when Grandpa and Grandma lived on a ranch. I call it a ranch—we all called it a ranch—but I don’t recall any livestock or crops. All I remember is a couple of ducks…maybe a dog. There was a house and a barn.
The first memory is about those ducks. I must have been around four. My brother Billy C got the tall white duck. I got the little green duck. I use the term “got” loosely because, after all, they belonged to Grandpa and they lived on his ranch…for awhile anyway. For that matter, I don’t know that either of the ducks liked my brother or me because they only saw us when we came visiting. We’d drive up into the yard and there they’d be, flapping their wings, quacking. I suspect they flapped and quacked even when we weren’t around.
But in our minds, they belonged to us.
Then, one day we arrived at Grandpa and Grandma’s ranch and the ducks didn’t flap or quack. They were gone. If I remember correctly, no one came up with any euphemistic story about our ducks’ fate. I’m pretty sure that Grandpa just explained that he had them slaughtered and that he and Grandma had them for dinner one night.
The second memory is of how we used to fly kites there. Billy C, our cousin Byron, and I took our kites to a field next to Grandpa’s ranch and, with the help of Grandpa, Dad, and Uncle Bill, would get them flying. Once they sailed high into the sky, we’d send them “notes.” We’d take scraps of paper and tear them halfway and scribble messages to our kites. Then, we’d each slip our note onto our kite string and watch it glide up the string, spinning all the way, until it reached our kite. It was a wide, empty field, so the kites would stay up a long time without getting caught on any trees or telephone poles.
I must be pretty close to Grandpa’s age at that time, though he seemed ancient to me. Now, when I look at pictures from those times, we all seem endlessly young.