Alone With J
By J SWYGART
Welcome to the column no one will read. You’re all, I’m certain, pretty busy this morning.
If you’ll allow me to paint with a broad brush here, the women have been in the kitchen since daybreak, getting ready for that over-the-river-and-through-the-woods thing. Men, if you’re reading this, my only advice is to stay out of the way, keep your head down and your mouth shut. Trust me, it will just be better that way.
For those of you who are still reading, today we’re going back in time. Five decades, to be exact. Because 50 years ago today came a day that sticks vividly in what I’ve got left that resembles a memory. But not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.
It was 50 years ago today that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it distinctly — sitting in my fifth-grade classroom as the announcement came over the loudspeaker; watching my teacher begin to cry; being sent home early from school and watching a recap of the events on what I’m sure was a black-and-white television.
I was upset, but not for the same reason as the rest of the country. As a 9-year-old, one day short of his 10th birthday, the bigger historical picture had taken a back seat to the more immediate wants and needs of a pre-pubescent brat: How was this going to affect the family’s plans to take ME to Fort Wayne that evening to pick out my birthday present? Would all the stores now be closed in a sign of national mourning? It was a stressful day.
This trip had been in the planning stages for weeks, maybe months. We were going all the way to Fort Wayne to exchange our books and books and books of S&H Green Stamps for a shiny new basketball. For ME.
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about — a little history lesson. Back in the day (oh god, I’ve turned into my grandfather) when you went to the grocery store and paid about $20 for a week’s worth of groceries, the store gave you little postage stamp-sized green stickers as a token of their appreciation. You in turn took those little stamps, licked (ugh!) and pasted them into little books, and then traded the books in for goodies at the nearest redemption center.
I think a basketball took about 50 books of stamps. But we had them, and I’d helped lick and paste them. Now it was payoff time. Long story short, the S&H Green Stamp store was open, I got a new Voit basketball, and a greedy little kid — I’m almost ashamed to admit at this latter stage of my life 50 years later — was happy ... as the nation mourned.
Hey, I was 9. I’ve grown.
Giving thanks ...
While I’m hardly what anyone would consider to be the sentimental or mushy type, since today is set aside for giving thanks I will offer a few of my own.
• I’m thankful to have survived a recent trip with my wife to Florida (more on that in a later column), despite the best efforts of my fellow drivers in Tennessee and Georgia — most in pickup trucks with Confederate flags and gun racks in the back window — to remove my front bumper by continually cutting me off time and time again.
• I’m thankful for my wife, who for reasons not fully understood puts up with me, and for my two children and their spouses, and my two grandsons and the third who is on his way. All are the loves of my life.
• And I’m thankful for liquor, which — if all goes according to plan — will help me make it through Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws today.