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Memories do help us ‘age backward’

Kay S. Pedrotti

Today’s column is a direct result of having recently visited my hometown of Albany, Ga., where I lived from ages six to 18, and once or twice after that. Memories can flood over me every time I go there; some are heartbreaking but others remind me of happier times – times when arthritis and other creeping age-related maladies were not even a blot on the horizon. 

It also occurs to me that there are little “peculiarities” I have that are carryovers from things that happened during those growing-up years. For instance, when I eat a meal, I cannot be fully, comfortably seated for the duration until I have crossed one leg over the other. It’s the last vestige of a protection mechanism. 

When I was preschool and elementary age, our kitchen dining table had those S-shaped aluminum chairs with the padded seat and back. I had a bad habit of swinging my legs as I chattered and ate. That action would make the chairs bounce a little, so I enjoyed that. It annoyed my mother, so she would reach over and swat me. I then started twining my legs in a double-cross method that made it impossible to swing my legs – I got tired of being whapped. So now, I still cross once and enjoy my meals. 

I also remain very leery of flooding conditions. Our first home in Albany was on the second floor of a house on Monroe Street that had a wrap-around front porch extending a little to each side. One day Albany endured a horrific thunderstorm that dumped enough rain to flood the intersection of Pine Street and Monroe. That night my whole family went to the porch to look at the new “lake,” and what a show it was. 

A bobtail 18-wheeler had drowned the engine at the intersection; the driver got out and swam/waded to higher ground. Cars were “dead in the water” on both Pine and Monroe. A man walking toward the truck did not know the hip-deep muddy water was hiding a hole where a stump had been removed on the other side of Monroe; so when he got there, he disappeared completely under water. 

After some anxious moments, he reappeared and swam up to where he could walk out of the water. Daddy teased us while the guy was under water: “He’s a goner. That hole goes all the way to Sylvester.” We argued with him; when he emerged, we all were cheering. He never looked our way, but we were glad anyway that he didn’t drown. While I am (or was) a good swimmer, I never want to get into a predicament like that.

There were many lessons to be learned in Broad Avenue School; in first grade, I developed a terrible crush on a second-grade teacher, Mrs. Braswell. The only time (until high school) I ever cut class was when my teacher Mrs. Saylor refused to let me leave the room to deliver a Valentine to Mrs. Braswell. 

I went anyway, and endured an hour in the “cloak room” for my trouble. Wisely, the administrators did not assign me to Mrs. Braswell the following year, but I came to love Miss Cheney too. 

Like all students of every age, I had some teachers I liked better than others; but I think the best one I ever had never taught me in a classroom: my mother, Katherine Smith. She taught first grade for more than 30 years and turned out whole generations of good readers (and writers) who also had manners. Thanks, Mama – I miss you!

Kay S. Pedrotti has spent some 50 years writing for newspapers. She is past president of Lamar Arts Inc. and now serves on the board of directors. She lives in Milner with her husband Bob.

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