Upon Reaching Sixty
So, why the journey? How is it that I am on this pilgrimage to the worm farm? Can this all evolve from one balmy night in May, 1938 when my parents did the nasty to the strains of “Stardust” lilting out of their brown Philco radio? Does my Dad’s one wriggler and my Mom’s willing ovum beget “me?” Logically, I understand, but emotionally I am confounded. It’s akin to turning the Empire State Building upside down and balancing it on the very tip of its antenna. That one moment of conception is the pin-point fulcrum for my entire life: a massive number of happy ceremonies, bitter failures, transient joys, defining events, greasy hamburgers, loopy ideas, indulged senses, and bodily functions -- all crammed into my sixty trips around the sun. Did my Dad, now gone for almost fifty-five years, really comprehend what he was begetting that May evening? Most unlikely. Sinister Nature makes our procreation so euphoric that we aren’t tempted with consequential thoughts.
And so I was born ... into a planet reluctantly entering the Second World War. The ovens at Treblinka had yet to be built. Jet planes were only a distant, discounted idea. The first computer, Eniac, was still a maze of radio tubes and wires. And our leader in the White House was quietly hardening his arteries with the contents of his theatrical cigarette holder. The town into which I set my tiny ink-stained foot was Greensburg, Pennsylvania; a grimy mill town thirty miles east of Pittsburgh. Greensburg was built, like Rome, on seven rather steep hills. It straddled Route 30, the old Lincoln Highway ... well before the age of truck routes around towns (such “civic planning” destined to drain these towns of their life force.) Our white clapboard house was owned by my mother’s father. It was a modest home, by today’s standards, set high on the eastern hill which cast its morning shadow on the high-school football stadium and a triple set of feeder rails connected to the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The mainline itself framed the town’s northern bluff which, in turn, created the valley through which the Lincoln Highway promenaded.
My bedroom window overlooked this valley and often at night, particularly after my father had closed his eyes forever, I would sit on the edge of my bed watching the trains tightrope their way across the horizon. The wail of their steam whistles drew me to reveries of getting older and traveling to strange new places. Now, I am much older and have traveled to many strange new places. And, unfortunately, trains no longer belch coal smoke and lure dreamers with their mournful trills. It’s as though, as a young boy, I was suddenly able fly across that valley and board that train to my future. And now, having traveled well along to my destination, I yearn to be back in my old bedroom, sitting on my chenille bedspread, staring across the valley at that moving line of lights.
© Copyright, George W. Potts
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