A memory seems to wait around every corner. Yesterday morning I ran to the university track that sits at the nearest 4-way intersection. For most of my life in Bluffton (1954-1974), we lived a few hundred yards northeast, across from the school's former track and football practice field and a city water tower painted with big letters "B L U F F T O N." I would have climbed it if I hadn't been afraid of heights. Even though the old track lies under grass, football has given way to soccer, and the tower has been dismantled, they would apppear on any map I draw of this town.
This morning, several young men were clearing brush from the corner -- ordinary brush that struck a chord. Later, as my brother, mother and I leafed through a scrapbook of current residents at the Maple Crest retirement living center, John Murray peered out at me. The same face had watched me 45 years ago and chased me down after I lit a cherry bomb. He had found me hiding in the brush and shaken a trembling kid with his tale about someone who'd blown off his finger.
Minutes later, Gary Lora arrived to tune one of the center's pianos. My mind riffled through its Rolodex in time to greet him by name, although I hadn't seen him in 40 years. For the summer of my sixteenth birthday, his sister, Gloria, had "dated" my good friend Max, a fellow staff member at Camp Berry, B.S.A. Televisions were contraband at camp, but on July 20, 1969, the Camp Director set up several in our dining hall. Everyone gathered to watch Neil Armstrong set the stage for Michael Jackson's moonwalk. We listened spellbound to his famous words, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
"We won that race," says Virginia. "I wish we'd attack alternative energy sources with the same resolve."
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