I’m sure a dictionary definition somewhere explains that memoirs are supposed to be factual, and this one is. But it tells stories I lived going back sixty years, and while they’re all true, they may not have actually happened as I remember them. I, like every other memoirist except the ones who live in dictionaries, have a very selective memory. There are a lot of really funny and poignant stories you won’t read here simply because I’ve forgotten them.
The stories you will read here are flavored by my memory, which means they may be slightly distorted by age, sentimentality, and maybe even the desire not to be quite as candid as I intended. I don’t mean to mislead anyone. These pages will reflect the first two decades of my life according to my best recollection of them.
Perhaps the best example of the way ancient stories don’t get retold exactly the way they happened comes from a social media conversation between myself and Todd Nahins, one of my best friends in junior high school and dearest friends ever. It happened after he read the first couple of chapters you will soon read yourself.
Todd remarked, “You may not remember, but when you and I were in high school we had a discussion on my being saved. It went something like this:
Phil: We need to talk.
Todd: About what?
Phil: What I have to tell you is something you need to accept once I tell you.
Todd: Maybe don’t tell me.
Phil: I have to.
Phil: If I tell you and you don’t accept it, you will burn in hell.
Todd: That makes no sense.
Phil: Those are the rules.
Todd: What if I live a good life, give to charities, and never do anything wrong?
Phil: I can get you purgatory.
Todd: Can we talk about something else?
Phil: I’m dating your former girlfriend, Linda.
Todd: Now who’s in hell?”
I said, “Todd, that’s not the way I remember it.”
To which Todd replied, “Sounds pretty close to me.”
And maybe it is.
You might wonder where my connections are to earth-shattering events such as the day JFK was shot, the Miracle Mets, Super Bowl III, and the moon landing. I wondered that myself as I read and reread the manuscript. I finally reached this conclusion: as big as these events were—and believe me, the 1969 World Series was so big we were given class time in front of TVs we only thought could be tuned to the education station—they did not affect kids the way sledding down a snowy hill or working up the courage to ask a girl out on a date did.
I remember the tears in Mrs. Wilson’s eyes when she told her sixth grade class that the president had been shot, but I was touched in a deeper way when she gave the class mementos of her recently deceased husband. I watched the moon landing, but I was more in awe of knowing that a girl I admired was watching it at the same time on the other end of a telephone line.
So this is my story. It’s true, although not always accurate. It’s complete, but it has a lot of gaps. It’s mine, but I hope you may see a bit of yourself in it as well.
A Word about Names
I endeavor to be as accurate as possible in writing about friends, family, and neighbors gone by. For that reason, I contacted as many folks as possible from my past. Almost all I could locate graciously gave me permission to use their real names, and for that I am grateful. Those I could not locate, and most of those who have passed on, were given different names. Immediate as well as extended family names have been unchanged, as well as most of the locales described. Within the text I will make no mention of which names have been changed and which have not.
Episode Two Preview
Episode Two will delve into the religious milieu in which I was raised: mid-century Protestant fundamentalism. Sounds stifling, judgmental, and boring, doesn’t it? Well. It was and it wasn’t. Tune in next week and find out.
To hear this episode, please click the YouTube link below.