Mack Williams:  January memories

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2023

My recollection of Januarys as a youngster in the 1950s-60s doesn’t involve any archiving of former New Year’s resolutions or any other achieved or abandoned “to do” list.
It’s more of a collection of impressions which have stayed with me, and which I will now mention.
I won’t “enumerate” them, though; as to assign numbers would resemble a rating system, giving one more importance than another. Instead, they mesh together, like the ingredients of a pie.
I remember tossing and bouncing a Christmas present basketball in our Old Concord Road front yard, the ball seemingly bouncing higher on the bare, frozen ground, than on summer’s “fuzzy” turf. My heavy coat put distance between me and the cold. Though the thick gloves lessened the articulation of my grasp on the basketball, their inner warmth kept my fingers from becoming”frozen inarticulation!”
As I guided my basketball in its downward bound, I saw a few jet-black, “rocks” scattered about. These were the former “eyes” and “coat buttons” of several generations of snowmen I’d built and seen melt into the earth. In a way, some of those pieces of coal once had the gift of “sight,” while those “buttons” once moved back and forth under my snowman’s “breath.”
From our slate front porch, my Christmas telescope revealed the “veiny” details of a few remaining, months-dead autumn leaves in the trees beyond the cow pasture of my across-the-road neighbor, W.A. Cline. As to why those leaves were still twig-attached, I can’t say. The cold January air made them seem frozen in place, beyond gravity’s reach.
Though the leaves of the great trees in my yard were bare of leaves, in looking at the nighttime skyI still had to guide my telescope between the dark solid lines of branches and twigs. In that magnified perspective, they resembled borders, where one piece of sky left off, and the other began.
One January, in my attempt to find tiny things to observe through my Christmas microscope, I shook a salt shaker on a glass slide and saw crystalline cubes through the eyepiece. These gifts of telescopes and microscopes were evidence of the national emphasis on “youthful science,” what with Sputnik, The Space Race, The Cold War, etc.! Come to think of it, for several years I saw things more clearly through my binoculars, telescopes, and microscopes than through the proverbial “naked eye!”(my diagnosis of myopia and fitting with glasses came later).
Looking into a present, cold, clear January sky, my mind returns to all of those passed “first months.”
And I am there again, for a moment.

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