by Phyllis McCrossin
“Wild and windblown… that’s how you’ve grown… Who can cling to a Ramblin’ Rose?” — Nat King Cole, 1963
This will be my final column for Townbroadcast. It’s been a good two years, but it’s time for me to sign off. I’m tired, and after reading some of my columns of late, it really shows. Sparkling wit has been replaced by tedious sarcasm.
It’s been a long career.
I started writing in high school when I was the editor of the school newspaper at Hamilton High School. That was just shy of 50 years ago. It’s either a long time ago, or it’s just yesterday. I suppose it depends on the day.
In my mind it’s been a long time trying to come up with something fresh to write every day, but as I embrace my “golden years,” I realize age and time is relative. So is the passion for what you do. Mr. Young is older than me and I think he is still going strong. Me? I’d like to fade into the sunset and enjoy my life in obscurity.
Besides a long career, it’s been an interesting ride.
After high school I headed off to Central Michigan University with lofty ideals and a determination to do something my parents thought was unrealistic. I smile to myself when I think of my father telling me, as he and Mom dropped me off at my dorm that first week of school, “Don’t let those professors turn you into a bleeding-heart liberal.”
Well Dad, it wasn’t the professors who turned me into a liberal. It was observing life and finding the values you held so dear didn’t always resonate with the reality I observed. Sorry. That was the way of it, at least for me.
I could write about how my life/political views began to change, but I won’t bore you with the details. I’ll be honest, the things I’ve seen, my life’s observations, have left me questioning the staunch Calvinistic, Republican life I knew as a child. Let’s just say my eyes were opened by life itself and my views changed.
And, after more than 40 years as a reporter, I’d have to say I’ve seen a lot.
I recall covering my first trial in Allegan County Circuit Court – a case where a man had bound and gagged his wife and left her naked out in the middle of the state game area (in February) where she was to be picked up by some other individuals for “training.” I read with horror court records of child abuse; I watched politicians argue with environmentalists; there were weeks when I covered plane crashes, traffic accidents and spelling bees. I’ve been threatened, screamed at and had a camera yanked from my hands at a house fire; all while working nights, weekends and holidays.
But there were rewards as well.
I had a father come into my office and thank me for putting a photo of his third-grader on the front page of the newspaper. I recall the child. I snapped his photo at a science fair. All the other children had mammoth projects with motors and brightly colored led lights. This young man had put together something with drinking straws, duct tape and marbles. He had his project set up in a corner of the room and stood by himself. I put every child’s photo in the newspaper, but this young man’s photo was given a place of prominence on the front page. His Dad told me that one small act was a turning point for his son.
“He always felt inferior to his classmates,” his dad said. “We obviously don’t have the money some of these other families have. That photo made him feel good about himself. He’s been a changed child.”
So today I sit in my tiny travel trail and look out the window at the beginnings of spring and think about the things I’ve seen and written about over the years. I’d just like to become anonymous.
There are a few campers here today who have braved the cold and rain to join us at the campground. There are three of us, to be exact. But eventually the weather will warm, families will venture out on vacation together and our solitude at the campground will be interrupted by people enjoying life.
That is as it should be. But I don’t want to write about it any longer. I don’t want that voice in my head, turning a phrase and thinking about how to word something I observed. I just want to observe.
I wish all of you the best – even those who have made snarky comments.
Be kind, play nice and don’t kick sand in the sandbox.