2017-12-27 / Editorials

Mike Reese

“I was just thinking”

A nice surprise I found in writing my columns over the past four years is the number of reader responses I’ve received.

Face-to-face responses were always noncritical. Southern manners, apparently, are still important around here. E-mail has surpassed traditional letters, a sign of our times. My readers really like e-mail. I’ve received them from Florida, St. Simons, North and South Carolina, Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Athens, Savannah, the suburbs of Perkins (always interesting), California, Virginia, and Swainsboro, are places I recall. I’ve enjoyed all of them, even when I was scolded that I had “no right” to write what I’d written. I referred her to the First Amendment. E-mailers feel more freedom to express their personal views, I think, and that’s good.

But those e-mails aren’t the ones that have stayed with me. I’ve noticed a pattern in a large percentage of my e-mails. The most heart-felt messages centered around columns I wrote about family and/or hometown memories, sent from former and current Millenites, even some from non-natives. Shared roots and experiences are powerful forces in providing us with the connective tissue which is so necessary for our communities’ and families’ continuity.

So many readers’ e-mails, commenting on a particular column, included the statement, “I remember when……” referring to the same or similar event they’d experienced during their “growing up- years” in Millen. I don’t think that early adult or later adult life experiences have nearly the “sticking power” as your early years’ experiences do. Your first day of school, your first girl or boyfriend, your childhood family vacations, playing with your friends, your first spend the night away, family reunions, church activities, Christmas mornings, simple times spent with parents or grandparents, these are the “life things” that we seem to remember most vividly.

And some readers wrote to me, “I haven’t thought about that in years. Thanks for reminding me.” But some encouraged me to not write about some scurrilous event we’d (maybe) shared decades ago. Let those sleeping dogs lie, they told me. Agreed.

Our hometown, even with its lack of good jobs for our young people to return to, our unemployment, our scarcity of shopping and entertainment, our plainness, in spite of these, there’s been no shortage of positive e-mail memories focusing on our small town. Practically all selectively called upon their good memories of growing up in Millen. I’ve discovered, through these e-mails, how nourishing and necessary our memories are. I have no scientific study to base this on, but I think that my early memories will be a large portion of my final conscious thoughts as I drift through the bright, white tunnel. Your e-mails have caused me to believe in the power of our shared memories, our shared roots, our shared experiences.

And speaking of memories, writing my weekly column will now fall into my memory pile. It was fun. I’ve enjoyed your e-mails, the favorable and not-so-favorable. But it’s time for others to let you know what “they were just thinking.” Keep in touch and most important, take time to remember your memories. They’re important. Happy New Year to everyone.

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