man000982. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d17s7n65k
I couldn't have been much more than six years old. It was Christmas day and I got one present; a cap pistol. Weeks earlier, we had been in Sterling's Store in Natchez, Mississippi, my hometown, and I had spent quite a lot of time admiring a pair of cap pistols with holsters and belt. They were silver and with pearl handles. Boy, I wanted those cap pistols. No matter where we went in that store, I would somehow manage to come back to the counter where those pistols were.
There's something about stores that just get in your blood. I think it is the smell of newness which permeates and you just cannot get away from it no matter where in the store you might go. Certainly the smells vary from one department to the other but the quality of newness is always there. I could smell those pistols. I could smell the belt and holsters. I could even picture them, in my mind, strapped around my waist. With such pistols as those I was certain that I would be able to make the streets of Natchez "safe for women and children to walk on." I just had to have those guns.
My stepfather didn't have a steady job at the time and even when did he didn't earn very much. Our's was a time and a family where to have an extra quarter, even as an adult, qualified one for the Fortune Twenty Five Cents Club. Even at that age I recognized the difference between wants and needs, desires and necessities. I had never gotten a store bought Christmas present before and I had not shared my desire for those pistols with anyone who might get them for me because I didn't know anyone who was rich enough to spend money on that kind of foolishness. Still, I wanted them more than anything I had ever wanted in my life.
There was a little package wrapped in the paper from a brown paper bag and it had my name on it. It was tied with cord string and it had a little piece of holly with red berries stuck on it. I held it in my hands and looked at it for the longest time. I undid the knot in the string. We didn't throw
anything away back in those days. Garbage did not grow but rather shrinked becaused we used and reused everything. I unwrapped the paper at about the pace that Alfred Hitchcock would have a murderer ascend a stairway or turn a door knob. The suspense was thrilling and I didn't want it to end. I had no idea what awaited me underneath that wrapping and I wanted to postpone the discovery as long as possible.
I looked from the package to my brothers, my sister, my stepfather and to my mother. None of them had any little packages. This made me feel all the more wonderful and, for some reason, also sad. I was bright for that age and I knew that no one else had a present and that made me feel bad. The expressions on their faces made me know that it was alright. It would be many years later that I would understand and that understanding came out of my limited knowledge of Oriental philosophy; the one who gives a gift gets a greater joy because they would have caused happiness.
And there it was. A cap pistol. Just one. No holster and no belt. Just a lone cap pistol. I looked at my mother and tears were running down her cheeks. My stepfather had a look on his face that I guess most people can only associate with the expression that a real father would have at a time like that. My stepfather was special. His name was Sandy. Sandy White. People called him Mr. Sandy. My brothers and sister were laughing. I laughed and cried. I held that pistol and carressed it and thanked them all and I thanked Santa Claus and I thanked God. I was just about willing to thank everybody in the whole wide world but I didn't know all of the names. And then, the moment was gone. Gone forever. That moment can never be relived. It's like what Margaret Mitchell said of the old south; it was "gone with the wi nd."
I walked through the house snapping the trigger. I went out on the porch snapping the trigger. The trigger was snapped in the front yard, around
the side of the house and on into the back yard. You could hear that trigger snapping up through the alleyway and on to the street but it stopped there.
I could go to the street but not beyond. I snapped the heck out of that trigger and then I started making gun noises with my mouth; bang, bang, bang. Everyone saw me running and gunning. I ran all day playing with that pistol—stopping only for the mid day meal, supper and a few pieces of homemade cake during the in-betweens. Everyone was so happy that I was so happy with the pistol.
Day's done. I went to bed without giving anybody a hard time that night. They were certain it was because I was all worn out. I was. Not from playing. From pretense. All day I had pretended that I was happy. I wasn't. I had been miserable all day but I couldn't show it because it would've ruined the day for everyone else. They didn't understand. I wanted two pistols not one.
Sure, one is good but two would have been great but I only got one.
The day after. I looked at my pistol and thought that two is the same as one except it is twice as many. I thought about a couple of other kids down the street who didn't even have one and I imagined that there must've been a lot of others without any. I picked up my pistol with new appreciation. I twirled it around my finger just like the cowboys in the movies and thought that I would just have to shoot straight with the one I had.
That was my first major disappointment. It tempered me for those hundreds of others yet to come. Without realizing it, I had made operational my grandfather's philosophy of life: "No matter what happens, you can do only one of two things; get used to it or get over it." I got over it. We all have disappointments and most of us do the same. That's life.
Many years later on the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, another disappointment. The Runnin' Rebels lost. I was let down and I know the team members are saying "It was just another game." They're hurting and tonight some, if not all, of them will cry themselves to sleep. They won't
show it but we'll know it. They won't want us to feel badly because of their misery. Still, tomorrow, Easter Sunday morning, when they arise, they will look at their lone national championship and think of some other teams around the country who don't even have one and they'll view their desire for two in a different way.
Then Spring Break ends. Classes resume. Back in the saddle again. Six weeks before the end of the semester but before that happens and right after classes resume on April 1, three days to be exact, some of us will probably remember another mission started by a young man that he was not able to fulfill. Martin wanted to bring the nation together--to no longer have a nation where somebody was NUMBER I and others ranked somewhere lower in the great hierarchy of things. When he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 it stunned us all but we got over it. As you can tell, we haven't forgotten it but we got over it.
Getting knocked down is part of life. Getting up again separates that