The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Chip Minemyer

March 4, 2012

Chip Minemyer | Moment of childhood innocence captured and shared

— The photo came to me from out of my past, from a place I once knew, through the modern magic of Facebook.

In the faded color image, 11 kids of varying ages – including one boy destined to someday be a newspaper editor – are gathered at a block wall in their rural neighborhood.

They’re sharing laughs and friendship on a sweet summer afternoon in the years before innocence was swept aside by the realities of adulthood.

It was a perfect day to be a kid – no rain in sight and nothing that needed doing, except to pause together for a quick picture before racing off to our next shared adventure.

I can almost smell the grass and feel the warmth of the moment.

Three of us boys are decked out in the matching caps of our sandlot baseball team.

Two of the girls are barefoot.

One boy – more than a decade removed from being the best man in my wedding – is holding a Frisbee.

Two others are taunting the girls in the front row with “rabbit ears” offered just before this picture was taken.

When I first saw the photograph on my computer screen, my eyes found my younger self instantly.

I’m the tall one in the back row – looking to my left, through my “unbreakable” glasses (boy I showed them!), and smiling my crooked pre-teen smile with an overbite not yet corrected by a skillful orthodontist.

And what an amazing group we were!

From that small pack – that’s what we called ourselves – emerged two schoolteachers, a pastor, a youth counselor.

One went on to drive trucks, another to outfit sports cars.

Yes, one even ended up in the news business.

We shared a love of bicycles and baseball, swimming in a chilly stream, playing games in the grass and sunshine.

Four decades before I was “tagged” in this picture, we played tag in the yards of our neighborhood.

I couldn’t tell you where some of those kids now live as adults.

I suppose some didn’t wander too far, while others took paths that carried them many miles from that quiet street, from that day in the sun.

I’ve looked at the photograph many times and wondered: Who was holding the camera?

A parent? An older sibling?

Who’s missing?

Perhaps not knowing adds to the mystery of the image, to the feeling that the beauty of the moment is that not all questions are answered.

What’s clear on every face is the joy of being a kid in the summertime in Pennsylvania.

Not one face shows worry or fear.

None of us at the moment saw the road ahead.

One girl would fall prey to a brain aneurism before she reached 30.

One boy would face a liver transplant before age 40.

Statistically speaking, someone in that picture was a victim of abuse, someone was hungry, someone was suffering from neglect.

But you couldn’t tell from those faces – and if any of those things were true then, I never heard about it.

I don’t remember that day, or any specific moments from those early years before high school and college, career decisions, marriage and children, mortgages and pension concerns.

But when I look back on those times, it feels as if every day was just like the one in this picture – full of joy and short on worries, more smiles than tears, friendship above all.

A good feeling worth holding in your heart.                                     

                                           

 Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5090.

 

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