Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Christmas is over and New Year’s will be here in a few days. The run-up to Christmas is always so fraught with hyperactivity that it’s hard to take the time to really enjoy the holiday. Usually, sometime ON Christmas Day, I find myself with enough time to become reflective. One of the best parts of the holidays is the opportunity to work with memories both old and new.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been changing my Facebook profile picture every few days to reflect some childhood memories of Christmas – sitting in the big spinning chair in front of the Christmas tree so confident that I’d been a good boy, standing in front of Uncle Don who came to our apartment dressed as Santa and made me feel so special, and finally, bundled up in a snow suit sitting high atop a pile of snow in my childhood backyard. Those are the simple, old memories that are quick to come by. Prompted by old photos, it is still easy (at least for now) to reconstruct the details.

For some reason, this year, an obscure, unphotographed memory has been popping into my head. Because of the holiday season, I guess I’ve got a little more time to pay it the proper attention it deserves. Like the others, it’s a childhood memory.

I grew up sporadically attending Brighton Park Presbyterian Church with my mother. I don’t really recall my father attending church with us but he did always give us rides back and forth in whatever current incarnation of a Rambler we owned at the time.

Brighton Park Presbyterian Church felt like home to me because I had several relatives who also attended church there – my mother’s sister, Aunt Bessie, and her son, my cousin, Douglas. Another cousin, Margaret, and her husband, Norman, who was the son of one of our former pastors, also attended. It was easy to feel comfortable there. Besides these relatives, anyone who was friends with these kin also treated me with kindnesses.

The particular memory that has been picking at my brain is of a friend of my cousin, Douglas. I believe I am remembering his name correctly – it was Jim Hardin. He was a tall, distinguished and good looking young man who I believe was a teacher. I recall one night riding in my cousin Douglas’ car to go visit or pick up or drop off something at Jim’s apartment. Douglas was always very good at getting me to tag along with him and I was happy to go because Douglas is a good guy who is fun to be around and who has a wonderfully explosive laugh. It may have only been one visit, but I remember it to this day.

Jim lived in a very neat apartment with lots of dark wood furniture. There were bookcases filled from floor to ceiling with books and there were display cases with glass sides that were lit from inside that seemed to me to hold museum-like treasures. My recollection is that there were busts and other artifacts that looked as if they had come from ancient Egypt. This apartment was nothing like the apartments of my relatives – this place was magical.

I can’t recall a thing about what Douglas and Jim discussed that night but I know they were content to let me take my time staring at these amazing, odd items. I’d always looked up to Jim (of course, he was also about 6 ft tall) but this visit to his apartment raised his value in my eyes.

In wasn’t until these memories came to mind this year that I realized the influence that Jim might have had upon me and my life. As some of you know, I was a Chicago Public School History teacher for a few years at the start of my career. I know there are others, including Mrs. Florence Zvetina at Gunsaulus Elementary School and Miss Fay Hasan at Kelly High School, who also led me to that career choice.

But there is another aspect of my life that I believe may be even more influenced by Jim Hardin. I am a collector of objects from far and wide that may not mean anything to anyone but me but with which I enjoy filling up every available space in my house in order to feel comfortable.

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block for a while as some of you have probably noticed. I’m hoping to break that logjam by starting a new series about Curious Objects. These items, along with my insatiable desire to tell stories, should keep these pages full, at least for a little while. Stay tuned…

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