I hope this note finds you well.
At the bottom of our stairs is a small closet that we use for storage. On the top shelf in that closet is an old Stetson hat book; my father always wore Stetson Hats. That box is full of photos of the life of my family; for me it is the source of all variety of magical memories.
Magical memories are the stories and tales you “remember” though there was no way you could have been there, or you were too young to possibly remember; but, you’ve heard the stories so many times, you just know you remember them.
There is one photo of my Grandfather Taggart holding me as an infant. In the picture, I am screaming bloody murder and Grandpa has a strained look on his face. He died within months of when the picture was taken. Once when we were going through her picture albums, Mom laughed and said I had just messed in my diapers and Grandpa Jim was not the least bit happy with the smell. Something in me remembers that event.
Holidays, and especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter were big events for the women of the family. But not so the men—if there was work to be done, my father and his brothers went to work. Their one concession was the lunch meal on the three holidays. Aside from my mother, the women of the Taggart and McAlexander families were skilled cooks. (Don’t get me wrong: my mother was a wonderful, loving human and a devoted caregiver, but she was not a good cook.)
There are several groups of photos in my stash of images that were clearly taken on Christmas. One depicts us at the home of Grandma and Grandpa McAlexander. They have the look of having been taken by a professional photographer. In one picture I am no more than three or four years old and dressed in a cowboy outfit; it was apparently a Christmas gift.
True or not, I remember my mother’s warning that we were to have our pictures made and not to get my clothes dirty. It is clear from the picture that I had not achieved that goal. This would have been one of the times I would have heard my middle name. “Sammy Dale, what did I tell you about getting dirty?”
Another set of photos, this time created at my Grandmother Taggart’s house, shows us all in formal poses on the front steps of her house. Dad and Uncle John are dressed in work clothes and, per the usual, my father and his brother are horsing around. In one of the photos Uncle John has pulled a Bowie knife and has it aimed at my father’s mid-section. I can remember my Aunt Forrestine’s saying, “John Ed, put that up; you are going to scare the children.”
Except for my sister and I, all of those dear people are now gone. But they live on in my magical memories.
Have a good journey, and make as many magical memories as you can.
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/ writer/ marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 35 years. He recently published The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His two other books, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at Amazon.com.