By Peter Lederman
There’s times when your rational brain is quiet and images from your childhood, from fleeting instances, chance encounters, pass by your mind’s eye and stir your wonder.
Maybe you’re driving to Kingston and daydreaming a bit, maybe in the twilight before you fully wake up or drop off to sleep, your unconscious throws up these little glimpses that you really can’t place and they continue as irritants haphazardly popping up into your consciousness.
Well, I have one that has troubled me for about 65 years. It’s the image of a twisted, maybe deformed, little man, who lives in a discarded oven. It’s quite the image to be carrying around. That’s it, that’s all I remember and it has surfaced on and off through all this time. I did have a hazy recollection that it was from a book I read as a child, so I put my wife, who was/is a reference librarian on the hunt, but to no avail. I also scanned books, and later the Internet searching for the source of my vague memory. After a while I just accepted it as an unknown in the storehouse of my mind.
Well it’s a nice sunny day in usually dreary November and Linda and I take a walk in town. We stop by the library and browse the books on the porch. Having just finished two thick books on Japanese folklore I was looking for an easy read. I picked up Zane Grey’s The Shortstop, a young adult book about baseball and brought it home.
Today I’m reading this insightful, well-written tale of a young man, Chase, who leaves a rather desperate home situation to become a baseball player to support his family. Then he meets his new team’s mascot. Zane Grey describes the encounter as follows: “Chase looked down upon a sad and strange little figure. Mittie-Maru did not much exceed a yard in height; he was all misshapen and twisted, with a large head which was set deep into the hump on his shoulders. He was only a boy, yet he had an almost useless body and the face of an old man.” BAM that’s it! I didn’t even have to get to the oven part and I knew that was the description that haunted me all these years. I’m 10 years old, an avid reader growing up in the baseball-rich Brooklyn of the 1950s and this sad poignant description must have struck something in me so deep that it demanded my dealing with it in some personal psychological way.
I have a feeling of a ship finally coming safely home and a little stab of internal wholeness I never thought I would find. I’m giddy. I am so grateful to the Andes Public Library for completing the circle and giving me peace.
Oh by the way, I have one image still unclaimed. I remember from the same time, or maybe earlier, walking with my mother on the avenue, going into a laundromat and seeing a washing machine churning with water and plastic poker chips, red and blue, spinning around inside. I have asked my older brother and many others, but no one has helped. This was from the time of ice being delivered to our icebox and coal being delivered to our furnace. Any old timers remember?~