The strength of memory

By Bill Shepard

I have heard it said and have often repeated the line – “Memory is the place where time stands still, and everything remains the same!”

Blessed is the man or woman, boy or girl who can visit their place of memories and enjoy a moment of peace, tranquility and quiet solitude. I am one of those men! I am thankful! I am Blessed!

I once had a dear friend, now gone on to his eternal world, who grew up in Darlington, just a hand’s throw distance from me. We knew each other well and often spent time together. His parents were mill workers, the same as mine. Both he and I followed in our parents’ footsteps and worked at the old sweatshop.

The war years came, and our paths separated. The war being over, my life headed in a new direction and I moved to the Upstate. Not long afterward, he also moved to the Upstate and our friendship was renewed. We often spent time talking about our early years, growing up in Darlington. I could tell that his early years in Darlington had not left the same impression on him, as mine had on me.

One day, as we were talking, my friend turned to me and asked, “Bill, what is it about Darlington that has such a strong grip on you?” I thought for a moment, searching for the right answer, and then it appeared on the tip of my tongue. “Two words,” I answered. “Beautiful memories,” and that remains my answer, even to this day.

I have been sharing my memories of growing up in Darlington for many years. I have shared them in the various localities where my life’s work has carried me. I have shared them in classrooms with children where I was a teacher, and in churches, where I was a preacher. I have shared them in small groups and in large groups, and often, one on one. I never get tired of sharing them!

I owe so much to this newspaper for allowing me to share my memories on its pages. I owe so much to the late Mr. Thomas, publisher of this paper, for encouraging me to write a book, telling the story of my childhood years in Darlington. That book went to places, far beyond the city limits of Darlington.

In writing about my memories, I relive them. I become the little boy, sitting in a classroom at St. John’s in Darlington. I laugh when I see the little boy, pinching pieces from the baked sweet that his mother has wrapped in a paper bag for his lunch. He remembers his teacher, seeing him and saying, “Willie, take your potato outside and eat it. When you finish, return to the classroom.” Ah … what memories! I chuckle to myself when I recall them.

I recall the little boy, sitting by the edge of the waters of Swift Creek. The narrow stream moves slowly on its way to wherever it is going. His cork bobbles up and down, sending a signal that a fish is nibbling at the bait at the end of his fishing line. Overhead, in the trees nearby, he spies the vines where the wild muscadines are hiding! He will visit them when they ripen in the coming fall. Lost in his thinking he forgets his cork; it is out of sight and he pulls in his line. Another small fish is added to his stringer! What memories! He is lost inside another world!

Yes, old friend, my memories of the place of my childhood have a grip on me and will not let go! I’m so glad that they do!

Author: Rachel Howell

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