When one retires, one has time to recollect moments that will forever be engraved in one’s memory. Some of mine:

One of the earlier ones was of Bert, an elderly African American who lived in a shack between the rows of houses built later on streets surrounding it. He was a kindly man who would gently tell me not to tease my dog (I was about 4 at the time) and bandaged his leg when it got cut on a broken milk bottle. One time he was digging in his garden and brought up some worms. He told me they were good eating and sent me home with some to tease my mom.

What a wonderful lesson in tolerance for a little white boy!

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Another similar happening occurred in northern Vermont at our cottage. An elderly native American used to circle our lake with handicrafts to sell in his birch bark canoe. I think he came down from Canada. One day, as he was leaving , he noticed my interest in his canoe and invited me to hop into it — one had to step only on the ribs to avoid breaking through the thin bark. He taught me how to locate myself properly (kneeling on the bottom rather than sitting on a seat which makes a canoe unstable and how to paddle properly in the face of wind.

Never again did I proclaim the slogan of the day (“The only good Indian is a dead Indian”). And I went on to teach other kids how to handle a canoe properly as a camp counselor.

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I was startled to see the flames racing up the inside of the Barnum and Bailey circus tent on July 6, l944. I was fortunate to escape. It was a hot day and by chance, just before the fire broke out, I had pondered that it would be difficult to get out an entrance should there be a fire. I noticed that there was a break behind us where the  wall met the roof of the tent with ropes hanging outside. So when the fire broke out, I grabbed my pal, David, and we both raced UP the stairs and slid down a rope to safety. I did not even drop the box with the little chameleon that I had purchased. David and I were separated outside and a neighbor spotted me and walked me back to Hartford and home. David stayed and and saw the horrors of more than 100 horribly killed. Not long after David was committed to the state mental hospital where he remained in a catatonic state.

What can one say?

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A Life Magazine graphically showed the emaciated bodies of Jews rescued from one of the death camps. I have despised anti-Semitism (and comparable racist brutalities) ever since, although I am a critic of Israeli abuses of the Palestinians.

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At about four I developed what was diagnosed as rheumatic fever. I was not permitted to walk and, as my mother was very pregnant with my brother,  an English nurse would carry me out to a cot in our apple orchard where she taught me to read and count beyond 100 and read me endless stories.

I learned how kind and caring a person can be.

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A few years later I used these skills in the 3 years of classes with Miss Loretti/Mrs. Batista (who married mid way). My telling event occurred one day when my mother, sick of having to urge me to hurry up mornings, let me meander myself into being late to school — a major crime in those days. I told Miss Loretti that my mother had been busy that morning. To my horror that noon my mother, who used occasionally to pick me up for lunch, also offered Miss Loretti a ride. To my horror the truth came out as I cringed in the back seat.

What a marvelous way to learn that lying is not the way to go.

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There are, of course, many great moments (such as the day of my marriage in 1957) and sad ones, too.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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