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The lesson I learned

I think I learned some kind of a lesson this week. I must admit, however, that I am not exactly sure.

For a couple of months, I have, on occasion, used this space to request photographs of veterans with some kind of tie to Peabody. I was interested in creating a visual display of the men and women who fought to keep us safe and free during the past several decades. I hoped to place photographs of as many veterans as possible in a downtown window, recognizing them for their sacrifice. Of course, I was hoping for a good number of World War II veteran photos, but we have vets from other engagements, skirmishes, and full blown battles. I had no desire to leave out any of them, the Civil War to the cold war to Kosovo to Kandahar.

Early on, I thought I would be hard-pressed to fill a window. I just didn’t think there were enough pictures out there and veterans seem to be too reticent about sharing their images and their stories. I even had my sister in Colorado scanning and emailing snapshots from our family’s WWII photos just to be sure I would have something to display in case I needed it. I bought little flags to intersperse in the pictures. I had memorabilia and packets of letters, newspaper headlines and magazines. I racked my brain trying to think of what all I could put in the window with the photographs.

Well, until Friday afternoon at about 2:30 when What’s His Name and I sat in his office with several piles of pictures and frames trying to create a single manageable heap of framed photos. What’s His Name looked at me over the mess on his desk and said, “The next time you think you have a great idea, would you just keep it to yourself?” Now, of course I know that he was just kidding, because no young man would talk to his mother-in-law that way, would he? But his voice had a certain edge … you know?

The root of our problem was that I had a vision for this window of veteran photos, but I was not strict enough in spelling out the rules. Rule number one should have been “Get these photos to me right away. Don’t wait until the week before the Operation Celebration weekend.” But I was not on top of the Procrastination Theory where everyone thinks only he or she is late with the delivery. As it turned out a whole bunch of people were late with the delivery.

So I learned something about human nature.

I also learned that technology is great as long as it works. Those machines only do what they do while they are working and so name, rank, theater of operation and other pertinent information can be lost in a heartbeat ... the brief pause that comes when the power flickers for instance. Thus we have pictures of two men with no identities. I am sure they are ours, but I have no clue as to who they might be. That is now a project for another day.

And I re-learned what I already knew — that this a small town and everyone knows where I live. They know where to find The Mister if they cannot find me. They know the Daughters and they know to leave news items at Sharon’s Korner Kitchen, the auction warehouse, or Jackrabbit Hollow. So, yes, I probably got it — I hope I did and I hope I have the right information to go along with it.

And, honest, thank you all for your contributions. We filled the window and I am now trying to figure out how to display the dozen or so photographs that have come in since Friday. Because didn’t I say right in this space — several times, I believe — that I wanted every picture you could bring me? You made the effort and now I need to accommodate you. Here is the plan: I think I will put a sign on the display window directing interested folks to several other downtown windows were more veterans’ photos will be on display. Seems like a way to keep it simple and make sure as many veterans as possible are front and center.

I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I will know better.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified May 27, 2010

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