Dearest Ruby B.,
Hello, little one. Hope you are ready to celebrate your first Christmas. Of course, this year your takeaway might only be some brightly colored lights, a few new smells like holly and sweetly scented candles, some new music which, even at your tender age, might elicit an emotional response, and your parents giving you just a few extra hugs. In the years to come, it will have much deeper meaning.
When I was 11 years old I got my first steady paying job as a paperboy for the Los Angeles Mirror, the afternoon edition of the LA Times. Published since 1881, the Times Mirror is the second largest newspaper in the country. But back in the day, it was second fiddle to its much bigger afternoon competitor, the Herald Examiner. The routes for the Mirror were pretty spread out. Fewer customers meant you might have a subscriber on one block and the next would be blocks away. Such was my route and I peddled my bike nearly six miles a day delivering my 101 newspapers.
I would start my route at the pick-up station, where I would count out the papers, fold them in a special way (there were no plastic bags to put them in back then), stuff them in my carrier bag, which had two large pouches that held fifty papers or so in each pouch. Then I would sling the carrier over my head and shoulders, half in front and half in back of me and head out to my route.
There was one large boulevard on my route. It was a two lane road, divided by a huge curbed median with sixty or seventy-year old maple trees down the middle. It was a gorgeous thoroughfare; about two miles long and fairly steeply sloped with grand old homes lining each side of the street. I had a customer at the top of the run and one at the bottom both on the left side. So even though I was going against any potential traffic, I would throw my first paper and head my bike down the wrong lane, get it up to speed and let the grade zip me down to the bottom of the run at probably 25 miles per hour.
It was a peaceful and lightly traveled street so I felt pretty confident I would not run into anyone and I loved the sensation of racing along without peddling and feeling the wind in my hair and on my face. Sometimes I would take my hands off the handlebar grips and stretch my arms out like I was flying. I was counting on Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of gravity, which, paraphrased, says “An object in motion stays in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force”. Outside forces include gravity, wind resistance and other physical factors. Well, one day, all the outside forces went awry.
I was half way down the boulevard when I decided, for whatever hair brained reason, to see if I could cross my hands and steer the bike with my left hand on the right handle grip and my right hand on the left handle grip. So I reached down with my right hand and grasped the left grip. BIG MISTAKE. Before I could get my left hand secured, my right hand jerked the wheel sharply to the left, setting in motion a series of hapless actions. The wheel locked crossways and pitched me violently forward over the handlebars. My private parts got momentarily but forcefully hung up on the riser causing a pain which I can only associate, I am told, with childbirth. I flew through the air for about 20 feet, newspapers flying in every direction, before making a perfect three point landing in the street, the three points being my two knees and my nose. I skidded and tumbled for another few yards until I came to rest in a doubled over, crumpled mess in the middle of the street.
My pain was excruciating on several levels as the thought raced through my head that I might never be able to father your mother….or any other child for that matter. Within less than a minute, a dozen housewives (women worked at home back in those days) were gathered around me asking if I was alright, all evidence to the contrary. I could not even answer them as I continued to lay in a fetal position grasping my crotch with both hands and bleeding profusely through the two holes in my blue jeans and from my face.
Finally catching my breath, as it were, the moms lifted me up to my feet. One had a wet towel and started bathing my wounds, others picked up my newspapers and another brought me my bike. Amazingly, the tubular crossbar between the riser and the seat had split in two and the front wheel was bent over almost at a 90 degree angle. The object in motion, me, would have stayed in motion in a straight line had I not been acted upon by an outside force. In this case, the outside force was stupidity. And that kind of brings me to my next pearl:
: “Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead” Pearl
To put it in Biblical terms, it was just the previous Sunday that the Gospel lesson for the day was Matthew 7:13-14 which says; “Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there be which go in thereat. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth to life; and only a few find it”. (King James Version)
One of the mothers called my mom and she came to pick me up. We delivered the rest of my papers and she drove me home, my broken and crumpled bicycle hanging out of the trunk and my battered body and bruised ego aching in the passenger seat as I tried to explain to your great grandmother how in the world this could have happened. It was difficult to hide the stupid behind it all. Finally there was silence, but then the rest of the way home, the Bible text kept repeating in my mind. If I had only stayed on the straight and narrow path, guiding my bike through the straight and narrow gate so to speak, I would not feel like someone had just run me through a wood chipper. If only I had not tried to challenge the laws of nature my privates would not look like someone beat them blue with a hammer. It was an important lesson learned the hard way.
So, my darling Ruby, if you ever have the notion to stray from the straight and narrow, no matter what the situation, don’t. Save yourself from destruction, whether it be of a physical or spiritual nature. Think of your old Grandpa Jud and remember straight is great, narrow is nice and wide has some wicked consequences.
I love you bunches and bunches,
Grandpa Jud xoxoxo