Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Our grandson Logan turned ten on February 15--an event I find impossible to believe. Wasn't I just ten? Wasn't our son, Steve, just ten?

It seems not.

On Sunday night, we went to a little birthday dinner for Logan at his house (Green, OH--about forty minutes away), and there we ate his favorite foods (he has a recent fondness for roasted chicken), including some doses of my sourdough bread, which he's loved since infancy. He is one of the principal reasons I keep baking every week.

There were gifts. Some Facetime with his other grandparents (who are in Arizona for the winter). Some singing of "Happy Birthday."

Each year (beginning with his second birthday) we have given Logan a little book we've written . Until this year, all of them had been "children's books"--pictures (thank you, Google) and a sing-songy story in a sort of faux Dr. Seuss rhyming style.

But he's now in fourth grade and has been reading "real books" for quite a while now. And so this year we wrote him a short story (featuring, as always, Logan as the principal character), had it professionally (Kinko's) turned into a little booklet. As we sat at the table, Logan read it aloud (with his dad and grandfather occasionally reading a little). I found myself unaccountably moved as I realized Logan has been moving into, well, into a New World.

My father turned ten on March 9, 1923. He was living on the family farm near Milton-Freewater, Oregon (north central--just across the Washington border from Walla Walla). He'd already lost the little finger on his left hand--chopped off by a brother (accident) while they were readying firewood. Dad lived to see so many changes. In boyhood he sometimes rode a horse to school--and lived long enough to see men walk on the moon.

My mother turned ten on September 9, 1929. In October '29 ... well, all know what happened then. I'm not sure where they were living that year. Her father was a minister (Disciples of Christ), and they may have been in Richmond, Va., by that time. Mom would go through school in Richmond, then, her senior year in high school, move to Enid, Okla., where her father preached at University Place Christian Church and taught at Phillips University (RIP). At Phillips, Mom met the man who would be my father--and the father of my brothers, Richard and Dave. (I'm in the middle--explains a lot, doesn't it?)

I turned ten on November 11, 1954. We had recently moved back to Enid from Amarillo, Tex., where my dad had been serving as chaplain at the Amarillo Air Force Base during the Korean War. (He'd almost gone to Korea; then, at the last minute, the Air Force decided to open the air base in Amarillo, and they needed a chaplain.) Dad had served in World War II (both theaters), had stayed in the reserves, got called up for Korea ...

My parents didn't believe in birthday parties, so I know I didn't have one. We did have "birthday dinners," though--cake, ice cream, presents (one of which, always, was a check from Grandpa Osborn; in 1954 that check would have been $1.10, a lot of money, really, when 5 cents bought a candy bar, a bottle of pop in the machines, a cup of coffee, etc.). I can't remember a single other gift. But here's a likely list: some clothes, maybe a new cap gun (one year I got a b-b gun ... was that the year?), a pack of thank-you notes (I would have to write a note to thank everyone who gave me something), a book or two--maybe a record.

I still have a book I got for my ninth birthday--a gift from my Osborn grandparents: Greyfriars Bobby, a book about a dog in Scotland. Inside, taped to the cover, is a note from my grandfather:
Nov. 11, 1953  Dear Danny, We hope you'll enjoy this story as much as your mother did when she was about your age.  Grandma & Grandpa.

My copy from 1953.

I didn't read it for fifty years, till December 2003. I wrote a piece about the experience, a piece that ran in the Plain Dealer on Dec. 21. (I don't see it online--I'll repost it here one of these days.)

I was in fifth grade that 1954-55 school year at Adams Elementary School ... my mother had gone there (so maybe they were in Enid when she was ten?). It was not my favorite year of school. I'd really liked my third and fourth grade teachers (Mrs. Ziegler and Mrs. Rockwell, respectively), but in fifth grade I had a teacher who--we all thought--looked like a witch. (I will not name her, but she had a twin sister who taught at another Enid school; she, too, looked like a witch.) I was afraid of her, all year.

My friends were Jim Gritz, who lived down at the end of our street (Elm Ave.) and Pete Asplund (who lived a couple of streets over). I was already ... noticing ... the opposite sex. At Adams, we (both boys and girls) had numbers for our significant others. Girl/Boyfriend #1, 2, 3, etc. I don't recall that I was #1 on anyone's list, but there were quite a few who interested me, and I seemed to have had several 1's, 2's, 3's. Linda, Myrna, Sue Ellen ...

Mostly, though, all I cared about at ten was riding bikes, playing baseball, staying out (on summer nights) until the streetlights came on--then we had to race for home. I loved the movies, too (Enid had four downtown theaters and two drive-ins). My buddies and I would sometimes ride the bus downtown and see a Western. On Saturday mornings you could hang in the Esquire all morning for ten cents and two RC bottlecaps. See cartoons, the newsreel, a serial, a couple of B-Westerns (Johnny Mack Brown, the Three Mesquiteers, Hoot Gibson, et al.).

I liked TV, too, though we had only a couple of stations. In the 1950s Westerns were the most popular shows, and so I was supremely happy. I wanted to be a Western hero. A Wyatt or Range Rider or Cisco or Wild Bill or Hopalong or ... anyone, really, as long as I got a horse and a six-shooter and a range to ride (and maybe a goofy sidekick). And no homework.

My world-at-ten was very different from our son's (he was ten in 1982--he craved an Atari) and impossibly different from that of our grandson, who, by the way, has already taken more standardized tests in school than I did, K-12. Face-time at the dinner table. Gift card to GameStop. Things that didn't exist when anyone else in his family was ten.

But I loved my year of being ten (my teacher notwithstanding). I was certain I would never be hurt. That I would probably be a cowboy. That I would ride my bike and play baseball forever--that I would live forever.

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