I received an unexpected parcel in my mail last week. A column I’d written in 1995 was included in a glossy coffee table book of 20 years of “best ofs.” What a delight to open the slick pages and find my article about a man I hadn’t thought of in some time. Albert Hebbert was well into his 90’s by the time I spent one spring on a series of interviews with him. And here he was, in one condensed article on page 127.
My mind reeled back to the Nebraska Sandhills one rainy spring fifteen years and a whole other life ago. I’d pull up and Albert would be waiting for me. He’d climb in and direct me all around the countryside telling me tales of his life. I think we ended up with ten articles published in a regional magazine and collected for his loving family. He was a talker but we’d discovered he needed prompts to get him started so we drove the ‘hills he loved so much and he told me his stories.
I don’t think much about the Sandhills anymore, my leaving felt like an escape and the longer I’m away, the more myself I feel. But the book reminded me of good memories of that place, of people I love, beauty I found there.
Like the ghostly visits to Scrooge, these words, written so long ago, brought me a change of heart. Maybe a little forgiveness, for myself as much as for anyone else. Maybe a little closer to peace with my past.
Words are magic.
Have you ever been visited by your own ghosts of words past? How did you feel reading something you’d written many years ago?