Of all things, the Colorado wildfires summon memories of my childhood. There were no wildfires to speak of, just the occasional haystack set on fire by overly excited children who played with Fourth of July sparklers — but the neighbors and ma and pa eventually had those flames under control.
The Colorado wildfires are simply a reminder of how today’s negatives were missing from my childhood, either by parental protection or simply because of a sign of the times. In full Paul Harvey voice in those innocent days of yesteryear, there was no crime to speak of, no sex offender registered and living well within your reach. There was no disaster, either natural or man-made. There were no chemical spills, blizzards, traffic congestion, robberies, bombings, suicide, and even divorce was a rarity in our small northern New Mexico community.
I’m not painting a perfect picture, because that scene was left to the media, specifically, television. The half hour family programs consisted of a family living in a beautiful two-story home with a lush lawn and ancient oak trees. This family looked and spoke nothing like my family, yet I longed for that two-story home. The children went to Mayberry or Oak Hill Elementary and they didn’t speak two languages like I did. The words, amor, abrazo, hermano, hermana, posole, chile, tortillas did not cross their lips or their palate. Both, however, learned about “honest” historic figures and politicians like the father of our country, George Washington who could not tell a lie, and Abraham Lincoln (Honest Abe). We learned that cowboys wore the white hats and represented good and that Indians were savages. We learned of and admired our golden boy John F. Kennedy at the center of a fairytale called Camelot.
Perhaps we lived in a more positive, less stressful world. Some call it living a life behind rose-colored lenses. Some may argue we were protected by society and by our parents, yet the majority of us turned out okay. We kept our innocence as long as possible by plan or by destiny, but that perfect world soon ended.
Media once again played a role as reality set in one dark day in late November as the ruler of Camelot was shot and killed. For several days we watched television as a family agonized over the loss of their son, parent, husband and brother. Our perfect world came crashing down as television reported every new detail and even the assassination of Kennedy’s assassin was televised.
Instant media was there to report the reality of our true society, good or bad as it continues that same trend today. I pursued journalism, a provider of information good or bad and acquired that two-story house I once dreamed of owning. In the end, I enjoyed my youthful innocence, accepted the reality of the real world, acknowledged the difference and learned not to kill the