I recently moved into a new house and with moving comes the strenuous chore of unpacking and arranging things to fit some sort of feng shui. A chore I have been deliberately avoiding, in fact I still have boxes lying around my workspace. It’s been five weeks since I moved, and a studded toe here and there is the price I pay for my stubbornness. Of course, there were the essentials that I needed to dig out for everyday living:
Coffee machine, my morning can’t start without a cup of coffee.
Notepad and pen, I write my thoughts down in the morning around three.
TV, I use the white noise to put me to sleep.
Guitar, I like to pretend I’m a rockstar I don’t actually play
Laptop, I need some way to communicate my 3.A.M. thoughts publicly.
Finally a collection of books, it helps create the illusion of the man I wish I could be.
I placed the books on a shelf I made, with the help of a Wal-Mart walkthrough, positioning them by size small to tall. As I did this motion of touching each book by the pages, I’m subtly taken back to the time I received the items. To be fair most of them were recent purchases all but one.
I didn’t keep any of the books I received from my childhood, which consisted of a large collection of Dr. Seuss books, they didn’t last the test of time with me. The last time I saw them they were marked up with a variety of Crayola colors before I redundantly threw them into the trash. I was a librarian’s worst nightmare. However, there was one book that I carried from then to now. It is a massive book in terms of width and height. It is consider a coffee table book to many. The book is a hardcover with a gray jacket enveloping the exterior. The front of the book was titled Eyewitness: 150 years of Photojournalism with the famous Iwo Jima flag rising photo separating the word Eyewitness from the title. I turned six on the day I received this from my great-grandmother who has passed two years back. The day I was given this I’m sure it was crisp and clean, but time does a funny thing to age. The pages are still clean, I can assure you that, the only indication of time weighing on the book is shown on the jacket as small rippled tears display on the edge of the paper cover. The year this book was bought it cost $24.95 plus tax now you can order it on Amazon for less than a dollar. The book covered just at it says 150 year of photojournalism starting from 1839 and ending at 1995, it features many famous photos and talks about the photographers who took the shots.
The context of the book was over my head at the age of six. At the time, I didn’t care about history or politics let alone 150 years it. I did admire the photos; I thought they were “cool” as a boy my age would when something impressed him. I hold some sort of sentimental value to this book. As I would look at the photos on a rainy day, occasionally my great-grandmother would sit with me and try to explain why each photo was important giving detail about events of that time. Again, I didn’t care much for history at the time but every now and then her words would enter my hard head and give the photos more meaning. This knowledge would later enhance my learning at school as I match the photos with the time period we were studying in history class. The older I got, the higher my education was, the less ignorant I became.
It’s strange as I look back on it today. I slowly paved the way for what I wanted to be. During my junior year of high school I took my first journalism class, introduction to mass commutations, it was an introductory class that covered the power of journalism. I don’t know why I had a certain urge to take a journalism class it wasn’t even a subject I would talk about with my friends; when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up journalism never crossed my mind. Entering senior year I started taking part of the school newspaper. My job title was photographer although I only took one photo for the newspaper. It was a photo of the volleyball team playing against another school, I think we won I can’t remember. After that, I left the photography to a group of girls who so eagerly wanted to take photos. I still kept my title and chose which photos should go to print. I did that and also wrote movie reviews for the paper. It wasn’t a constant thing it only happened twice when the paper needed some sort of filler. After High school it was on to college where my sense of direction was everywhere. You would think I would have everything solved, given my track record of the last two years in high school, and knew what I wanted to major in but I didn’t. I wandered aimlessly for a year trying to find my calling, flunking my first semester of college and arguing with myself to return. It was a moment I was too ashamed of to tell my parents, so no one knew.
On April 18 my great-grandmother was placed in the ICU section of the hospital. Old age was finally catching up to her and she could feel it in her bones. Around this time it was hard for her body to do anything on its own and needed so sort of machine to do everyday things like breathe. I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing around that point in my life to go see her. I sat by her side, in the hospital chairs that remind me I’m one tragedy away from being admitted here myself, watching cable news when we caught whiff of the news. Alan Wood had died at the age of 90 today. “Remember the book I got you when you were six? That was the man who took the picture on the cover,” she said. Her faint compress voice made me want to cradle her like she would do to me as a child. “Of course I do. I still have it lying on top of my desk,” I said. It might have been on my nightstand I really didn’t know. I retuned to visit her the next day with the book in hand.
I relived my childhood with her, as we lay side by side on the hospital bed turning the pages of the old book, looking at the photos I always thought were cool. As I turned each page I started thinking about the things I was doing and the people I was with when big events during my time happened. 9/11. The day Obama was elected president. The day Osama bin Laden was caught. It sparked an unusual urge of wanting to report that I never got even when I was writing for the school newspaper. Some part of my ego wanted to make news as an attempt to help others appreciate where they are with whoever they’re there with, like some virtuous fool, but I knew I also wanted to be a part of something bigger. Rightfully so, I looked at my great-grandmother and said, “You know, I’m going back to school to be a journalist.”
“That’s good, mijo.”
She passed away a week later.
I was thinking of putting an inspirational quote that one of my journalism teachers might have said, but they never said anything inspirational. Instead I will leave with a quote from G. B. Dealey that is inscribed on the front of the Dallas Morning Newspaper building, and has been engraved in my head the day I visited the place, “Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness / conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity / acknowledge the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question.”