HE DIDN’T DO IT
In 1962 I was assigned to the Directorate of Information at Dow Air Force Base, Bangor, Maine. I was the public spokesperson for the commanding officer, and supervised publication of the weekly newspaper. Another special duty was supervising the writing of the monthly operational history of a base of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). That requirement exposed me to top secret military information. The Air Force investigated my background which, naturally, included interviewing persons in my hometown. Some years after the clearance was granted the investigator visited my office and rendered this account.
He rang the doorbell of Mrs. Darnella Thomas, my neighbor. Our homes were separated by a 25-yard-wide garden where she planted sweet potatoes, okra, and butter beans. She watched me grow up from the same window where she stood as I waved goodbye to her on that morning in June 1951, before taking my stroll to the bus station for a ride into an uncertain military adventure.
She opened the door just enough to communicate with the stranger, but, as the old folks used to say, “just enough to tend to this situation, but not enough to show your business.” Her inspection of him was swift, and her inquiry was emphatic. “Can I help you?” He quickly presented his wallet size identification, which showed his picture and a badge. With equal haste he introduced himself and attempted to state his purpose. “Mrs. Thomas, I would like to ask you some questions about James Edward Alexander, and …” His presentation was cut short by the old lady, who, without further ado, declared to the visitor, “He didn’t do it.” The investigator said her declaration was so quick that he was momentarily befuddled. He tried again. “Mrs. Thomas …” She interrupted him again, “If you be the po-lice I’m telling you right now, he didn’t do it.” Sensing an opening to assure her that he was not the police, he said, “Mrs. Thomas, I am not the police, and …” She did not let him finish. “How come you know my name, and if you ain’t the po-lice, then why you have a badge?” Then, one last sentence which signaled the end of the conversation. She said, “I don’t know nothing about you, but I do know my baby, and I’m telling you right now, he didn’t do it.” Being a polite lady, she politely closed the door.
I asked the investigator how he proceeded. This time he could answer. “An old lady’s eyes were riveted to mine as she vouched for your character. There was nothing else I needed. I left town.”
In her own fashion Mrs. Darnella had disclosed that she and all the other mothers of the community had taught me to be whatever I was, and she was confident she had not wasted her time.
Good memories are treasures that we horde for ourselves.
Sometimes they are the only currency that can buy peace of mind.
They give us safe passage to where we were once content.
Good memories are not exhausted by time.
James Edward Alexander
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