Memory is a child walking along a seashore.
You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up
and store away among its treasured things.

[Pierce Harris]

This is a very short piece I composed for a writer’s group I belong to. Sometimes the smallest thing becomes one of our most enduring memories.

Small World
by Katherine Misegades

“There’s a little red barn down on a farm in Indiana . . . .” The volume on the radio was turned very low but the tune caught my attention so I hurried toward it. I bent close to the speaker as a commercial announced a sale at the hardware store on Calhoun Street. Then familiar Hoosier voices started their early morning banter about tractors and farm prices. It was 1966 and I was a thousand miles from home working in a Navy hospital. I was so homesick that it was everything I could do not to cry.

“That song. Those are the Red Birds—a singing group in my home town,” I said to the corpsman who was charting at the desk and looking at me as though I’d departed from my senses.

“That station only comes in at night,” he said. “I like it so I always listen to it when I’m on duty.”

“It is a thousand miles away,” I marveled. “I wonder how the signal comes so far?”

I’d joined the Navy Nurse Corps, anxious to see the world that lay beyond flat corn fields and the dull routine at home. I wanted to go someplace where the winters were warmer and life was moving at a faster pace. I’d found it. The conflict in Vietnam had picked up and our hospital wards were overflowing with wounded Marines. It was almost more than our limited facilities, supplies and staff could handle. In the midst of it all, I desperately missed the place I’d been so glad to leave. After that morning, I tuned my radio to that station often. It was almost twenty years before I moved back home but I could get a signal every place I went.

“There’s a little red barn down on a farm in Indiana . . . .” I was waiting for the elevator in an office building in the center of my hometown. I turned and walked toward the sound. It was in a cubical on a desk next to a lady who gave me a jolly smile. It was 1991 and I was working as a contract artist in a corporate communications department.

“Those are the Red Birds,” I said, then I told her how they’d helped me cope with homesickness through so many years in so many places.

“I’m a Red Bird,” she said. “We have been singing together since the 1950s.” Then she stood and hugged me. I was glad to be home again.

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