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Turn! Turn! Turn!

September 25, 2013
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I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve always associated certain songs with seasons of the year. I’m not just talking about Christmas or Easter music; I mean songs that call to mind a particular time in my life or a scene from the past….like The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!, which will always be reminiscent of the fall of 1968.

I was not quite ten back then, but the country was ablaze with unrest that filtered down even to us small-town kids. That was the year of the Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations; of the violence at the Democratic National Convention; of Vietnam War protests and lava lamps and some of the most incredible music of the time.

It was a crisp, clear October afternoon when the annual Homecoming parade was held; the skies were so blue you could practically swim in them, and the brilliant red and gold trees stood out in glorious contrast. Since this was the biggest event of the year in our neck of the woods, everyone from kindergarten all the way up to high-school seniors got out of classes to attend.

The parade filed by, with apple-cheeked cheerleaders and football players riding in the back of pickup trucks, chanting team anthems, while the drill team was striving to stay in formation while avoiding the horse droppings. Proud parents clapped and called out to their sons and daughters, and we younger kids goggled at our high-school heroes even as we wished fervently for the day when it would finally be OUR turn to shine.

Then, as the middle school band played the last off-key strains of the “Alma Mater”, the announcer put on a recording of Turn! Turn! Turn! over the loudspeakers and cranked up the volume.

It’s actually Chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes set to music; most readers over a certain age are probably familiar with the lyrics. What I recall most keenly was the feeling that no matter how messed-up everything seemed to be at that time, it would be all right in the end. How could it not be, especially on a gorgeous fall day with the town’s best and brightest on display for all to behold?

Forty-five years later, I can trace the end of my innocence back to the months and years that followed. The war continued; some of our heroes went to Vietnam, and most came home changed by what they saw ‘in country’. And a few never came home at all.

I moved away as well after I graduated eight years later, but now there are times when I wish with all my heart that I could go back and live out the rest of my life there. However, I know that the town also has moved on…..even though for me, both that day and that song will be forever suspended in time, like a pebble in amber.

A time to be born, a time to die,
a time to dance, a time to mourn,
a time to sow, a time to reap,
a time to laugh, and a time to weep.

Such are my thoughts on a chilly fall evening, as the smell of pumpkin bread baking fills the house and the trees outside my picture window turn to gold.

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