WHEN I LOOK back on my teenage years, the benefit of age has given me the ability to see some irony.

I hope today’s teenagers can see it earlier than I did.

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SOME YEARS AGO, I was asked to help a kid tell his story.

I met him and his mom.

We talked for a while on a wooden bench in a breezeway by the front door of his school.

It didn’t take long for me to realize he was wise beyond his years.

Wisdom served him well, because he had to adjust to adolescence and deal with something far from most adolescent minds.

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History has always fascinated me.

I’ve been interested in the Civil War since my family took a vacation to Gettysburg.

I thought I might write down my thoughts on the Confederate battle flag and statues, but I’ve decided to leave them for another day.

Instead, I’d like to go even farther into the past.

Here’s a quick story about how yesterday might influence today and tomorrow.

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This is just a garden-variety story.

My grandparents sometimes had a garden beside the barn in their backyard, and Pawpaw went to till it up one day.

My cousin and I went with him, to “help” I guess.

He tilled the earth, and we watched it turn.

For some reason, maybe just to play in the dirt, I was close enough to the ground to see some of it wiggle.

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When I was a kid, I hit a phase when I wanted a pen pal.

Maybe I was intrigued with the possibility of communication with a person somewhere in the wide world beyond the limits of the map dot I call home.

I was still young enough to get mail sent by someone who didn’t want my money so maybe it was the childish thrill of a letter addressed to me and hidden, like a surprise, in the mailbox.

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I have been an uncle for almost four years.

My sister and brother-in-law have twin girls and a son who’s younger than his sisters.

I think about the days they were born every now and then, because they were days to celebrate.

When those kids were born, I was just about euphoric.

I have probably told this story here before if you were to check the archives, but the day I became an uncle euphoria served me well.

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