Ernie McCray Turns 85 Today — Aging Memories

by on April 18, 2023 · 16 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

I’m at an age
when my life
consists of mostly memories
and sometimes these remembrances
come to me
and randomly,
as I can, in one moment,
a time when I was
down, up against it,
with cares and woes
like a man adrift in a dark churning sea,
a swallow away from drowning,
finally overcoming
and becoming himself again,
and in the next moment
my recollections
might plop me down at a desk
on my first day of school,
in Tucson, Arizona
in the summertime
with temperatures like the eternal fires in hell
all the time,
and I’m getting those knuckles of mine
swatted to Kingdom Come
by Sister Mary Benedict,
a gangsta kind of nun,
for the sin of nodding off
and not paying attention
in a classroom that has no cooling system
other than a little raggedy ass fan,
in the window,
fighting for its breath,
blowing across water in a shallow pan,
as though that was going to affect
the heat in that room.
Poor fan just gave out
one afternoon.

Oh, my life is rich with memories.
In so many different categories:
I remember sitting on the back of buses
and in the front of trains,
being in spelling bees
and playing a variety of ball games,
marching in the streets
for peace and liberty
and decency
and I have a memory
of how memories can be glamorized,
an endeavor my generation,
as have all past generations,
has utilized
to put-down
younger generations,
under the general heading of
“The Good Old Days,”
recalling an old friend
at a high school reunion
going on and on
about the lyrics in songs
in our day
being better than the music of these modern days,
as in the background
and then she did a monologue
about how we restrained from having sex
back in those days,
while I resurrected in my mind how we,
a drive-in-movie generation,
would go home, after a lot of
hoping our parents wouldn’t ask these two questions:
“What was the movie about?”
“Why are your clothes on backwards?”

Hey, I was a father at 18
so, I can’t throw shade
on the sexual attitudes of today.
But I relish such memories
of growing up
and coming to be
and I especially
like how recollections
can remind you how,
at times,
you’ve had to pick yourself up
and keep on stepping
like when I was going through the aforementioned
low times in my life,
ensnared in a hole
that was heavily laden
with gloom and darkness,
I, eventually,
to bring some jubilation
to my situation,
began doing standup comedy
at talent shows
figuring if I could
make somebody laugh,
I might laugh, too –

Somewhere along the line,
based on memories of mine,
I acquired a “can do”
I’ll try to keep it
until my life
is through.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie April 18, 2023 at 9:39 am

Happy birthday Ernie! It’s been an honor publishing your poetry and observations here for the last 15 years.


retired botanist April 18, 2023 at 9:54 am

Many Happy Returns, Ernie! Hope its an awesome day! :-)


Gravitas April 18, 2023 at 9:54 am

Yes…Happy Birthday and such deep and moving memories. Yo “can do” as always.


Judi Curru April 18, 2023 at 11:16 am

Happy Birthday Ernie. Always so refreshing to read your comments. And always such a great feeling to know that you are slightly older than me and you are still a great model!


Jon April 18, 2023 at 2:32 pm

Happy Birthday Ernie!


unwashedwalmarthonG April 18, 2023 at 9:33 pm

Happy Birthday, Ernie!
And may there be 85 more!


JC April 18, 2023 at 10:45 pm

I acquired a “can do”
I’ll try to keep it
until my life
is through….

Please do!
We love you!


Dave Baldwin April 18, 2023 at 11:35 pm

Happy Birthday, Ernie! I turned 85 at the end of March and I went through the same review process you’ve described. I came to the conclusion that I made a lot of mistakes, and had a lot of rough times, and spent much of those years being frustrated and embarrassed. But I not only survived, I learned a lot about how to live my life. I think that’s something to be proud of. All of us who make it to an old age should feel that way. Congratulations, Ernie!


Barry Bernstein April 19, 2023 at 5:58 am

Congratulations Ernie….sharing your 85 years with your friends and readers has made us all better human beings. Thank you and happy birthday.


Judith Ann Forman April 19, 2023 at 8:49 am

Happy day!
Thanks for bringing so much joy to our world and for writing the best
poem ever about our Big Kitchen and the wonderful community you
helped create…..will always be grateful and proud to be a cohort!


Thomas L Gayton April 19, 2023 at 1:37 pm

Thank you for sharing your life and Wisdom with us. It is inspirational. VIVA!


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 19, 2023 at 2:01 pm

Happy birthday, Ernie!
I salute your many years as a San Diego public school teacher and principal.
You personally embody the notion of “educational progress” — having committed to affection and tolerance for children over the example of Sister Mary Benedict’s knuckle-swatting corporal punishment.


Ernie McCray April 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

Thank you everyone. Couldn’t have made it to 85 without you in some way.


Hansel Garcia September 26, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Happy birthday Principal McCray! From one of your Muir students back in ’76! You always made time to say hello to everyone and take time to talk, if even for a few seconds.


Kate Bell April 20, 2023 at 12:20 am

Happy Bday Ernie. Thank you for your thoughts thru poetry!


Debbie September 26, 2023 at 5:09 pm

Happy Day and Happy Year!


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