An antique machine upon which, many years ago, I began to write. Now it sat idly on a shelf, reminding me of sparse beginnings.
There were other mementos in that home office overlooking Surigao Strait: photographs of me riding elephants and chasing balloons; the tangle of press credentials once dangling at my chest; and an array of trophies, commendations and ribbons representing the high points of a career. One was a prized glass plaque certifying participation in the Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Others included literary awards for my 2015 memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” and a Golden Mike presented for excellence in radio broadcasting.
There was also a collection of books signed by their authors—many of them friends—as well as the mosaic of a magazine piece recounting the wooing of my Filipino wife and, perhaps my favorite, a pair of golden mouse ears received while covering Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005.
All of it is gone now, swept away by Typhoon Odette. And so, I am left to contemplate life without those bolstering tokens of my past.
In truth, no one ever noticed them but me. Yet in that gaze lay a lifetime of memories. The people I worked with and the stories I covered. The big ones that got away and the smaller ones I lassoed. None of them made me rich or famous. But, in the evening of my life, they have helped succor my continued existence.
What will do that now after all of it has disappeared?
It may seem like a frivolous question to those still young. But others of a certain age will doubtless understand the tendency to hang onto the past with an earnestness commensurate to its volume. It’s as if those relics constitute proof that you existed. As if, without them, somehow you were never really here.
Ah, but maybe there’s a hidden message in the reckless wreckage of those ancient tokens. Perhaps this catastrophic cleansing portends the dawn of a new reckoning and sense of self. In fact, that’s what I’ve been trying to grasp in the wake of this dastardly disturbance. Instead of thinking of then, I’m attempting to consider the now. Instead of mourning the past, I am endeavoring to embrace the future. And rather than cry over what we’ve lost, I am striving to discern what we have gained.
Thankfully, I’m getting glimpses of just what that is. I see it in the efforts of those who’ve lost much to help those who’ve lost more. In the prayers of people simply happy to be alive. And, finally, I see it in the warm embrace of my wonderful wife and the sweet smiles of my beautiful children.
Perhaps there’s no better time than now to grasp new horizons by drawing close those we hold dear. And so, to all who are suffering and all who are not, I wish you a happy New Year.
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David Haldane’s latest book is a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.