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Mrs. Pitman · 18 August 2011

I have been thinking about the Pitman family for the last week or so. They have always been great friends for as long as I can remember. Part of that is because Dad and Mr. Pitman worked together. Part is because they had kids for each of us except Scott. (Tim and I are the same age; Dan and Russell are the same age; and Gail and Marcie are the same age.) It has been forever since we have seen each other but I am sure our next reunion would be like all the others. Whenever we see each other, it is like we saw each other just last week. It just takes us a little longer to catch up on the past events than it used to. It is great to have such great friends like the Pitmans.


As great of friends as the whole Pitman family have been to our family, I will always have a special place in my heart for Mrs. Pitman. Her wonderful smile and infectious laugh are her trademarks and are indelibly written into my memory. But as great as these memories are, Mrs. Pitman holds this special place in my heart because she has given me two great gifts in my life. She literally saved my life and she helped me to have an open mind when trying new foods and new experiences.


I do not know how old I was when Mrs. Pitman saved my life but I could not have been more than four years old. We were living in Grants, New Mexico at the time so Russell was already born. Our two families were at some place picnicking or camping by water. I know that at least two of us kids, probably Tim and I, were wading in the water. I can remember just being close to the edge and having a great time. My parents were not and still are not great swimmers but Mrs. Pitman has always been around water and was a lifeguard in her youth (which might be why I was a lifeguard too). I am sure that they were all being watchful parents but even so, nobody could have foreseen that there would be a deep spot right next to where we were playing.


Whether we were at a stream or lake, there was some sort of ledge right at the bank. As I said, Tim and I were wading around on some sort of ledge or lip and did not have a care in the world. And then all of a sudden, I must have stepped off the ledge. I thought that I was going straight and staying on solid ground but obviously, I was wrong. I remember very vividly sinking down under the water. I stepped off into nothingness and went straight down. I looked up and saw the top of the water above my outstretched hands. It was dark underwater but the sunlight shone above. And that is all I remember.


Sometimes I think that I recall a hand reaching down to get me and sometimes I think it is just the story my parents tell. At any rate, Mrs. Pitman reached down into the water from shore and grabbed me before I went too far down. There have been times when I have dreamed that I was ten or twenty feet underwater and there was an infinite depth below me before I was saved. Maybe those dreams of such a dramatic rescue rather than the reality of an alert parent grabbing a child who has just gotten into water somewhat above his head are what endear Mrs. Pitman to me. But it does not really matter whether her rescue was dramatic or not. She literally saved me from the depths and I will be forever grateful that she did.


After saving my life, it would seem that there would be nothing else that Mrs. Pitman would need to do be my hero but she also changed my life when I was a teenager. When Tim and I were in eighth grade (Dan and Russell were in seventh), the Pitman family moved up to Spokane. It was in the spring of the year and they decided that they would camp out until they found a house that they liked. Mr. Pitman moved up to take a job with Dad and so we all were going to be together again. That summer was one of the best that I remember. We camped out with the Pitmans. Tim, Dan, Russell, and I went to summer camp together. We played lots in the lake. And we just had great times together.


One time when we were camped out on the lake, we swam, caught fish, and ate cake the Pitman way. Swimming was great fun. The water was clear and the ground beneath the surface sloped gently out so that a person could walk out thirty yards or more before his head went underwater. And we caught as much perch as we could eat in one day, Dan even caught a catfish. Mr. and Mrs. Pitman liked to eat fish so we had some great fish feeds. We even tried the catfish. It is ironic but Tim and Dan did not like fish even though Mrs. Pitman was the one who changed my eating habits for the good.


I do not know why Tim and Dan did not like fish but they would not get it close to them. The funny thing was that Mrs. Pitman told Russell and me that we should not knock something until we tried it. I guess that she had told her own children this message too. So they must have tried fish sometime and not liked it. Anyway. The other part of the story is that Mrs. Pitman made a fantastic chocolate cake. She made it from sour milk and whatever other scratch ingredients were in the recipe. It was always delicious. Even when she made it in the camper oven! One morning after Mrs. Pitman had made her famous chocolate cake, we were deciding what to eat for breakfast. Tim and Dan wanted chocolate cake with milk on top. Russell and I were astonished. We ate dinner or lunch foods for breakfast but dessert? Yuch! But in her patient and loving way, Mrs. Pitman said that we should try it before we passed judgment. Tim and Dan nodded agreement with this admonishment (something that kids seldom did) so we tried it. Of course, we liked it. Who would have guessed that chocolate cake in a bowl with milk on top would be better than cereal? It was like having cake and ice cream except the cream was not iced. What a treat!


Since that time, I have tried almost every food that I have had the opportunity to eat. Sometimes I even try new things in restaurants. And every time I have chocolate cake, I think of Mrs. Pitman. As a matter of fact, that was why I was thinking of the Pitmans in the first place. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I introduced my own children to the wonderful treat of chocolate cake and milk. For breakfast. I will be forever grateful to Mrs. Pitman for her admonishment to try it. Both food and other adventures. And I can never thank her enough for saving my life. Thank you, Mrs. Pitman.

© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi

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From Long Walks Home unpublished.

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