When you are a little girl and you quarrel with your best friend, one or the other of you storms out of the room, crying, “I’m never going to talk to you again—never, ever!” Fortunately, most of these storms give way to sunshine before long and you are soon arm-in-arm again, all forgiven and forgotten.
Adults have longer memories; they bear grudges, grudges that they hold on to like grim death even though in the process they hurt themselves more than anyone else. For them, how long “Never” is may depend on how obstinate they are, how long they’re willing to deny themselves the possibility of forgiveness.
One of my favorite Jimmie Rodgers songs is the Never No Mo’ Blues. The singer has lost his lover and he is inconsolable. He declares that his life is a failure, because:
She won’t be my gal no mo’ no mo’ no mo
His last yodeled no mo-o’ is drawn out like a hound howling at the moon. He closes:
Now whether I’m right or wrong
I’m gonna be gone before long
And then I’ll hush this crazy song
And I never will sing
No mo’, no mo-o’
It is a devastating thought to me that someone could forever deny himself the joy of singing, one of the chief means by which he might be able to find consolation.
In the aftermath of a really tragic event like yesterday’s blasts at the Boston Marathon, it is too soon to speak of forgiveness. In the face of so much pain, people must draw together protectively. But while I am hearing deep sorrow, disbelief, determination to keep strong and to see justice done, I’m not hearing talk of vengeance or the drum-beat for a scapegoat. We won’t forget this soon. But Never is a long time.