This guy is my dad. I get to spend the 4th of July with him (and my mom, brother and sister-in-law too.) He got a discount on his coffee at McDonald’s today because of what that hat represents. He’s a veteran and there was a time when he caught flack for that. It means a lot when someone acknowledges his service. So, if you see this guy, shake his hand and say thanks.
Happy Independence Day!
The Weather Channel had a picture of a cloud and lightning with raindrops in the 7 o’clock slot last night. We’ve been praying for rain all month and now it’s getting critical. I read in the newspaper that our small town only has minute’s worth of water in the tower it uses to supply the fire hydrants here. It’s dry and we’re approaching the fourth of July. Common sense would indicate avoiding anything with a spark but odds are someone is going to do something stupid.
So, we’ve been praying for rain. We’ve hung our hopes on that little icon of a thunderstorm.
After a hot sunny day with temperatures at somewhere near 105 degrees, the sky clouded over and then the wind picked up, a lot. I went outside to check the sky because I’m one of those crazy people who goes outside when a storm is approaching. I could smell it, ozone in the dry air. I could feel the humidity rise around me. The scorching wind was building and dust was puffing up from the dry grass as debris blasted across the yard. I scrunched up my eyes to protect them then threw out my arms and turned full circle as I was joined by my son and his girlfriend. “Can you believe it,” I asked. “It really might rain.” We were joyous, giddy really. I grabbed their hands and we ran to the driveway and danced in a circle and then my husband and younger son joined us. “You’re doing it wrong,” my older son said. “This is how you do a rain dance!” He slapped his knees and did a little jig and then slapped his shoulders in a crisscross and kicked out his heels. We tried to copy his steps and ended up laughing and spinning around in the wind with our arms outstretched, palms open to the sky. In the suddenly cool wind, I felt a single drop of rain hit my palm and evaporate. It was there and then it wasn’t. I prayed for rain and I received a single drop.
The purple sky soon lightened to gray; the wind died and the sunshine returned. The ground was still as parched as before the storm and we all returned to whatever we were doing before the wind came. I received a single drop of rain and the memory of a joyous random dance with my family.
Closing a chapter and turning a page. It’s always bittersweet. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as my kids have become grown men right before my eyes. Yesterday, I met some friends to turn the page on a poignant time in my life. For two summers, we showed up to put on a little Shakespeare in the Park under the leadership of Gary. He brought us all together. Outside the fray of the community he and his wife assembled for the task, I met so many great people. We worked together, ate and drank together, and raised kids together. And then Gary died, suddenly, and we were left without our leader.
Yesterday, I met his wife and her fiancé along with a few friends to empty the storage container left unchecked since that last summer together. Right away, Gary’s absence was evident. The container was locked with a combination lock and as his wife Andrea said, “the combination died with Gary.” Bolt cutters made quick work of the stumbling block but the look on Andrea’s face stays with me. How many times a day is she hit with these tiny reminders that he is really gone?
We sorted through crates and made piles. There was a sewing machine, an electric fire log, and a large blue cooler. We found wooden swords that prompted reminiscing and Macbeth’s severed head brought laughter. We carried sheet after sheet of painted flats and platforms on wheels and frames for risers to the U-Haul truck. The items Andrea chose to keep were practical and small. Props and fabric were selected to be donated to high school theater departments and local acting troupes and I offered to dispose of whatever was left. The decision was made to move it all to our house to be stacked up behind our construction shop. I now own the remainder of those summers. Maybe I was just offering my friend a solution. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to let that stuff go.
Monday was Valentine’s Day, and as I traveled down U.S. 40 to pay a visit to our insurance agent, I saw evidence of the commercial nature of this bright holiday. In the parking lot of a florist shop, across from a large shopping center, I saw a man-sized, hot pink gorilla. Against the backdrop of the florist’s neon “open” sign, the pink gorilla man kicked his heels. He danced a little “stir the pot”, and waved his arms at passing cars to, “come on in.” I’m not really sure what a dancing gorilla has to do with Valentine’s Day, but the parking lot was full so it appeared to be working.
Along the way, I saw shops with flowers arranged to form giant red and pink hearts in windows and vans on exit ramps with 5-gallon buckets of flowers for the lover who can’t quite commit to parking the car and walking in. There were chocolate shops, their windows filled with red foil wrapped cardboard hearts and sandwich boards adorned with heart-shaped Mylar balloons announcing the best deal around on a dozen roses.
The over-the-top ridiculous competition to get people to spend some cash on one day out of the year made me giggle and the gorilla made me laugh out loud. But, one sight that day made my heart swell.
In a neighborhood that had seen better days; the clapboard buildings in need of paint and curbs still wearing weeds from last fall, I saw a young man, probably a teen. He wore his hair shaved close to his head and jeans three sizes too big, belted mid-thigh. He had the hood of his over sized sweatshirt pulled over his head, but I could still see the firm set of his jaw as he walked down the street. He had just left a florist shop with a large bundle of red roses wrapped in Valentine red tissue paper. He carried the bundle in one hand, held out from his body as if it might burst into flames any moment. Carrying flowers, it appears, didn’t fit his Eminem emulating image.
A crazy day of commercialism inspired this guy to step way outside his comfort zone and into a flower shop. I hope he was on a personal mission that day, taking that bundle to someone he loves. I like to imagine that the tough-looking young man I saw along US 40 on Valentine’s Day has a tender place in his heart.
I’ve managed to write every morning for about two weeks now. Today, I am just not feeling it. I think it’s partly because I have to be out of the house early this morning and partly because I’m in a bummed out state of mind.
Today in The Daily Writer, Fred encourages us to write out of love. Most of my writing comes from a place of love because I write personal essays inspired by memories. Fred talks about taking it a step further and using our writing to reach out and take part in the world. His challenge is to come up with a project about a topic close to our hearts and write in a way that will convey our love to the reader. His assignment is a call to action to take a stand about something from our community, country or world and write it down out of love.
Shortly after the 2008 Presidential Election, I wrote about my feelings. I think it’s time to find that essay and edit it with this assignment in mind.