Tag Archives: child

cracked.

Innocence shattered. A broken reputation. A Cub Scout criminal. My initiation into the wrong side of the law was on a hot summer Sunday afternoon in 1968, when I was just a sun-kissed, freckle-faced, blond-haired skinny kid who was barely 11 years old.

My family had just moved into a newly built home in West Goshen Township. It was a small brick and stucco ranch house on a dead end street situated on a level sixth of an acre. I remember thinking upon entering the side kitchen door and then walking through the dining room, the living room and hallway that it seemed like it took hours to get to my own bedroom in THIS castle. Echoed footsteps on hardwood floors shadowed me from where we moved in our small cramped apartment in the country. I no longer had to share a room with my brother and I no longer had to sleep in the bunk beds of youth.

Freedom for sure… but at what price?

This particularly warm Sunday in June about a month after we moved in, my parents had invited some of our relatives over for a house warming party. The back yard was dotted with aqua blue and sunshine yellow folding web-woven lawn chairs. Red, white and blue Budweiser cans littered a plastic table cloth covered picnic table, as a brand new “colonial orange” charcoal briquette-filled grill from Sears Roebuck puffed white smoke. Several of my laughing aunts and uncles tossed colorful lawn darts toward circular targets among weaving toddlers. Sure, the game was dangerous, but my family was all about living on the edge… and on this day, the family tree was swayin’ and making this branch take a lawless twist to the ground.

In the late afternoon, several of my similarly–aged cousins and I had become bored of the back yard festivities and determined (after we checked with our parents, of course) that perhaps we needed to explore this new uncharted neighborhood and some of its adjoining wild territories. We voted to take a short walk nearby to the newly opened West Goshen Shopping Center across Paoli Pike. We were an eager handful of energetic youngsters looking for an adventure of discovery. We clapped and sang our own made up songs as we strolled to the end of this new street.

Once we crossed the highway, the group of us ran down a hill like an invading army and quickly filled the sleepy “Thrift Drug” store. It was the only store in the whole shopping center that was open on Sundays. We located a large freezer toward the front of the store and began to grab at the boxes of cold, colorful selections of flavored “Twin Popsicles.” The popsicles cost a nickel and they were just what we needed to cool down on this steamy day.

The shopping center was full of stores that were closed on Sundays and was anchored by the ACME Supermarket. The center also included a Hallmark card store, a book store, a Woolworths 5 and 10, a corner hardware store, a men’s clothing store called Ward & Ward and other assorted smaller stores that time has fogged from my memory.

As we sucked the frozen juice of the pops, we left the drug store and came out into the warm summer heat. We headed a short distance toward the ACME where there were groups of neatly stacked chrome shopping carts just begging for our attention. They were all lined up in a straight row of glistening metal baskets on wheels.

I’m not sure exactly who decided to pull a cart out from the pack and start pushing it, but soon the older cousins and I had the smaller kids inside the carts as we shoved them over the sidewalks of the shopping center. Their squeals of laughter at riding in these buggies provoked us to push faster as we raced each other in a frenzy of four-wheeled fun. Back and forth we went, occasionally bumping into each other while the sweaty tiny passengers with cherry red Popsicle lips were giggling at the metallic crash that the carts would echo under the awning of our cement sidewalk “street.” We continued smashing into each other creating loud metal on metal crashes.

“Faster!” the kids would scream. “We want to go to the train station over there!” as they pointed their tiny fingers across the lot. They were indicating that the Ward and Ward Men’s store entrance was the station where we would pretend to fuel our carts and load and unload our tiny passengers. Ward and Ward had an indented entrance. Their doorway was off the main sidewalk allowing their floor to ceiling height windows to display more suits, slacks, shirts, neckties and shiny shoes. It was the PERFECT “train station.”

We quickly made it a race to see who could get there first, bumping each other along the short path to the “station.” There was room for two or three of our carts to be in this “station” area at a time. I had two of my little cousins in my cart as we spun around quicker, now in circles in a race in this tiny vestibule of glass. I too, the driver, was getting dizzy as we laughed then choked as we gasped for air. Suddenly, my cart got out of control and SMASHED directly into the front large glass window of the shop.

It was as if slow motion took over as I remember watching my small cousins turn white from the shock of crashing into the window. I remember watching the glass crack from the point of impact then shatter in large pieces as a deafening alarm went off echoing even louder in the cramped area. I watched in open-mouthed amazement as the cart actually continued traveling into the shop itself as my cousins hopped out of the cart onto crunching glass and out of the store as they ran past me.

I froze. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. All I heard was the shrieking alarm and my feet were glued to the floor of the sidewalk. As I turned slowly around, I could see all my cousins running toward home, a few of them looking back with frightened faces to see if I was coming. “Come on Eddy!” they mouthed, “We have to get home now!” I was still stuck to the ground as my numbed mind began to awaken and I started to run. My cousins were almost near the highway as I tried to pick up my lagging, dreamlike pace.

Suddenly I heard the loud wails of sirens. Quickly, flashing red and blue lights were everywhere as I panicked and stopped in my tracks. I was immediately surrounded by West Goshen Police cars, with no way out. I watched as my cousins crossed the highway in the distance and were quickly out of sight.

I was an emotional child growing up. I was very shy and would cry at the drop of a hat. I once cried to get out of a school holiday play in the second grade so I wouldn’t have to put on a homemade doctor’s uniform to the girl’s nurses costumes. It was pathetic. And now, with this shattered window fiasco, I began to tear up thinking I was going to jail for a very long time.

I stood there motionless as the two policemen approached me with pads of paper out and looking like they were ready to cart me off to some unknown prison in the bowels of a West Goshen Township Building somewhere. The alarm continued to scream as I imagined a diet of bread and water and a hard iron holed bed with no mattress and I began to sob. This was no way to begin my initiation into this new neighborhood. I cried harder still, as the two policemen looked at each other and shrugged. The taller one put his hand on my shoulder and asked me to take a seat in the back of his still flashing police car. I was devastated. I could see a handful of Sunday shoppers looking at me. I was ashamed. I became a criminal that day.

The store’s alarm finally stopped.

My ears still ringing, I watched in silence as the policemen took notes, observed the scene of the crime, took a few measurements and put up some yellow tape. Was I going to be on the news? Would my name be in the paper? Would I get out of doing my math homework? I was contemplating my ruined future as my Dad rolled up in his black Ford Falcon with red bucket seats. Tears began to pour down my cheeks as he strolled up to the police officers while he glanced my way.

All I could think of was that I JUST got a new bed room and now I wouldn’t get to use it. What would my Mom think? Would my family have to move from their new home in shame? My Dad was making gestures and continued to talk as the tall officer continued to write on his yellow pad. Finally, Dad turned and started to walk toward me. I couldn’t read his face through my red and throbbing eyes. He told me to get out of the car and to hop in his. I stood as he slipped his arm around my shoulder and whispered that I would have to pay for the shattered window.

I never did.

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the gift.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Almost too long… but the mind has settled, the heart has slowed, the breathing has grown patterned once again and the fingers want to caress the keys from the soul’s bright spirit today.

I haven’t written lately because Daryl and I have been way too busy enjoying a summer FILLED with garden parties and iced teas, late night dancing ‘til dawn, orgies loaded with lube and Liza and dinners in Paris and cocktails in Amsterdam! Who the fuck am I kidding. I had no words to share. Period.

Many things have happened in the lives of Salt n’ Peppah in the past few months. Many things. We are on a twisted but determined path of continued growth as we look forward to a future filled with trials, tribulations, more challenges and… more lube and much less Liza.

One of the changes that we are looking forward to with great anticipation, is the birth of a grandchild in February 2012 (due date of 2/29 – Leap Year and SO appropriate). Ashley and Quintin told us (and my Mom) of their impending kidlet several weeks ago via a SKYPE conversation from Queenstown, New Zealand. Looking back in retrospect, I believe Daryl and I “like-totally” squealed as if we were two 12 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Like a couple of scientists, we studied a blurry black and white ultrasound that Ashley held up to the monitor while she explained technically that our grandchild currently had a tail. Once our shrieking died down to a couple of very wide grins, the kids assured us that they were holding up well and are planning on heading back home to our area of the world toward Thanksgiving of this year. Sigh.

We were THE FIRST family members that the kids shared their news with (I found out later in the conversation, that we were considered the easy “dry-run.”) and we were told specifically (read: threatened) NOT to post on Face Book or my blog until they had shared their news with other family members and several friends.

We are VERY good at keeping secrets. Daryl and I didn’t tell a SOUL that we knew that had ANY link to Face Book or a computer. We told the mailman. We told one of the Mexican landscapers (who I think believes we were asking him to turn off his weedwacker). We told a lady in the checkout line of the ACME while she was looking at a People magazine with some pregnant model on the cover, and I actually told a design customer of mine who didn’t realize I WAS married to a woman several years ago and that I had three grown children at all, as she eyed me up and down skeptically while blurting, “No effin’ way you homo.”.

Daryl is as ecstatic as a show tune writer on an episode of GLEE. He is looking forward to a grandbaby… A LOT. He has always considered my children like his own. He has followed them with me through many things in the short seven year period that he’s known them. He’s been a very active part in birthdays, graduations, family game nights, holidays, dinners as well as my son’s difficult battle with drug addiction. They find Daryl adorable, caring, comedic and a very welcome member of our ever growing dis-functionally functional family.

It’s been several locked lipped weeks of laptop keyboard silence and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and ponder on how “I” feel about being a grandparent for the first time. The age thing doesn’t bother me. You know, that thing where we THINK we’re still in high school and we’re not old enough to be a graaaannnnd parent. Fuck off, I like my AARP membership. I was a pretty good parent when the kids were small, so having a young kid around doesn’t intimidate me at all.

This child will have parents that rival Brad and Angelina with regard to spirit, tree-hugginess, intellect, worldliness, culture and love. One recent afternoon as I was driving home from work on a beautiful back road of Chester County during an unusually striking sunset, I began to tear up out of nowhere thinking about this new life, this new child growing inside MY child! I began to get emotional…

WHAT could I even begin to offer a young child at this stage of the game? Here is one half of a hopefully maturing interracial gay couple who basically lives from paycheck to paycheck in a job that pay the bills but is in no means what I aspire to be. I hang out with my guy when our mixed up work schedules allow with NEVER a full day off together unless I call out sick or plan way in advance. I don’t travel the world. My car is not a “Beemer,” and my suits aren’t Armani. So I wondered… what CAN I offer this child…

Then today… I read with much surprise and even more humility, this dedication to me from a fellow “blogster” whom I have known briefly in blog months (we write a lot of emotional stuff, so a month in the blogosphere is like a year or two in the real world). She, like I, continues to struggle with clinical depression on occasion and she has been “pourin’ her cotton pickin’ heart out” on her blog about dealing with the blackness, the loneliness and the strangling grip that this disease can have on people.

I believe she is an incredible writer and has a way of pulling out all the stops when describing the effects that this debilitating disease can have. I commented to her that I wanted to thank her for just being who she is. I told her she is a gift. I believe she IS.

That’s when it hit me about what I can offer this newest member of my growing insanely diverse family. The gift of truth. The gift of practicing non judgement. The gift of a world with less discrimination. I can not only speak about the amazing positive impacts of diversity but I (with the help of Daryl) can actually SHOW this youngster what it means to be honest with one’s self and what it means to be real with others. To not be as concerned with whether its important to wear the right designer dress or play in the dirt with American made trucks, as much as how important is to be a good person first… to care, respect and love whomever you want, whenever you want.

I personally, cannot wait!

(Please take a few moments to read PissyKittysLitterBox blog… she really is quite talented!)

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That FIRST Father’s Day after…

Dad on his boat, where he always seemed to be the happiest.

My Dad passed away last year two days after Christmas of heart failure. It was quick and, according to medical professionals, painless. I’m grateful for that and I believe my Dad would be grateful for that as well. He was a very proud hard–working man’s man who would have found it undignified to have withered away slowly and painfully, having to depend on others for his personal care.

It’s still odd that I can’t pick up the phone to wish him a Happy Father’s Day this first year without him. Something I took for granted. He had JUST learned to “text” from his phone. Something I’m sure he learned in order to stay in touch with his granddaughters. We would exchange text messages and I would always joke with him by teaching him to use emoticons and to sign off with “c u soon!” I’d criticize his typos and he’d LOL. I still have that last Holiday text wish on my phone. I still have his number on my phone as well. I just can’t delete it yet, as he may decide to call me someday if the brimstone and fire haven’t melted his phone yet.

I wanted to get a card for him while I was at the mall last week returning a shirt. I just wanted to get a Father’s Day card and send it SOMEwhere… ANYwhere really. I was frustrated with that a bit. I was also annoyed that the mall was decorated for “DAD’s DAY.” Photos and banners EVERYwhere indicating that Dad deserved this tie or that shirt. How could this “holiday” even go on without my Dad? I remember when I was younger and I would be at the mall with my Dad on the very rare occasion that he would go. I would always get so frustrated because he’d “dawdle.” He wasn’t a shopper. He’d walk so damn slow. It frustrated the hell out of me. I miss it now.

I don’t think any of us ever think our Fathers will leave this world really. We think them indestructible. Honestly, later in life, when I realized he was a mere mortal and full of flaws, I came to love him deeply and unconditionally. The funny thing about that was he did the same to me… accepting my own midlife “crisis” of coming out.

I think he’d find comfort in knowing something that Dad’s RARELY if EVER get to hear while living… “Dad, you did a great job with what you were given. I appreciate you and thank you for that.” Say it to YOURS today and as many other days as you can.

I’ll finish this blurb about my Dad with just a few words to describe him. He was a simple man and I think he’d appreciated this.

Flawed. Funny. Proud. Humble. Hard working. Dedicated. Sailor. Protector. Accepting. Quiet. Confident. Silver Hair. Thick glasses. Over-achiever. Annoying. Loved his family. Cash, never credit. Fast cars. Fast boats. Slow boats. Stubborn. And last but not least… he was a DEVOTED Dallas Cowboys fan from the word GO.

Love you Dad. Miss u much!

Your son,

Edwin Leroy Williams, Jr.

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rear window.

image courtesy IMDB

Daryl and I have lived at our current location for close to 5 years now. Our 2nd floor condo has a small tastefully decorated patio that overlooks several other areas of our condo-opolis. During the warm days of summer, I like to partake in the occasional cocktail whilst (hate pretentious writers that use that word, but I’ve always wanted to use it myself just because… I can) observing this condo-opolis community whilst tossing the obligatory three-finger wave to those neighbors that insist on communicating.

I remember, as a teen, being infatuated with the 1954 Hitchcock thriller, entitled Rear Window staring James Stewart and Grace Kelly (not to be confused with a favorite porn flick entitled “Back Door” starring Mitch Cock). I’ve always considered myself an “observer” of life’s situations and I believed to have a front row seat (albeit a WHEELchair and armed with high-power binoculars) like Mr. Stewart would be the perfect way to do just that!

That being said, I have recorded several “observations” from our 2nd story patio. We live in a rather diverse neighborhood, so please bear in mind that I am in no way perpetuating stereotypes, however I can only say what I saw… see what I saw… seesaw…

These observations are in no particular order:

Mexicans do all the landscaping.

Black men do all the trash pick up.

“The Gays” have the prettiest patios.

Lesbians have the sturdiest decks.

Italians have the smallest decks, but act like they’re huge.

Baptists play Gospel music the loudest (for some reason more so when the gays/lesbians are having friends over).

Thugs always have cars with tinted windows, the deepest bassed music blaring from the tiniest of speakers and usually three out of four shiny hubcaps.

Republicans always fly American flags.

Democrats usually have pretty flower or cute bunny flags.

Blue collar maintenance men have the filthiest mouths and the nicest asses.

Fat people don’t pick up their dog’s shit.

Men always spit.

Retired folks always have a bench or a chair just outside their front door, under a hand-made wreath.

The mailman has the best looking legs.

Little kids always stomp UP the hall stairs, run DOWN the hall stairs, and never fail to SLAM the front door.

The UPS guy is always hot.

Birds always dive at rogue cats.

Cats always ignore diving birds.

And finally, baby strollers are beginning to look like SUV’s as are the Mother’s pushing them.

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let THAT summer begin!

Summer officially begins this weekend.

I will be inside working several hours a day for the Memorial Day weekend sales, I (at times) will be thinking wistfully of childhood summers past. I had no Face Book, Twitter, texting or blogging inundating my young world. The only things my thumbs were doing back then were catching baseballs, butterflies and bubbles while pulling wads of pink gum in and out of my mouth.

I was about nine years old when my family lived in a tiny twin home several miles outside of West Chester in the small village of Marshallton, PA. My mother didn’t drive and my father worked several shifts for many hours with the Philadelphia Electric Company. My brother, John, and I were fairly isolated out in the country. Not that we minded. We always found something to keep us occupied and would spend many a full day playing outside and not watching television.

In contrast, my cousins, the Rulon family, lived in West Chester and happened to be members of the Bernard F. Schlegel Swim Club American Legion Post 134 on the outskirts of town on North New Street. In past summers, I went with them on occasion as a “guest” with the many passes they’d get for the season. One warm summer day, my Mom’s sister, Mary, surprised us by showing up at our house unannounced, driving my Uncle’s forest green Chevy pickup truck, bearing a sign in two lines of script paint: “Rulon’s Amusements – Jukeboxes, Pool Tables and Pinball Machines – sold and serviced.” She was honking the horn as she pulled in our driveway while my cousins including Steve, Randy, Billy, Jean and Danny were shouting and waving from the truck bed in the back proclaiming that we were going swimming! My brother and I quickly grabbed our bathing suits and towels as our mom, pregnant with our brother Rich, hurriedly packed a small blue and mint green plaid beach bag with snacks and extra towels. Holding onto matching flip flops from Woolworth’s, my brother and I climbed over the metal tailgate and into the back of the truck bed to a carpet of cousins.

My summer had officially begun!

We didn’t use seatbelts, hell we didn’t even have seat belts. It probably wasn’t safe in the back of the truck and it certainly wasn’t law, but we were FREE! As we began our adventure over country roads, we were seven young kids thrown into the back of a truck drinking cans of cooler-chilled grape and orange sodas while chewing and popping Bazooka Bubble gum. Mom and Aunt Mary and the smaller tots Nina and Timmy were sandwiched snuggly in the cab as we older kids hooted loudly while we were tossed about in the back of the truck like drunken sailors on a stormy sea. The warm summer sun would scuffle with the cool shade of the dark green trees to touch our skin, blinking over us as we wound our way around deeply curved bends and over stone-laden bridges. Our thin light hair was blown about our scrubbed freckled faces in the wind and into our sparkling eyes.

We found ourselves “surfing” in the truck’s bed by holding on to two tension straps and a few thick ropes that my Uncle had in the truck which he used in his business to secure pinball machines and pool tables while delivering them to customers. We tied them to a brace at the cab of the truck and as we rounded curves or hit bumps in the road we’d roll and giggle hysterically as we’d fall to the floor of the bed while the other kids would try to break the fall.

I absorbed the scent of the cool dark forests we traveled through as our journey to the pool continued. The dank smell of decomposing leaves from summers before and the fragrance of new pollen and honeysuckle mixing to create a world of shaded serenity. Occasionally, a small bug would hit me in the face but never bothered me as our trek continued through the back roads of the country. We made up songs to pass the time as we played Punch Buggy and counted out of state license plates (with limited success on country roads).

As we finally entered the winding driveway onto the thickly wooded acreage of the VFW, the combination of charcoal briquettes, hot dogs and the chlorine from the crystal blue pool wafted from the base of the hill. The “boing” sound of divers pushing from the diving boards, kids squealing and radios playing indicated our ride was almost over. We leapt out of the truck before it barely stopped and skipped in bare feet over grass and stone to the locker rooms to change.

The cement floor of the locker room was cold on the bottoms of my feet as I stripped into my bathing suit on a bench in the dampness. The echo of voices chatting in the showers and slamming metal lockers barely kept my interest as I rushed outside to the blinding sunshine and burning concrete. Realizing I forgot my flip flops in the locker room, I went back into the dimness and found them on the floor. I returned poolside to where my aunt and mother were already setting up camp under the shade of the many tall oak trees. I watched briefly as some of my cousins ran (then walked quickly as the lifeguard’s whistle chastised them) to jump into the pool. I could smell the barbeque beginning at the VFW at top of the hill and I watched as small wisps of white smoke from the grills drifted lazily like the echoes of ghosts through the trees above.

My stomach grumbled softly indicating that I was slightly hungry since I had only a small bowl of Captain Crunch cereal for breakfast while watching Gene London earlier in the morning, but I could wait for our lunch by the mansion on the hill in the afternoon. Apparently, the VFW was having what they called a “clam bake” later in the day and we were all invited! I glanced once more at the light bustling of activity on the hill before I spun around and leapt into the clear cold water creating hardly a splash with my slight boyish frame. I felt my heart race and my eyes sting from the chlorine as the noise outside became muffled in this underwater world of human legs. The pool hadn’t quite warmed up to the bath-like temperatures of late July and August as I immediately pushed to the surface and turned around to see my mother setting up her aluminum woven lawn chair and placing it securely in the grass.

My cousins, brother and I spent hours splashing, playing Marco Polo and dunking each other throughout the early afternoons blazing sun. Halfway through the day our moms provided tee shirts (our version of sunscreen) to put on so we wouldn’t get too much sunburn. The pool became very crowded during the day as the older teens began a game of volleyball in the deeper end. I watched while seated on a damp towel next to my mother as the ball was hit out of the pool in my direction. I squinted in the sun as I stood up and ran to get the ball and threw it into the “pool of popularity” with a splash. No one said thank you as I sat back down on the towel and tuned out the screaming teens.

I stretched my skinny arms to the sky and lay down on the towel while listening to the birds in the tree branches above me. The clattering noise around me turned into a dull drone as I sighed then drifted off to sleep while watching another wisp of smoke from the hill above drift lightly toward the sky.

My brother ended my brief slumber as he came out of the pool to dry off and shook his head over me like a dog shakes his body to dry off. “Creep!” I yelled as I sat up and tried to smack him in the knee and missed. He laughed as he dug deep into the beach bag for a box of pretzels as someone’s radio played the “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees in the distance. Two of my cousins were playing the card game “Go Fish” on a towel by the chairs as Aunt Mary suggested we pack up and head up to the hill for something to eat.

We needed no further instruction as we grabbed what we could and headed quickly across the sidewalk of the pool passed the baby pool and exited through the locker room leaving Mom and Aunt Mary tagging behind. Dumping the folding chairs and towels in the back of the truck, we continued through the gravel parking lot on our march to the hill.

I love the big house on the hill known as the VFW. As a nine year old, I have no idea what VFW even means, nor do I care. The large windowed mansion of massive stone sits like a fortress with a deep set slate covered porch around the entire place and it has a portico. I didn’t know what a portico was either until I asked my Grandmother last year when we were here and she explained it to me. The mansion is surrounded by stoic oak trees that tower over it like multi-armed soldiers, guarding the palace from the summer’s heat and humidity. Three stories of stately stone and mortar supported with thick white pillars and garnished with matching painted multi-pained windows that surely must have been a grand home to a family at one time long ago. I sometimes imagine it haunted with the specter of a long lost widowed bride standing breathless on the heavy stone steps, holding onto a pillar during a violent thunderstorm while staring into the lightning filled valleys in search of her lost captain of war as her gown blows frantically in the wind.

I snapped back into reality as I watched the older boys racing to the top of the hill, quickly getting lost in the small crowds of men and women seated around smoking grills eating corn cobs and clams while sucking down cool mugs of beer. Loud guffaws of laughter boomed from the broad porch as someone must have shared a joke.

This was THE clambake.

The food smelled incredible and my stomach began to give away my plight. As I crested the hill and came upon the grounds of the house, I was all at once enveloped into a party like atmosphere of sights and sounds that truly overloaded the mind of this nine year old. Torches of fire were stuck in the ground as decoration as the smell of burgers and fish drifted from the iron slated brick enclosed grills. My mouth began to salivate as I watched my cousin Steve grab a couple of plates and hand them to the group of us as we waited in a short line to get food. I watched as flames lapped from the depths of the grill, licking the smoking food that was about to be devoured.

Music was playing from the jukebox which had been wheeled out on to the porch from inside the home where the VFW “bar” was located. As I munched a sweet ear of corn, I watched as men smoking cigars wondered in and out of the bar area. I observed as they joked with each other or compared the scores of the latest ball game.

Mom and Aunt Mary, both with slightly sunburned Irish faces, clutching plates sat down with the rest of us as we finished off the better part of our early dinner. I could see the sun drifting further toward the horizon as I yawned. Aunt Mary tossed her red hair in the breeze as she sipped a beer and laughed at something my Mom was explaining to her.

Jean, Dan, John and I got up and headed to the larger area of the porch to watch the adults dance to the records playing from the jukebox. We watched as “Wild Thing” by the Troggs enraptured the hips, feet and waists of the older folks. I would snicker as Jean and I attempted to emulate the steps they were doing. Our Moms came up and danced with us in circles as we laughed and stomped our way into dusk.

Finally, Aunt Mary said it was time to “hit the road” as the coals in the grills began to fall apart and the men on the porch began to fall down. We were full and tired as a woman that knew Mom had given her a box of popsicles from the freezer in the VFW and we headed toward the truck.

Our faces were freckled and sunburned as we sucked melting Twin Pops from rounded wooden sticks and our fingers. We shared the color of our tongues to each other as we rode home in the sultry summer air on this first day of summer. I slept well that night.

Happy Memorial Day to all of you! Enjoy your time spent with family and friends. Peace.

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look at that cloud!

As I lay on the hilltop this breezy spring day in the grass with my 7 year old niece, I felt myself child-like.

It was a rough week for me. I had lost my Dad a month before due to his health. I was worn out from the constant running back and forth to the hospital after work. The funeral and bill arrangements had gotten the best of me. I had recently experienced a nasty early spring head cold and work was busier and more demanding than usual. I wasn’t sleeping or eating particularly well.

I was an exhausted adult.

Then one day during a visit with my niece, Charlie (short for Charlene), she had asked me to climb to the top of the hill behind my condo to watch the clouds go by. In my haste, I had initially dismissed her by pointing to a plate of freshly baked cookies as I watched TV, but she persisted, “Uncle Ed, there are many puffy clouds today that we need to visit!” Tiredly, I surrendered and grabbed our light jackets as I shut the door behind us and headed toward the hill.

She instinctively reached for my hand and off we went.

Charlie began skipping and looked at me with her wide green eyes as she pouted, “Skip with me Uncle Ed, it’s FUN, I promise!” I rolled my eyes and as I began to explain that grown men don’t skip, my feet began to betray my head as if adult opinions had no place in childhood. It amazed me how quickly the simple act of skipping came flooding back. It immediately threw me into a tailspin of childhood and I grinned stupidly as we worked to synchronize our rhythms. Charlie giggled loudly as I hoped no one heard her and would see me in the insane dance of youth.

As we approached the hill my thoughts drifted to the scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz, when the characters are running through a field of poppies with the beautiful Emerald City in view. Our pace picked up, our hands broke apart, and we ran! Charlie squealed with delight as she took off leaving me behind in her push to the top of her world.

I smiled uneasily as my breathing became somewhat labored in the fresh cool air.

As I crested the top of this rolling mound of deep green blowing in the wind, I had to stop to catch my breath. Charlie was spinning wildly around in a circle while her long light hair danced freely in the air. Twisting as she yelled, “I’m dizzy Uncle Ed! I’m gonna spin forever until I fall! Come spin with me!” Her tiny sneakers tip toeing forward at a wobbly pace. I felt captivated by this power of childhood as I began to spin. I threw my arms out like a propeller, I thrust my head and fingers to the sky and I spun wildly. I opened my eyes, and then closed them to feel the effect of being at the top of the world spinning madly out of control as my stomach grew butterflies.

I felt free!

Charlie and I collided and laughed hard as we crashed together to the coolness of the hilltop’s blanket of grass. Her laugh teetered back and forth from a full belly guffaw to hysterical giggle as I barely recognized my own sounds of joy. Our breathing grew silent as our gazes turned to the sky.

How this day of blue ceiling was created is truly a miracle of nature to me. The color was surely that of something no simple man could ever construct. I lay awestruck in continued silence as I could almost hear the white cotton-like clouds dancing and drifting by as if to heaven’s music while they were putting on a show for only us. The clouds became animated and changed their shapes swiftly as they twirled in groups of soft splendor.

“Look at THAT cloud over there Uncle Ed! It looks like an elephant eating an ice cream cone, doesn’t it?” broke Charlie into the quiet sunshine. “See him holding it with his trunk?” she asked. “YES! I do!” I shouted back, to which Charlie immediately explained that I could use my indoor voice if I wanted to. I chuckled out loud as I studied the white formations in search of something spectacular. “Look at that one Charlie. Over there in that clump of clouds… do you see that telephone shape?” I asked. “See the dial with the headset on top?” Charlie rolled over and looked directly into my face with a smirk and answered, “What’s a dial?” I snickered as I realized that she had no knowledge of what a dial to a phone was in our smart phone world, so I quickly pointed to the moving formation of a face in the sky. “Look at that face Charlie! That woman’s face and the mouth is moving too!” I motioned, as she just as quickly spotted a snake about to eat a chicken leg.

We giggled again then grew silent as we just watched.

We continued to peer at the puffy presentation passing slowly by. I could sense my breathing as it calmed to a gentle roll and my heart became light. How did I deserve this gift of a child to bring MY child out in me? He hides most times, shy but lingering in so many quiet spaces of my soul as he waits for that fleeting chance to climb a tree, kick a can or run blindly with a kite in the sand even if only figuratively for a time. True laughter reigns in the hearts of children. Real laughter reigns hidden in me, I sighed softly to myself.

“Look at that really dark cloud over there Uncle Ed!” Charlie pointed out innocently; “THAT is definitely our Obama isn’t it?” I laughed, and then bellowed harder still. Tears began to roll as Charlie looked quizzically at me and asked “Why are you crying?” I had no answer as I wiped my sleeve across my face and stood to reach out to her. “Let’s go eat lunch,” I exclaimed. “I’d like to have strawberry ice cream for lunch,” she spoke with authority. My initial adult reaction was to say no as my mouth blurted, “Strawberry ice cream it is!”

We rolled down the hill laughing more that afternoon. Grass stains and sore muscles be damned! It felt GOOD; REAL good as I stood up dizzily as I reached my hand out to help Charlie stand. “Thanks Uncle Ed, for a very fun time!” she tweeted. My eyes began to water as I mumbled something about allergies and thanked HER as we hugged.

We skipped home as we sang “Weeee’re off to see the Wizard…”

(this is a work of fiction that is based on several wonderful memories of my own children and dedicated to them back in the day…)

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I keep telling her NOT to grow up, but she does.

 

Ashley and Quintin

Last night, Daryl and I had a WONDERFUL dinner with our oldest daughter Ashley and her freshly linked (read: married in December of 2010) partner Quintin. Ashley texted me a few hours before my shift at work was over to meet them at the local P.F. Changs. I was very excited because I didn’t think Daryl and I would get a chance to see them before they left for their delayed “honeymoon.”

These two kids (who I sometimes refer to lovingly as “gypsies,”) are heading to Australia and New Zealand for about ten months of “eco-touring” at the Great Barrier Reef, Panda preserves and other various stops along the way. They plan on traveling around these destinations and living on sofas and in hostels and perhaps a small apartment and finding small jobs along the way to enjoy each other’s company and to experience parts of the world and cultures around them.

Over a fantastically prepared dinner, as they’re explaining to us, about how they found an “organization” that lists “sofas” and places to “crash” while traveling internationally, and the hazards of worrying about weight limits of packing luggage,  I sort of glazed over a bit after my third “Plum Collins” cocktail as I had one of those moments like in the Steve Martin version of “Father of the Bride” where his adult daughter is talking to him but he sees her as the 6 or 7 year old child he remembers. I briefly think that she’s not old enough to fly on a plane halfway across the globe without a booster seat.

I wistfully wondered where this child went that I used to take for walks in parks as she picked up every rock, pinecone, feather and bug that we encountered along the way. Pockets bulging with trinkets and natural treasures of the day. I wonder why I didn’t just KEEP her on the playground swing as I watched her fine hair blowing wildly with each push to the sky. The kid just HAD to grow up.

I DO like her being grown up. I love her as my daughter, but I REALLY LIKE HER as an adult too. She’s an articulate, intelligent, well mannered, respectful woman, who loves her family, her husband and who revels in the world around her. What more could a parent wish for?

If you’d like to read about some of their journeys across the United States from the past few years and also glimpse at their recent nuptials as well as see what they’re up to when they get “down under,” take a look at http://faralongtheroad.com.

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