8/16/14

Sometimes we have to push those old memories away.....to make room for the new ones. (Live for the day, my friends....)








I imagine it must have been very hard to be the second son of a successful Navy pilot.  

It must have been equally difficult growing up with an older (and quite handsome) brother whose path to the Naval Academy was handed to him wrapped on gold lined parchment paper and given to him in the nursery of the Naval hospital on the day he was born.

I can’t feel too sorry for the young man who just as handsome and many times more daring than his older brother.  Now, when I say daring I’m pretty sure I mean devilish and mischievous to the point that I’m sure he caused his parents ONE too many sleepless nights. 

The young girls in the neighborhood secretly loved the bad boy and would swoon when we caught glimpses of him speeding away on his bike towards an unfortunate adventure that almost always never ended well. (I think.)  He picked on his younger sister relentlessly, and I’m pretty sure the July sparkler that he put down her back was not the last time he sent her to the hospital. 

She was my best friend those long years ago on Lemon Road.  

I’m happy to say we are still friends, and I managed a quick trip to see her last weekend while on my extended vacation here on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  Through several texts and phone calls she managed to arrange a meeting with that rascally older brother of hers; A meeting on his very large and quite impressive Catamaran that he recently sailed up from the Bahamas. (cough, cough)  His wife, quite brilliantly, stayed on shore for that part of his adventure. (Good choice.)

I hadn’t seen him for over, oh, about THIRTY-FIVE YEARS, and I was thrilled that this year it might happen.  We’ve tried several times over recent years, but life always seems to get in the way.

We met John and his wife on the boat last Monday afternoon.   Our arms were filled with cheese, crackers, wine and memories of a long forgotten - but very happy – childhood, as we made our way down the dock to what looked like the biggest boat in the marina.  




I smiled when I saw him and realized that while time has tried very hard to leave its mark, he looked almost exactly as I remembered him.  He had a quick smile and eyes that laughed right along with it.  He reached his hand down to this fifty-year old teacher and hoisted her aboard as if I DIDN’T weigh…..well……you know. 


The hugs were long and hard and I tried very hard not to cry.  (Which, as you know, is no easy task.)  In those brief moments I wanted to say how sorry I was that he had lost his incredibly beautiful and wonderful mother not long ago.  I wanted to say how sorry I was that his amazing father passed a few months later of what everyone was convinced was a broken heart.   I wanted to tell him how happy I was that he had found a wonderful wife and partner, and was sad about the broken road that led him to that....and how glad I was that his successes have brought him to where he is today.


But instead, we laughed.  


He pretended to be turning the boat around because his sister was not enthusiastic about going out on the boat, but instead motored the boat out onto the Chesapeake Bay.   He stopped in the middle and we sat like kings on the beautiful rolling water and shared our stories.  We ate cheese, had some cocktails, exchanged woes and joys, shared news of our children  and enjoyed the lovely summer night.


 






Childhood memories are certainly magical.  But I’ve learned along the way that these (very cool) adult memories can be just as magical.





Thanks, John.




(Okay, and you TOO, Beth…and Kathy!!)









8/14/14

What Goes Around Comes Around...(aka Karma isn't ALWAYS a b*&#%)

As a child I always looked forward to going back to school in the fall.  As a parent I now realize that my parents were equally excited (if not more) for the same thing. 

Back then, some forty years ago, we didn’t spend the month of August looking for the school supply list, the stores with the best sales, or go on-line to see if the teachers needed something special for the beginning of the year.  At my house we went to the store with my mother to look for McCall’s and Simplicity patterns so she could sew us some new, cool (and matching) dresses.   We didn’t have to worry about supplies to start the year, and looked forward to shopping at the school store. 

At Lewinsville Elementary there was a “store” located inside the school where we could buy pencils, crayons and the best tasting paste in town!  My sister reminded me recently about how inexpensive and delicious the tiny container of paste was. “It was only 15 cents, and I remember how good it tasted!”  I’ll have to remember that this year as I watch the rascals sneaking glue sticks into their desks. Fortunately they’re not QUITE as tasty as the cheap, white paste. 

I’ve been watching the signs go up all summer reminding everyone that school is right around the corner.  I’m sure there are many parents who have already prepared the backpacks filled with all of the back to school necessities.  I’m equally confident that there are other parents, like me, who like to wait until the very last possible moment to perform that particular August ritual.  (It just makes that task a bit more exciting to do it as the last minute, don’t you think?)

For some parents in Arizona, however, they don’t have to perform that task at all thanks to an amazing act of generosity.

My intern from last year, sent me an email last week. She accepted a first grade teaching position near Smythefield, Arizona and started work a week ago. “You are not going to believe what just happened to me!  As you know I drove my car from Oregon to Arizona at the end of July.  I took my car to get it inspected and the mechanic told me that basically I needed a new car. I was so upset!  He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a first grade teacher.  He said he wanted my class list, because he wanted to buy a backpack with school supplies for my whole class!  I almost cried!  I did cry!”

A week later the mechanic held true to his promise, and 30 backpacks showed up in her  classroom.  Not only were they filled with pencils, markers, crayons, paper and erasers, they also held something else. Each backpack had a stuffed animal inside so that “each child would have someone to read do.” 

That act of generosity made this teacher tear up.


“Vodka,” she added, “this reminded me of what you always said - that when you throw good out into the world, it always comes back.  Thanks for teaching me so many things, but also the lessons about kindness and generosity.”

We’re all about to enter the hustle and bustle of this annual fall Back-to-School transition, but let’s remember some very important things.  Those markers, crayons and erasers are important for some of the activities that the kids will be doing.  But many of the important lessons that will be learned will be matters of the heart and soul.  Sure, they’ll be reading and writing, calculating math problems and performing science experiments.  But they’ll also learn to treat their classmates and their community with respect, kindness, generosity and love.


And, hopefully, no one will eat the paste.