Tag Archives: childhood

My Relationship to Ducks

mallard duck taking offThe reward for staring into the back of a pew for an hour every Sunday morning was a brief respite at the neighborhood duck pond. Catholic Mass probably would have been more torturous for my toddler self if the powers that be hadn’t left Latin behind, but as it was, all of the sermons and readings sounded muffled or mumbled. My strategy was to sit on my hands and wait for my two activities to arrive: passing the collection basket and shaking the hands of the people around me. Then I got to go and spread my love and all, as ordered by our pastor.

But really, I just wanted to feed the ducks.

Current proscriptions about sharing food with wild animals what they are, in the mid-1970s nobody balked at me showing up weekly with stale scraps of bread bundled in the plastic wrap of the loaf packaging. Read More…

Getting Wetter the More It Dries

When I was a child, I had a wonderful book called The Nonsense Book by Edward Lear, of riddles and jump rope rhymes, knock knock jokes, and logic puzzles. There were great illustrations here and there, but by far, the riddles section was my favorite. No contest. I learned every version of “What’s white and black and red all over,” and I could fire them off like any of the Catholic prayers drilled into me by the nuns of my primary school. Except the riddles were met with groans, and as far as I know, God didn’t groan at me, even when I was going through a whole rosary as penance for telling Danny McGuinness he had a fat head. Read More…

In the heat of the dusk

I like fireworks as much as the next person, assuming the person next to me likes fireworks as an annual, but not more frequent, source of half-hour entertainment. But I made the trek into the steamy Michigan night thinking that my niece and nephews would really really very much yes want to see the light show. I learned something new in the process:

  • The 13-year-old girl was more interested in recording the entire half-hour event onto her camera, having almost no interest in watching the explosions with her naked eyeballs.
  • The 10-year-old boy remarked, “eh, you’ve seen one set of fireworks, you’ve seen ’em all.”
  • The 3-year-old was thrilled beyond belief.

So why do we drag out our blankets and children and slap mosquitos off ourselves, pushing through slow-moving traffic to find that last parking spot, half a mile walk away? An extreme need for patriotism?

I plopped down on the ground, cuddling Susanne a little and watching the toddler fight for all the patience he had in him, waiting for the brightness to light up the indigo sky. We found a spot that framed the fireworks by two very large poplar trees, the kind that drove my mother crazy with all of their pollen, and that I played under as a child, because my sandbox caught its enormous shade and was viewable from the kitchen window. I can’t remember a single organized fireworks show that I saw as a kid. Instead we’d light our own fireworks on the sands of Myrtle Beach where we stayed for a couple of weeks most summers. These were procured from our friendly tractor trailer container, parked in the lot of the local Piggly Wiggly, suggesting that The South was a far more dangerous place than New Jersey, where we lived, because such things were illegal there.

Mom was the risk-taker, almost eager to light the blasting caps like she were ready to mine for something under the sand. I have to say she’s an agile one; nobody moved away from the lit fuse faster than she, and on the challenging beach, no less. I have a hard time getting my feet under me just walking, when it comes to sand.

It got so that I liked hearing the booms from the explosions against the sound of the surf from the Atlantic. So last Sunday I didn’t hear that combination, but I’ve learned to be flexible and take things as they come. Hearing kids giggle gleefully while their parents oohed and aahed at the unexpected shapes appearing in the sky was enjoyable enough. But I think in a few years, I’ll have to go back to the beach for Independence Day.

And ask Susanne to handle the fireworks. We all know I’d blow off at least a couple of fingers. I’m a scared Yankee with that stuff.

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