Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Looking Back, the Way I Saw It

They were all there: the Cute Boys and the Mean Girls, the Wallflowers and the Late Bloomers, The Ones Who Tried Too Hard and the Ones Who Gave Up Too Soon,  the Golden Ones and the Ones Whose Lives Got Tarnished. The Cool Kids clustered together, and those of us who looked from the outside in back then still spent part of our evening 40 years later doing it now.

That's how it looked if you didn't bother to look again, anyway. I am learning that we all felt like An Other in 1973 and the only difference between the Wallflowers and the Mean Girls was that we let our insecurities eat away at us while they let theirs feed on others. That's a bit of wisdom I wish I could time travel back and impart to my 14 year old self.

But now, all these decades later, we discovered cracks in the walls where grace has gained some foothold. Time has a way of softening the edges of all the hard memories, just as it has softened our jowls, blurred our vision, and dulled our hearing. Forty years is plenty enough time to hold a heartache before letting it go, and more than enough time to watch a bridge burn and be grateful that the embers no longer have the power to burn our feet.

My own handful of closest friends back in those days were there, and I hope that they know just how much their presence in my life -- when we were all trying to find our safest places --saved me. They let me in their boat back then, when all the rules had changed for me, and I cannot thank them enough for letting me right back in despite all the time we let get away from us.
There were folks I hardly recognized. Some had grown into the awkward features their teenage years had saddled them with, and others had finally relaxed and let themselves go, and yet what had changed about none of us were our eyes and our smiles. There were so many of those last Saturday night. 

There were shared memories, good ones, mostly, because it was a night for fun. I cannot speak for anyone else, but the older I get the more the more delighted I am to find other people who remember why we weren't supposed to go out with the boys in Chisholm (although I did) and how disobeying our mothers and driving "across the bypass" was just about the most exciting thing ever. There was talk of Shakey's Pizza, of teachers who pinched and paddled, of harmonies sung in the cafeteria, and of the classmates who died too soon. 

We snuck out of houses together, yards got rolled, we suffered through slam books and sweltering days in class with nothing but squeaking metal fans to keep us cool. We wondered aloud if Sadie Hawkins dances still happen anywhere, and if kids might still be as in awe of any of the adults in their school as we were of Mrs. Jones, Mrs. McClurkin, Mrs. Rahn, or Coach Garner. 

If pressed, I'm sure The Cheerleaders would have remembered every step to the routine they did to "Tears of a Clown" as easily as we Glee Club Members would have remembered all the harmonies to "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I am not so sure the Football Team would have fared well in a scrimmage, but I have no doubt they'd have been game to try. 



There was a supermoon the night of the reunion. It was apt. 

We shone so brightly in 1973, and for a couple hours last weekend we did again. 

Photographs courtesy of Thomas Lucas Photography

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I Didn't Miss Today

I took a walk late this afternoon. It was, as some of us are wont to say, hellahot, but I'm glad I went because here's what I didn't miss. 

I didn't miss seeing two little bitty birds whupping up on this Big Boy until they had him back where they wanted him. He was so humbled he sat up there in this tree long enough for me to -- literally -- run across an open expanse to get this picture of him. Badly lit, I know, but he did not appear to be of a mind to cooperate himself into a more advantageous lighting position. 

I also didn't miss the football drills these two were enjoying. I watched them as I lapped the park several times, watched the man throw the ball, watched the little boy almost catch it, and then watched the man jog over to him over and over.  He'd lean down, talk to the boy, whose head would nod eagerly. Then a fist bump would get shared between the two, a nicely thrown pass from the little boy would make its way to the man, and the whole process would begin again.  

I was getting ready to do my last lap and decided to jog down and let them know I'd enjoyed watching them. The man is the little boy's Daddy, and the little boy wants to be a wide receiver when he grows up. 

I asked, as we tend to do here in Alabama, "Bama or Auburn?"

"I'm gonna be a Bulldawg!"

And with that heartbreaking bit of news I took one more shot of this future SEC standout.....

.... and he caught it. 
Watch out, Nick.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Art of the Thump

This morning I took my granddaughter to the Curb Market, something we do just often enough for her to remember that there's a lady there who always gives her a free treat (today it was an apple). It's a fun way to spend some time on a Saturday morning, and you just can't get better fresh produce at a fairer price anywhere else. It's a real "come as you are" place, as most folks spend time there early, before a day at the lake or out gardening, and certainly before hair fixin' and make-up become important.

I like for Rosemary to see the people behind the food we bring home, and I want her to grow up knowing that folks from every background you can imagine are good people who enjoy visiting together, that when it comes to admiring and selecting good tomatoes and pretty squash we are all alike. 

We were selecting our watermelon by the  traditional "thumping" method when a woman standing next to us said, "My father always did that - what does it mean?"

I am most assuredly not the person you want as your tour guide through the culinary world, but as much as I try not to be judgmental I could not help but wonder who in the world RAISED this woman, that she wouldn't know this. 

What I did instead was try to explain what a person listens for when thumping a melon, but it's sort of like describing a color or a fragrance. What you're listening for is that sound that the best watermelon you ever had when you were 3 years old made, the one you helped your Grandmama thump at a roadside stand and heard her say, "Perfect!" and then you went home and had it and all its sticky glory outside in her back yard when it was too hot to do anything but eat watermelon. LIKE THAT.

At least that's the way I see it.