September 02, 2008
Have you ever had one of those moments that something pops up out of nowhere and you get stopped cold? We had run out of Styrofoam cups at work and I was presented with a standard coffee cup with which to indulge in a freshly brewed pot. I didn’t pay attention at the time. I filled the cup, sat it on my desk and ran around for a few minutes. When I made it back to my seat I glanced at the cup and it happened.
There it sat, white cup, steam slowly rising above the rim. Without warning I was yanked backward in time. It was a Richard Dreyfuss moment… I had just ripped the top off of Devil’s Tower in my own living room. The noise around me lowered to a dull roar, much like the sound of putting your fingers in your ears with a house full of screaming teenagers.
I began to ride the memory wave as images flashed before me of western shirts, black coffee, Dentyne in small wooden kitchen drawers, penny ante poker, aggravation dice tumbling across a table, green ghost games, Johnny West figures, GI Joe’s with kung fu grip, hide and seek, dodge Frisbee on trampolines… They just kept coming.
With the loss of several important people in my life in the recent past, it was almost as if a break with reality was upon me, but I continued to ride the memory onslaught, letting it flow over and encompass me.
I was five or six and under the table as my parents had the regular Friday night crew over for card games. Then I was standing in my aunt’s house as she patted biscuits out for baking with her hands covered in flour, yelling at us to leave the antique car replica on the shelf alone. My grandfather was sitting in his rocking chair, cutting a plug of cannon ball to chew. I was desperately trying to make it to the other side of the elk’s club swimming pool without touching bottom. I was tuning an old-fashioned box radio. Patrick, Stuart, and I were sitting in front of the fire place as we engineered and constructed a fort for the star wars men. I was holding a defused hand grenade while at the pawnshop trying to get my Dad’s attention. We were dropping rocks down a well to listen to them glance off the sides then plunk in the water. I was trying to shoot carpenter bees with a daisy bb gun. I was sitting next to my Dad, surrounded by relatives all hunkered around a fire, listening to stories about their childhood. I was opening presents at various places and Christmases. My cousin and I were laying out plans for the destruction of his enemies in his neighborhood. I was cutting into a deer as my Dad stood behind me telling me what to do. My grandfather was demonstrating the length of something by laying his left hand across his right arm saying, “It was about that long”. I was trying to remain calm when ordered to hold the side of a hog (that was being butchered) open so they could get the guts out. A series of firecrackers exploded around me and in my hands, from several holidays. My grandmother was rushing around to see if anyone needed anything else to eat. I was being tackled in the fresh, crisp autumn air as I made my way to the clothesline with a football. I was feeling a great amount of despair and rather small as I stared at the hundreds of square miles of leaves I was supposed to be raking. My mother was telling me that I should be able to just see what needed to be done and she shouldn’t have to come and put her hand on each thing that needed to be picked up. I was on the Court Square with a cold wind blowing waiting for Santa to show up on a fire truck. I was trying to appear cool and not lose it as I swallowed my first taste of beer, that my older brother gave me. We were at a strange lake, it was dark, the fire had burned low, I was tired and looking for my mother, I kept sitting on the wrong people’s laps, they were laughing, I wanted to go home… they were all drinking coffee… Then I snapped back to the present and looked at the cup for a moment… sighed, then poured it out, I wasn’t really thirsty after all.