Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time Travel (from 2009 Christmas Letter)

I have a confession to make. I, Carolyn Lackey, am a bona fide time traveler. I have the ability to zip back and forth from the past to the future and all points in between. This travel is very subtle, barely perceptible to the human eye. For those of you who are curious, I will try tell you exactly what it feels like. It can be triggered by any of my five senses; however, smell and sight seem to have the strongest chrono-geographic power over me. My eyes begin to glaze over. They may even tear up a bit. I’ve been known to chuckle or laugh out loud during one of my “episodes.” To help you better understand the nature of my nomadic “condition,” I will share with you a few of my travels from the past year. Hopefully, in reading over my journeys you will discover what it feels like to free-fall helpless as a fluffy white snowflake in the middle of a blizzard to another time. Another place. Follow me.
March 6 2009 5:32PM (age 52) and May 19th, 1995 (age 38): I can hear it beginning. The laughter. The grunts and groans. “I’ve got you pinned!” Fits of belly laughs. “Nu-uh! You can’t pin me! I’m 10 times stronger than you!” I race to the living room prepared to do some battle of my own to protect lamps, small tables and knick-knacks. Bryce, enjoying the first day of Baylor’s Spring Break, and Reed, glad to have his brother home, are tangled on the floor deadlocked in a contorted wrestling hold. They are both red-faced and grinning victoriously. Pepper, our 14-year-old border collie, is sitting a safe distance from the fracas contentedly watching her boys at play. “BOYS!! Take it outside! I mean it! You’re going to knock something over or hurt yourselves!” The muscle bound hold binds tighter. The laughter becomes more frenzied. I sink down onto the couch wishing that I could just pick up the writhing, sweaty heap and throw it into the backyard. I glance out the sunroom windows. Soundlessly like a billow of smoke, I swirl slowly out the backdoor. The year is 1995. The fort is still standing and will be until years later when we pay some guy to whack it to pieces with a chain saw and haul it away. Pepper is a bouncing puppy. My 38-year-old self is standing next to the wooden fort hands on hips, head tipped heavily to the right, eyes squinted tightly, listening skeptically to “what happened.” A piece of poster board with “Bad Boyz Clob” written in crooked 3rd grade boy handwriting has been taped to the top of the fort with duct tape. Bryce (6) is hovering protectively over 3-year-old Reed whose cheeks are tear stained. His bottom lip quivers and his breath comes in tiny hiccups. “But that’s what you HAVE to do to be a member of the club!” Seven-year-old Jonathan is stating his case. “Bryce did it. Stetson did it. Even Nick did it! Now, Reed HAS to do it.” He is swinging on the swing in high swoops rapidly kicking his legs. “He has to crawl under me while I swing really high! I’m not going to be kicking him very hard at all! You can ask Bryce! Bryce, did I kick you hard?!” My 52-year-old self steps back inside chuckling with the knowledge that by May of 2007 or, perhaps even the year before, Little Reed will be a buff, athletic teenager who will be able to kick his older brothers’ butts. He will be the one who taunts and jeers. “Are you a girly-man? You think you can take ME down?! Yeah, right!” Only Bryce will boldly take up the offer. Tall, lanky Jonathan no longer engages in hand-to-hand combat. He much prefers a lively verbal joust.
July 28, 2009 7:45PM (age 52) and July 10, 1995 5:30PM (age 38): We are sitting at a well-laid table covered with a crisp white cloth in Bud and Alley’s restaurant on the main street of Seaside, Florida. We are relaxed and happy after a day of lazing on the beach with good reads and jumping in the clear turquoise waves that danced at our feet. The food is beautifully plated, and the fish is fresher than fresh. The “sweet tea” is icy cold with refills appearing before the last sip is ever taken. The boys are discussing the meaning of the word “synecdoche” and the upcoming movie “Synecdoche, New York.” Alan and I sit quiet and listen as the thoughts, ideas, and illuminations bounce across the table like ping-pong balls. “Blah…blah…blah…speaking of a part of something when referring to the whole.” “Yada…yada…general implying specific.” My mind begins to swirl as I try to comprehend even the tiniest part of the conversation. Swirl. Twirl. “Like saying ‘slice’ when you mean ‘cake’.” Spinning. Swirlity. Twirlity. “The guy in the movie who plays a theatre director builds a life sized set of New York City, and the actors get confused about what is the real New York and what is the New York set.” My thoughts whirl around like bits of paper caught up in a tunnel of wind, lift me up into the starry night sky, and plop me into the middle of Bob and Tony’s Pizza in Estes Park, Colorado, 1995, where is it still broad daylight. I’m standing behind Alan in the “Place Order Here” line and the 3 sweaty, wiggly little boys are wedged between us chirping, “Pepperoni!” “Cheese!” “Coke!” “Sprite!” The order is finally placed and we make our way through the narrow, crowded restaurant in search of a vacant table for 5 that is relatively clean. The perfume of yeasty, brown pizza crust and spicy Italian sausage envelops us heightening the boys’ immediate need for sustenance. “I’m SO hungry!” “How much longer?!” “I can’t wait any longer…I’m about to starve to death!” “Go tell them to hurry!” Then, ever so cleverly Alan begins to weave restaurant table magic by chanting, “I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE!” He squints his eyes and puckers his lips as he slowly surveys the entire restaurant panning from left to right. “Something…um…something…um…YELLOW!” The boys snap to attention and jump into the game. “Is it that fat man’s hat?” “Is it the sticker that’s stuck on the bottom of Bryce’s shoe?” Just before Alan has to resort to the tertiary colors of the color wheel, a steaming pepperoni pizza is plopped down on the table before us. As my 38-year-old self gathers the red plastic restaurant tumblers for a trip to the refill bar, my 52-year-old self quickly slips back into her seat at the peaceful, slow-paced meal at Bud and Alley’s and tries to wrap her brain around “synecdoche” and all that “synecdoche” implies.
October 16, 2009 3:00PM (age 52) and August 2, 1994 2:00PM (age 37): It’s a brisk October afternoon. The sky is a brilliant blue. The family is together for a weekend with Jonathan. As we climb the stairs of the Art Institute of Chicago, I marvel at the fact that the boys chose an afternoon at the museum during our very brief weekend in the Windy City. Bryce wants to find a particular painting mentioned in a recent Art History class lecture. Jonathan and Reed are anxious to see the works of Salvador Dali particularly the one with “all those melting clocks.” Alan and I are just deliriously happy to be there. Our tickets are purchased and we wait impatiently as Alan carefully studies the museum map to get the lay of the land. He is the planner wanting to make the maximum use of our time. I am the wanderer wanting to just…well…wander. Following his lead, we head to the modern art gallery. As we settle into a museum shuffle pace, we talk about how some modern art even merits space in a museum. The general consensus is that any one of us should try our hand at painting a giant canvas pitch black and adding a tiny white line along the bottom. Ha! Ha! Ha! We could be rich, rich, rich! Then, we approach the Dalis.
Reed launches into his ever-playing stand-up comedy routine. “OK. Solid black canvas with a tiny white line or extremely cool melting clocks? Seriously?” Studying the painting, I focus on a clock that is oozing over the side of a big brown cube. It begins. My whole body begins to ooze, melt, tick, tock. But, where could I possibly be headed? The heat of the day rushes into my face. I’m standing before Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Arlington, TX. Ahead I see my little family hurrying from the sweltering parking lot into the cool of the wax museum. I gladly follow. My 37-year-old self is skillfully navigating a stroller through the crowd as she tries to keep up with Jonathan (7) and Bryce (5). Alan trails behind studying the museum guide. The boys speed by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan searching for “cool guys like Batman.” Reed (2) is smiling and waving from the stroller at everyone – wax and real. I race to keep up with the entourage. Then, I remember what is actually about to happen. NOOOOOOOOOO! STOP!!!! The boys come to a special area of the museum flanked with signs warning people with heart conditions and pregnant women to enter at their own risks. It’s the “scary” section reserved for Dracula, Frankenstein, the chain saw guy, and the like. My little family halts while the parents consider. After very little discussion, I see my younger self leaving Alan in the corridor with Reed in the stroller as she pushes through the door into the “Forest of No Return.” I know what she’s thinking. “How scary can wax people be?” She is about to find out. The hard way. I shake my head and follow. Jonathan blazes the trail through room after room of bloody carnage and sinister characters. I watch the transformation begin as little Bryce becomes more and more quiet all the while squeezing his mommy’s hand tighter and tighter. Then, it happens. The fear begins to erupt. Bryce bolts away from me (well, her) frantically searching for an exit. “I want out! I want out! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Spotting an illuminated emergency exit sign in a far corner, his speeds toward salvation. According to Mini-Me’s calculations that exit door would put them in a field in back of a very large building with no hope of re-entry. She does not want to trudge through high grass in this heat. “STOP!! I’m coming! I can get you out of here!!” Just before he hits the door, Bryce is scooped up into her arms. “Just close your eyes, and I will get you back to Daddy!” Across the room, Jonathan shouts, “Gross! Come see this guy! His head’s chopped off, but he’s still lookin’ around!” Glancing back over my shoulder, I see that I am still standing exactly in place in front of Salvador’s “Persistence of Memory.” Bryce is calmly standing next to me. There is no exit door in sight.
October 24, 2009 9:00AM (age 52) and November 5, 1977 10:00AM (age 20): Alan and I are sitting in our “baseball chairs” on the curb in front of Baylor’s Student Union Building watching the Homecoming Parade floats amble past. Behind us somewhere in the 5-deep crowd are Bryce (a Baylor junior) and Reed (a Baylor 2010 Freshman) casually sipping on Mocha Frappuccinos from the Starbucks inside the SUB. They have “outgrown” sitting on the curb catching mini Tootsie Rolls. A girl rides by on a bicycle along the parade route relaying progress reports to parade “command central” via a tiny walkie-talkie. Her green polo shirt identifies her as a member of Baylor’s Chamber of Commerce. I shake my head and blink my eyes. The scene before me melts into November 1977. I am back in “the day.” Twenty-year-old Alan is skimming alongside the parade route on a bike wearing dress pants, white button-down, and tie. A wide green grosgrain ribbon encircles his neck and disappears beneath his tie into his shirt just under the second button obscuring the mandatory pacifier that all Chamber pledges (all guys…NO girls) wear 24-7. I watch my college coed, much slimmer self’s face light up at the mere sight of him. He pulls up alongside her, and drawls his Sweetwater, Texas drawl, “I’ll pick you up for the game at 11:15!” “I’ll be ready!” she grins. As she watches him disappear behind the KOT float to find out what’s causing them to hold up the parade, I am tempted to whisper in her ear, “He is going to propose to you on February 6th, 1979! You say ‘Yes!’” I decide not to spoil the surprise. I feel a nudge on my arm. “Pinkie, [Our pet names have morphed over the years. I am currently “Pinkie” for no apparent reason.] here’s your hot chocolate! Careful, it’s really hot! When are you going to grow up and start drinking coffee?!” (I have never in my whole life had a cup of java.) I focus my eyes. Alan is handing me a Starbucks cup passed by the boys through the tangle of people. His hair is no longer jet-black and chin-length. It is now more salt than pepper. After 30 years of marriage, I still see the boy I fell in love with over three decades ago while swinging on a green and gold swing beneath the widespread limbs of a live oak tree. The father of my sons. Pledge Lackey. He is my “Schweet Baby.”
November 28, 2009 1:20PM (age 52) and February 3, 1990 (age 32): It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Across the ice rink of the Dallas Galleria, I see my men strolling out of Macy’s shopping bags in hand. They were sent to Macy’s with explicit instructions: Buy blue jeans to replace the frayed, torn, and/or patched jeans that had been confiscated by their conscientious mother. A brand new black fedora (tags attached) is perched atop Bryce’s shoulder length honey brown curls. (Think Johnny Depp in the movie Benny & Joon.) [At this point, I must interject that Bryce has not had a haircut in 2 years. No kidding. Two years. Alan and I have been “cool about it” reasoning that his major, Philosophy, warrants a Bohemian look. Also, two out of three semesters on the Dean’s list have lead us to believe that long hair does for Bryce’s brain what Samson’s did for his strength.] “Check out my cool hat, Mom!” I pause to study this new hat and realize that it does, indeed, compliment his leonine mane. But, before I can open my mouth to say as much, it begins. The noise of the Galleria becomes a loud hum in my ears. A deep sigh, and off I go…whirling, twirling, curling back to 1990. A barbershop. Twelve-month-old Bryce is sitting on a board placed across the arms of the barber chair. The blue barber’s cape snapped snuggly around his neck is framing his round baby face and falling like a tent covering the entire chair. Flash! Wind, wind! Flash! Wind, wind! Pictures are being snapped left and right. Ahhh. It’s Bryce’s First Haircut! The barber begins to carefully snip-snip away at Bryce’s pale blonde bangs. Tears well up in Brycie’s bright blue eyes and silently roll down his cheeks. Though a look of terror crosses his baby face, he sits still and silent. It is clear to all that Bryce Lackey does not like First Haircut Day. My 52-year-old self wants to swoop him up and run from the barbershop pledging a solemn vow that he will never, ever have to endure such horror again. “Mom! Mom! My old jeans are just fine! What do you think!? Is this a sweet hat, or what?!” Shaking visions of First Haircut Day from my brain, I bring his flowing, fedora-capped locks into full focus. “Yes, Bryce. That is one sweet hat. One really sweet hat.”

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