There is nothing like digging through other peoples’ property. In case you had not noticed we all have our own distinct smell. Image a small space cramped full of coats, shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, lunch bags, and even some underwear. Yes, you read that right…underwear. Ugh!!! The smells emanating from all of that stuff makes my stomach turn. Yet, at least once a month I find myself in this room looking for a jacket, lunchbox or book. It’s not my stuff. Nope. It belongs to my third born. The one I lovingly refer to as Little Dude.
He’s absent minded or completely distracted. Last year he lost three jackets, two lunch boxes and a couple of books. I recently learned he lost about $40-50 on a field trip. He took the money just in case he wanted to buy something nice. We were at a fast food restaurant not long ago and he left his wallet near the condiments. I walked up behind him and picked it up.
What do I do? I get frustrated. I talk to him about being responsible. I try to get him to develop a routine. It hasn’t worked yet. Do kids grow out of losing stuff? In the mean time I continue to enter the lost and found to dig through all that stuff to locate his missing items. He has a jacket missing right now. Off to the little cramped room we go to search through the piles of odorous things in search of Little Dude’s jacket.
Is it possible for one place, that hosts a lot of visitors and vendors to have the same smell year after year? I’ve been going to the fair all of my life. It’s what we do. Schools use to close their doors for Fair Day. Now they call it teacher in service or Columbus Day. Anyway, I love, love, love the fair.
I remember candy apples and Belgium waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Oh and the cotton candy! You can’t forget that big, fluffy ball of sugar wrapped around a paper cone. Mmmmmm…. And what is the fair without Fletcher’s corny dogs. Yes I said corny dog. Some of you may know them as corn dogs or deep-fried, breaded, wieners on a stick. Good golly miss Molly. Have you ever had a smoked turkey leg? You haven’t lived until you’ve had one. Pair that leg with some corn on the cob that’s been soaking in butter for hours and you have yourself a meal for a king or queen.
There are lots of rides and side shows. My favorites are the car shows, the farm animals and the homemade items that have won in their categories and have a blue ribbon next to them.
When I was younger I went with my mother, brothers and cousins. As I got older I went with friends from school. I even road the bus sometimes. It was not a short ride. As I said before, we were free range children. Now, I go with my children. I have passed on my love of the fair to them.
Unfortunately last year was the end of this wonderful tradition. According to their website the Stare Fair of Texas is closing its doors. After the iconic Big Tex burned in a fire, the fair wasn’t the same. He had stood at his post welcoming people from all over to the State Fair of Texas. But with him gone, the numbers of visitors dropped and they decided to close their doors. I guess my dreams of taking my grandchildren has gone up in flames with him. Visiting amusement parks isn’t the same. There was something about the fair that pulled us into a familiar place that almost felt like home.
Click on the following link to see the video of Big Tex In Flames
Guess what? I didn’t realize how difficult the task of cleaning bookshelves and toy boxes would be this weekend. I guess I underestimated my emotional ties to items that represent various phases of your childhood. When we were cleaning out the sing along videos I almost lost it right then. Those videos remind me of the days at home with you when we would sing and dance. Looking back it seems as though things were less complicated and you I had more time looming ahead.
Guess what? I have enjoyed every second. The moments haven’t always been glorious. We have struggled together and been mad at each other. At the end of the day or the beginning of a new day, I love you more than you will ever know.
Guess what? With the birth of each of you was a renewed commitment to love you no matter what. I want you to know I accept you for who you are. My life would not be the same without your individual contributions. I have never known humanly love like yours. I hope you continue to know love like mine.
(My word was guess, the teenager brought me one of the books from the Little House series. I struggled with how to use this in a relevant manner.)
“I would like to give her a swanky, surprise party for her birthday. What do you think?”
“I’m not planning on being married to her by then. I’m tired of the disrespect and the constant arguing. I love her but…never mind.”
“She loves you. What if all the arguing is coming from the person inside of her saying, pick me! Maybe she wants to become your top priority. You’ve consistently pushed her aside and put everything and everybody else in front of her. Pick her.”
“I don’t understand. What do mean? I married her and we have built a life together. What else is there?”
“There is so much more. For once think about her first before you make a decision. Take her away on a vacation. She’s exhausted. She wants time alone with you. Have you ever given her your undivided attention outside of the bedroom?”
“What about me? What about my needs?”
“If you consistently meet hers she will begin to meet yours.”
“I don’t know.”
“All I need from you is a date. I’ll do the rest.”
Where did I live when I was 12? Hillside baby!!! You know it!
I still smile when I think of my childhood home. It was truly the best of times and the worst of times.
Hillside Terrace was an apartment complex in the heart of Dallas. You see, Dallas is broken up into north, south, east, west, and some other places like Oak Cliff and Arlington Park which are really just Dallas but it makes them feel special and set a part to have those names. I lived, grew up and experienced life in the heart of Dallas. It’s currently known as the medical district.
Hillside. This was the place where the term, “move you lose it’s the Hillside rules” was birthed. It was neighbors. It was friends. It was summers swimming in the pools. It was walking to school together. I rode the bus all over Dallas. My brothers and I were “free range” kids. It was family. I mean the literally and figuratively. Various cousins lived there throughout the years. Friends became so close we felt like relatives.
This was the place where my brothers learned to break dance on the top of the table they broke while fighting. This was the place where my cousin fell off of a balcony. Talk about a miracle. This was where I had my first real fight. His name was Pookie. I held my own. This was also the place of my first kiss. He leaned in and barely brushed my lips then ran like he was trying to win an Olympic medal. I’ll keep his name to myself.
I can’t limit my memories to the age of 12. They all swirl around in my head. We lived there for about ten years. In the end it went from a glorious place to roam and feel free to a place I feared. The drug trade pushed us out or propelled us on depending on how you view things.
Hillside was some of the best times of my life.
As soon as I walked through the door the smell penetrated my soul. If goodness and mercy could take on a tangible form this was definitely one of the ways. My great grandmother knew how to make three generations rejoice. She made pineapple cake.
Don’t confuse this with pineapple upside down cake. No, not at all. This was love baked, stacked and iced.
What made this cake different? Oh my. How do I describe the light, fluffy, moist yellow cake? I see her standing over the stove stirring the sugary concoction. This wasn’t the typical buttercream frosting. This wasn’t a cream cheese or brown butter frosting either.
It lured us in and brought us together in the kitchen staring and waiting. We had to wait until it cooled. The toothpicks where stuck in random places to keep the top layer from sliding off. As it cooked the icing began to solidify around the crushed pineapples. Now that I’m a baker I know she cooked the frosting to the point right before it hit the candy stage.
When the cake was cooled she began to slice the cake and serve us. There always seemed to be enough. Not one person was left out of the experience.
When she was layed to rest so was the pineapple cake. We’ve never been able to recreate the goodness and mercy in the form of a cake like Momma Lillie did. I came the closest years ago. I was entertaining family at my house. With awe and reverence we sat around my dining room table and as I lifted the lid on the cake plate we all looked, smelled and remembered. Most of all we experienced her love one bite at a time.
I had that same dream again. The one I’ve had so often I’ve memorized the dance of the leaves as they sway in the wind. It’s the same dream everytime. I am walking through the park. It’s a great day outside. The sun is shining, the clouds are soft, white and look fluffy. I gaze over at the bench and there she is. She’s always there. After 20+ years of knitting the same sweater you’d think she would be done. But, she’s never any further along. We make eye contact and she slowly rises off the bench, calls me by my given name and gives me a big hug. She steps back and looks at me and asks where I’ve been. Then I wake up. I never get to tell her what happened when my boat landed in America. I never get to mention how I searched for her for years but could never locate her. I never get to tell her about my devoted wife who’s carrying our first child. I never get to tell her because I wake up.
He must be having that dream again. Sigh. When will it ever stop? He came over alone from Vietnam. He was supposed to meet his mom under the rainbow in the market. They had studied the map for weeks. The route was laid out, he knew where to stop for food and drink as he journeyed to the meeting place. She could not greet his boat because it was arriving under the cover of darkness and they didn’t want to draw attention to its arrival. There were no streamers or people gathered to welcome them to this new land. He didn’t know his boat was reported lost at sea but the boat and all seven of the passengers made it through the tumultuous storm that attempted to rob them of their future. They were a week and a day late but he knew him mom would wait for him in the place marked on the map.
I went to the market every night for a week. Finally someone told me the boat was missing. Missing?!? Aaaaahhhhhh!!! I cried out in great despair. No matter how much the tried to console me or hush me I could not push my pain down. It wanted to be released into the universe and so I let it go. I don’t know how long I laid there. In my mind I saw his sweet face smiling and waving at me telling me not to worry. He would be fine. For some reason they split us up. They insisted I go first to find a job and make a home. Why did I listen to them?!? This journey was for him, his future, his opportunity to be more than a poor village kid. Looking around the market and seeing the rainbow was too much to bear. I moved to another city far far away from my regrets and pain.
I rub my wife’s back and apologize for waking her. The further along she gets in the pregnancy the more she enjoys the back rubs. I suggest we take a walk in the park. It’s supposed to help with circulation. Besides, I like walking through the park I designed. The market was abandoned years ago. I was commissioned to design something that would continue to knit the community together. My immediate thought was a park. On the very spot where I was supposed to meet my mom I placed a bench. It was the same bench from my dream. I had hope I was aligning the stars and helping my dream become a reality.
After many years of running from my pain I moved back to the place where it all began. I needed peace. I needed to embrace my past and emotionally bury my son. The last time I saw him he was wearing a red sweater. I wanted to knit him a new one and bury it in the park that now stood in the place of the market. I planned to bury the grief I’ve carried for over 20 years. It was a beautiful place. Even though it was full of people it was still serene. I found an empty bench and continued knitting the sweater. I decided to make on the perfect size for a baby. I couldn’t bring a shovel with me to dig the hole. I wanted to be discreet as I held a short memorial service with one attendee.
I saw her first. Just as we rounded the bend on the walking path. She was just as he had described her in his dream.
Are my sleepless eyes providing me with a mirage? Am I at home in my bed sleeping? It’s her!! It’s really her! We make eye contact and she slowly rises off the bench, calls me by my given name and gives me a big hug. She steps back and looks at me and asks where I’ve been.