Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Tag: Looking Back


farmhouseImage: Flickr – see what dave sees

The mimosas and magnolias and hydrangeas are in bloom now. I’ve never seen the magnolias more beautiful than they are this year. We used to visit my aunt during the summer. There were two huge magnolia trees that grew by the side of her house. They had large limbs that The Brother and I used to climb on. We would straddle them and pretend to ride them like horses.

My grandmother lived close by. There was a long lane through the peanut fields that led to her front door. My grandfather was a peanut farmer. They had a bull, and The Brother would jump the fence and taunt him until he came running toward him. Then he would jump the fence at the last minute. The brother always loved to tempt fate.

There was a smokehouse where the hams were smoked and a well and a barn. My grandmother was tall with red hair. We always had chicken and dumplings and every kind of fresh vegetable for dinner.

I have some photos. I’ll try to find them and post a few.


Dad’s Yankees

mickey-mantle-with-bat-looking-towards-his-right--©photofilePhoto: Mickey

Dad’s been rooting for the Yankees for over 50 years. The man has a passion for gardening, fishing, his morning newspaper, Jeff Gordon, and the New York Yankees. He’ll never garden or fish again, but he still looks forward to his paper after breakfast, and watching the races and the Yankees.

I’ve never seen him so happy as he has been the past couple of weeks. The Yankees were riding a nine game winning streak until last night. I’m sure the geese could hear him screaming all the way down in the creek.

“He got a two-bagger.”

“Damn, H, they got another home run.”

“Great God, it’s another two-bagger!”

And each time he yelled, he was gasping for air because he was laughing so hard.

He’s been like a kid all week. It’s heartening to see a 91 year old guy imbued with the unadulterated joy of an eight year old. Honestly. I’m pretty sure he survived his last stroke just to watch the Yankees that autumn.

Dad was not an easy man in his younger days. Like most men of his generation, he had no idea about raising children or what they needed, but there were a few times when he hit just the right note, and I guess it was enough. As I’ve written before, one of my favorite memories involves sitting on the arm of his chair on a hot summer day, listening to the whir and feeling the breeze of an old metal fan as we lazily passed the day away watching the Yankees.

If only all parents could understand how such remarkably unremarkable memories refuse to die, but rather how they quietly snuggle down into the gentle pigeonholes of the mind no matter how long the child lives.

The Old Neighborhood

poplartulipImage: Poplar Tulip ~ By: lightweaver – flickr

We moved to Maryland in the mid eighties. H was promoted and off we went, leaving friends and relatives behind. My son was 10 years old. It was a bit of an adjustment for all of us, but we eventually settled in, adjusted to work and school, and made friends.

We lived five miles outside of Annapolis. The schools were good, the history was omnipresent, and the traffic was a barbarous beast. It was quite a commute for H. His office was in Baltimore. If he left home around 6 o’clock, he could be in his office about thirty-five minutes later. If he waited much later he was committed to a commute that lasted 45 minutes to over an hour. The afternoon commute home was about ninety minutes, barring an accident, rain, or rubber necking. He never arrived home in a good mood when it rained. Never!

The yard was the most beautiful of any house we’ve ever had. The backyard had a half dozen full grown poplars that reached for the sky and provvided a welcome respite from the summer heat. English ivy crept along the ground in deep shade, and rhododendrons bloomed in spring. The tree line began about one third of the way back from the house and bordered a golf course. We collected large rocks and made a natural border where the ivy and trees met the grassy area. It curved gracefully around from one side of the yard to the other. I wish I’d had a digital camera back then.

The house was nice enough but nothing special – your typical two story – bedrooms upstairs and public spaces downstairs. The first week we moved in, as I was getting dressed after a shower, I glanced out the upstairs window and saw three boys sitting on our back fence. They were enjoying the show. What a lovely introduction to the neighborhood, and a rude admonishing that those trees didn’t provide total privacy. Thank God I was in my thirties and not my present age. I would hate to have been responsible for permanently damaging the fragile psyches of three young boys. More importantly, as I think about those three little magpies relaying their version of that June morning over the years (and you know they have), I take comfort in the knowledge that certain parts of my anatomy were still pretty much where they belonged on that particular day, in that particular year.

Though I haven’t mentioned much about our life there, it was a huge part of our lives. We spent 19 years there, and many of my son’s formative years transpired in that house. When he thinks of home, that’s the house and neighborhood he remembers. When H was forced into early retirement – even though we were ready to move back to Virginia – it was difficult to leave that home, those friends, and that neighborhood. We worked so hard to create what we wanted, especially the yard.

After we moved, the neighbors called practically everyday to give us updates about how the new owners were cutting down my lovely poplars in the backyard to make room for a trampoline, how they were pulling out the perennial beds on the west side, the impatiens and hostas on the north side, and committing crepe murder on my beautiful white crepe myrtle on the south side of the house. They meant well, but it was excruciating  to hear all the details. The house belonged to someone else, and they had every right to do as they pleased, but it drove the neighbors crazy. In turn, they passed along the pain in daily doses.

I still miss the friends, but I’m long removed from that place and time. And the friends are mostly retiring and moving to more retirement friendly locales anyway. Still, it’s nice to dawdle among those memories of strapping a huge plastic Santa to the chimney of an unsuspecting neighbor, pinochle games into the wee hours of the morning, sipping wine on the back porch while distant cries of “Tag, your it” travel on the warm and sticky night air, and those ridiculously fun neighborhood snowball fights in January, and refreshing water battles in the oppressive heat of July, but life moves on.

The couple we were closest to would like for us to consider retiring with them. They’ve decided to move further south. For a number of reasons, this is not a likely location for us, the primary one being that my son will probably move closer to our house someday, and it would be nice to see them more often. Besides, my experience tells me that the most extraordinary combinations are rare and seldom reproducible.


I’ll be spending this day cooking and cleaning, and maybe there will be a trip to the market – or two. My brother-in-law is coming for a visit. He’s bringing someone with him. It may be a bit awkward.

I haven’t written about my sister for awhile, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about her often. We were close. She was nine years older than me. She died in the fall of 2007. It was the biggest loss I’ve had since the death of my mother when I was 23.

With a marriage just shy of 50 years under his belt, my brother in law took a girlfriend a couple of months after my sister’s death. I would not learn about it till much later, but when he finally gave me the news, I told him that I was grateful for the way he had cared for my sister in the days leading up to her death, and I wished him well. Still…I had undeniable feelings of surprise and disappointment. Feelings are feelings and those were mine, and I kept them to myself.

We kept in touch in the months following her death, and I knew nothing of the girlfriend. H and I spent many years of vacations with my sister and brother in law. We were not just relatives. We were close friends, and each of us recognized the grief in the other after she was gone. It was comforting to talk to each other on the phone, over the miles. It helped both of us. So, yes, it was jarring to learn that he had a girlfriend so quickly after her death, and I’ve even wondered if he turned to her before my sister died, but that will do nothing but take me down a road of doubt and blame and suspicion. Who wants that?

But as the months passed, he moved forward with his life, and we talked less and less.  I felt the distance between us widen. I’m sure he did too. There was no discord, no animus – just distance.

In happier times, when my sister was healthy, before cancer had begun to eat away at her life, she and I talked about the very thing that will happen here tomorrow. We talked about how we would feel if one of us died and one of us had to accept another woman in the life of one of our spouses, but such a disturbing thought was unfathomable on that inviolable morning, and talk turned to lunch and a movie or maybe shopping. The brilliant day deposited a slice of sunshine across my kitchen table as we sat there, leaning into one another, each feeling comfortable with the invasion of personal space. We were sisters in every sense of that word: rivals, disputes, forgiveness, trust, laughter, secrets, common memories, love.  The thought of one of us being ‘replaced’ was unthinkable.

So my brother in law will arrive tomorrow afternoon. I will look out the kitchen window and watch as they get out of the car, and it will be the first time someone other than my sister has ever been by his side – someone else in her place. She will come into my sister’s childhood home and meet my sister’s family. What must she be feeling? It must be strange for her too.

I will chat it up with her. I will make sure she feels comfortable, and I will be very happy to see my brother in law because I love him, and we have a lot of history between us.

Still, I will be conflicted. I will be torn between being supportive of my brother in law and loyal to my sister – not that that makes one ounce of sense. None of this is reasonable or intellectual; there is no high ground on which to stand. I’ll remind myself that he is lonely and needs to go forward with his life, but I’ll be looking back to that morning in my kitchen when a brilliant day deposited a slice of sunshine on my kitchen table, and my sister and I leaned into one another and talked of the unfolding day ahead.

The Young Wife

When my husband took me home to meet his mother, she didn’t fall in love with me. She couldn’t quite bring herself to believe I was good enough for her boy. It didn’t help that I was young and immature, or that she found a matchbook from a motel on H’s dashboard. She once told me that when H didn’t get home till four in the morning, she wondered what kind of girl would stay out that late with a boy.

She was a country woman and all that implies. She was a dependable, resourceful, no nonsense, church going woman – even Wednesday nights. Failing to introduce my son to organized religion was the one thing for which she could never quite forgive me. While she had a loving side to which her grandchildren and others were given access, I found her aloof and was unable to breach the inner circle.

A large portion of her life was spent in a linoleum floored, high ceilinged, screen doored kitchen. If not for the old metal fan that sat on top of the refrigerator, nary a current of air would dare to stir on sultry summer days. Colorful jars of string beans and tomatoes, cucumber and watermelon rind pickles, jams and jellies, and pickled fruits of several varieties were made there by hands that bore the hieroglyphs of years of washing, and gardening, and feeding, and tending to the needs of others. There was not a pear or peach within her reach that was not in danger of being stemmed and pared and plumped into a jar, it’s honeyed flesh steeped in sweetness until the deliciousness of it would be the talk of the county. Her fame came to her in a small way, but she relished it.

She lived frugally till the day she died. When H’s father died suddenly and unexpectedly, she found herself with minimal resources and a seven year old son to raise. She never quite left that period of her life behind. There were years of grief and struggle before she married a man she respected but did not love, a man who loved her very much. By the time I met her, she wore her years of sacrifice like a shawl of chain mail.

She must have found me flighty and spoiled in those early days. She once told me that H was going to give clothing to me for Christmas, but she told him that a few yards of fabric would do just fine, that I could make several dresses for the price of one store bought dress.

When she wanted me to know that she was displeased with me, she would crinkle up her nose with sourness, and drag out the words, “Oooh, fancy.” It was her greatest insult; she eschewed all things superfluous. It was a splendid way of letting me know that I was transparent, that she could see that I was frivolous, wasteful, and a bit of a put-on. It must have been difficult for such a practical woman to accept a daughter-in-law who appreciated things for their beauty alone, who didn’t require a thing to be useful to be deemed worthwhile.

I loved nesting and all things home and hearth. Whenever she noticed something that I had bought for the house or a freshly painted room or any project recently finished, I would wait for those words, “Oooh, fancy.” They fell from her lips like acid rain dripping from a perfectly innocent branch. In the beginning, they came often.

It took years of push and pull and pinch and pluck before we finally reached a grudging but mutual respect, before we could stop picking the bone between us – The Husband/The Son. I had to mature, grow some confidence, and lose that air of judgment that seldom outlives the certainty of youth. She had to grudgingly admit to herself that I was not the very worst thing that could have happened to her son. She did not, however, have to believe I was good enough for him.

By the time I met H, she and H’s stepfather lived on a farm in a small farmhouse with a tin roof. Cornfields stretched out on either side of the house, and every summer she grew the most remarkable dahlias at the edge of one of the fields. I’ll never forget them. They actually were the size of dinner plates; sunny yellow, and deep black-red faces made their appearance when most things were wilting in the heat of our long summers. They were spectacular.

Every spring, as soon as the earth turned warm, she could be found rummaging around in one of the little sheds behind the house, searching for her burlap sackful of bulbs. The bulbs themselves were as extraordinary as the flowers they produced, though, not as beautiful. They were lumpy and bumpy, and their malformed shapes seemed to be a mistaken notion of nature.  They were monstrous in size – almost a foot long – and at least two or three inches in diameter. They were bigger than any sweet potato you’ve ever laid eyes on, and I’ve never seen a dahlia bulb that big since.

Even when her health began to fail, she continued to plant those dahlias, and I regret lacking the foresight to dig them up that last autumn when her resolute spirit finally acknowledged what her wavering heart had long known. That year the bulbs stayed in the ground. When the frosty bite of autumn arrived, and the frigid winter followed, their life force seeped into the earth around the cornfields while her life force trickled from her body. She left with her dahlias, the one thing she had loved for beauty alone.

In the last summers of her life, she and I sometimes sat on the old green and white glider on the front porch, shelling butter beans or peeling fruit to be preserved. A rambling red rose covered a trellis at one end. One  evening in July we sat, each one of us with a large bowl in her lap, the sound of the glider squeaking as we peeled peaches for pickling. They had been picked fresh that day at the local orchard. As the nectar ran over our sticky fingers, she tasted not a one, but I never grew her discipline. I tasted, and I’m glad I did.  We softly chatted and waved to passersby whenever a car passed on the lightly traveled road. The corn was up. She hated when the corn was up because she couldn’t see what her neighbors were doing.

It had been a dry summer, and the dirt and gravel driveway was dusty. She was pleased that her vintage petunias had “volunteered” one more time. As night came softly falling, so did the night sounds of the country. Several chirps and whines with different cadences issued forth from the darkness. I asked her about one that seemed particularly pained and persistent. She told me the heat bugs were crying for rain.

When she began to fail, but before she lost her mind, she made one request. When I was alone with her, she told me to go to the white washed shed. She said there was an opening in the ceiling, and that I was to climb up there after she died. I would find an old suitcase. I was to remove it and take it home.

Three more months would pass before she died. A few weeks after that, H and I visited his stepfather. We went to the shed where H removed a square board from the ceiling and climbed up. He found the suitcase and we took it home. It was filled with letters that wore postmarks from the early forties. She had kept the letters that she and H’s father had written to one another during World War II.

I pored over those letters for months after her death, and I still pull one out occasionally.  They tell the tale of a young woman who was struggling to keep things together at home while her soldier was away doing soldier things. She wrote of shortages at home, gathering the eggs, a neighbor hurting his leg, and Sister coming for a visit.

The passion I found there on those pages was not what I was expecting. In one letter, a plaintive voice spoke of a winter day when the snow would not stop. It told of heavily burdened tree branches, and a white blanketing of the earth that muffled all sound and softened all the world’s rough edges, and how she would make love to him all day long if he were only home, but he was so very far away.

The young wife was revealed to me as I read her words. The practical, durable, and sometimes intractable old woman had once possessed a soft and hurtable heart. There was a time when the juices of life had coursed her veins, and she had loved deeply and fully and with abandon, and she had been robbed of his love when he was in his prime. She had never quite gotten over it, and of all the people in her life, she had chosen me to be her witness.

Could Hank Aaron’s Record Be Reinstated?

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I grew up with a generation for whom baseball truly was the American pastime. It was the only sport in which I had any interest. One of my earliest memories involves sitting on the arm of my dad’s chair during those air condition-less summer afternoons, and watching the game on a tiny black & white television tube. I believe it was only 12 inches.

Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record on April 8, 1974, a few months before my son was born. There were many who didn’t want Aaron to be the one to break The Babe’s record. He received death threats and hate mail because he was black. Unbelievably, then-baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn’t even show up to watch Aaron break the record. Hank would only admit later that he felt bitterness during those days while chasing the Babe’s record. Outwardly he kept his head up and took care of business. We never saw him sweat.

In 1999, when asked to speak about his most disappointing experience on or off the field, he said…

“That’s a tough question. The closer I got to the record, people started thinking that it wasn’t the most important record in baseball. Of course, there were other things. I just wished for a moment that I could have enjoyed it as much as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire enjoyed their chase.


The threats and all the controversy. My daughter was in college at Fisk University, and she wasn’t able to enjoy it. And I had to put my two boys in private schools, so they weren’t there to be bat boys. They weren’t able to enjoy it. So I was deprived of a lot of things that really should have belonged to me and my family.”

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig recently stated that he will look into the possibility of reinstating Hank Aaron as number 1 on the all-time home run list and attach asterisks or some other note to the records of players involved in steroids use.

I won’t claim to be a sports aficionado. I can’t quote statistics, and I don’t schedule my life around sports events, but I respect the accomplishments of athletes and all those who attain lofty goals without taking shortcuts. I’ve always thought it was a case of comparing apples to oranges when comparing athletes of Hank Aaron’s generation with athletes who are known to have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

There’s a lot of talk these days about whether athletes should be role models. I won’t speak to that. All athletes of past generations have not been angels, but if today’s athletes want to have their names on a list with Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, is it too much to ask that they break his record the same way he broke the Babe’s – without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs? Otherwise, Hank is number 1.

What A Man Will Do For A Lifestyle

A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.
Don Corleone — The Godfather
Did you watch the news last night? It was all over the cable news shows. This fellow, Marcus Schrenker, is under investigation for possible securities violations – stealing other people’s money. When the heat got to hot in the kitchen, he disappeared and wasn’t heard from again until he crashed his plane in a swamp in Florida and parachuted to safety – in hopes that people would assume he was now sleeping with the fishes.

His big mistake – and these guys always make a big mistake – was sending an email to a “friend.” The “friend” informed officials and the rest is history. The authorities found him after he had slashed his wrists, but in time to save his sorry butt.

This was an all too familiar story for us. H had a cousin he was close to when growing up. They vacationed together, spent family holidays together, and had affection for one another.

She grew up to be a very beautiful woman. In the seventies, she married a man H never liked. He thought his affected manner and lifestyle would catch up with him, and hurt his cousin. He was too polished, too slick, too everything. He was handsome, articulate and well educated – looked great on paper – but there was an unctuous quality a
bout him. You could almost imagine him twirling his mustache, if he’d had a mustache. He always had a new scheme, and always had all the right answers.

One of his early ideas was to sell hot tubs, which he insisted we refer to as spas. This was a real sticking point for him.

As the years rolled by, he originated numerous “plans,” and I have to say, they seemed to work.

They prospered and acquired all the outward trappings of a successful life. They moved into the best part of town, had a large, beautiful home, expensive cars, a yacht, enjoyed extravagant vacations. Their children went to the best private schools, and colleges, and drove new cars. It appeared to all onlookers that they were living the “good life.”

In the meantime, H and I moved to another state and lost direct contact with them. We only heard of them through relatives and mutual friends. One day we received a phone call from a friend who asked, “Don’t I recall that H had a cousin who married —– —-?”

Our friend told us that the front page of her morning paper was plastered with his face, and he was on the news. He had gone out on the river the day before. His yacht had been found, but he was missing – suicide was one of the options discussed, but there were others.

H called his cousin. His aunt answered the phone with a guarded tone, even caustic. When she realized it was H, she said they were being bombarded by the press. They were outside his cousin’s home, and then there were the authorities to deal with. There were questions. Among them, did H‘s cousin know all along what was going on?

As the story unfolded – day after day for months – on the front page, and on the news, every detail of the whole sordid mess became public. He had embezzled pension funds – to the tune of millions – for which he was responsible for managing. All those people had lost their pensions so he could have a nice life.

Now it was easier to understand the large lifestyle, a lifestyle that was soon to be dismantled. Everything would go on the chopping block.

As the facts of the case were relentlessly revealed in the press, the city was disgusted at how they had been played for fools for days while waiting for his body to surface, and angry on behalf of nurses whose pensions had been stolen from them. Some of that disgust and anger was directed at H‘s cousin. What did she know, and when did she know it, and hadn’t she benefited from this fraud as much as he had?

They finally found him. His parents put their house up for bail for him, and he went to trial. His lawyer got him a sweetheart deal. He would only serve about a year. It was all set. When his lawyer drove him to turn himself over to the authorities, he jumped out of the car and tried to run away. He still served only about a year, if I remember correctly.

His son had to leave the college he was attending in favor of a state college close to home. His new car was replaced with a more reasonable used car. He never spoke to his father again. The daughter, who was only 12, visited her father while he was incarcerated and continues to have a relationship with him. Everything they owned was confiscated. H‘s cousin filed for divorce immediately.

H asked his cousin if she had known about any of it. She claimed she did not. He believed her. I was never as certain as H. When I think about that, I realize that’s part of the fallout for the families of these creeps. No one is ever sure whether they are victims or collaborators. They’re painted with the same brush. Who can say?

She had worked for a lawyer when she was younger and called him for help. She leaned heavily on him during all of this, and when it was over, she married him. He was wonderful to her, and she had a happy life with him for a short while. After a few years, she learned that she had a brain tumor. She died within a year of learning about it. I don’t believe she had even turned 50 yet. At the funeral, her children were the most pitiful beings I’d ever seen.

So I’m wondering about Marcus Schrenker’s wife. What did she know, and when did she know it, and will anyone ever believe her if she really didn’t know? And what about the children? What will this do to them?



Let it snow!

One of the great things about Dad’s house is the ease and speed with which it can be decorated for any season. I decorated for Christmas on Saturday. I threw a wreath over the fireplace, a garland on the mantle, and changed the candles to red. I decorated a yard-tall tree, and placed a wreath on the door. In about an hour, I was DONE!

I love Christmas decorations, but I hate dragging everything down from the attic and putting it away again. This is simplicity at its best. I’m happy, and it seems to me that that should count for something.

Dad likes it, too. He never decorated before I moved in. Of course, he didn’t. He’s a crusty old fisherman with hands the size of hams. I can’t imagine him decorating anything, but I know he likes to watch me do it. I put the tree directly in his line of vision.

There are blue skies here today, and it’s chilly. We had a colder than usual November. A few (very few) leaves, loath to give up, are still clinging to the trees. Soon we’ll be looking at stark, bare limbs, against a backdrop of muted gray skies. I love to walk in the winter; the beauty is more subtle, but it’s beauty all the same.

Fall and winter are my seasons now. Though spring is still inspirational, winter gives me an excuse to hunker down and withdraw, and I enjoy the peacefulness found in that. I love it when it snows, even though we seldom get deep snows anymore. I miss them.

Some of my happiest days have been snowy days. How sweet is it to fly like the wind, down a steep hill, on a sled whose runners have been coated with wax? If we could only get one of those deep, cleansing snows this winter, I might even hustle this older-than-dirt body onto my old sled and fly once more. I received the sled for Christmas when I was ten years old; it’s hanging in the garage. My son used it when he was a little boy, and it’s still in fine shape.

Stranger things have happened!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

The Heidi Bowl

For the guys and TC.

It was a cool November day, a week before Thanksgiving, exactly forty years ago today. The year was 1968. My best friend’s brother, on whom I had a terrible crush, was in their den with a couple of friends. They were watching the game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders.

Fans had looked forward to this match up for some time. The Raiders were a strong team. They were at the top of the league, but the Jets were emerging as a formidable power with a handsome young quarterback from Alabama named Joe Namath – Broadway Joe. Daryle Lamonica was the Raider’s quarterback.

It had been a close game between the two American Football League teams. Sixty-five seconds remained in the 4th quarter. Namath had brought the Jets within field goal range. Jim Turner had just kicked a 26-yard field goal leaving the Jets with a 32-29 lead, when something happened that would place the Raider’s-Jets’ game in the annals of football lore.

NBC went to commercial break. When they returned everyone except those who lived on the west coast were no longer viewing the game. The field of broad shouldered football players had been replaced with a famously dimpled little girl, Heidi, and her supporting cast of an elderly grandfather and a number of amiable goats.

NBC switchboards lit up with puzzled fans, wanting to know where their game had gone. If that wasn’t enough, when the network announced the final score 20 minutes into Heidi, the NBC switchboards collapsed under the deluge of calls. When they could no longer get through to NBC, the enraged fans began phoning police and other emergency numbers. Those lines were tied up for hours.

An overreaction, you say? It turned out that while Heidi was singing and dancing on the mountain top with her goats, the Raiders drove to a touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. The Jets’ Earl Christy followed that by fumbling the ensuing kickoff. After a mad scramble, the Raiders fell on it in the end zone for another major: Two touchdowns in 9 seconds and the Raiders won 43-32.

The entire NBC debacle was front page news across the country the following day. NBC news offered an apology, explaining that they had allotted 3 hours for the game, but with 19 penalties being called, the game exceeded that. NBC maintained they had a contractual obligation which required them to go to the movie at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. In their apology they claimed the change over to Heidi was an effort to prevent the disappointment of children. No one was buying it.

It may seem like a ridiculous overreaction now, but it was a turning point in the history of Sunday football. Some still maintain that The Heidi Game ranks right up there in pro football lore with the Immaculate Reception. After the Heidi Bowl, the NFL inserted language into its TV contracts guaranteeing that games would be shown in their entirety to local markets.

Since that Sunday afternoon in 1968, the match-up between the Raiders and the Jets has been referred to as the Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl. It’s still talked about today, but more importantly, the game of football has had no rivals in the Sunday lineup since the Heidi incident. A watershed moment in the history of football and network programing, from that day forward football became the crown jewel of Sunday programing. Heidi wouldn’t have a prayer today.

Wild Abandon

I visited Becca’s Byline today. She wrote an interesting piece about the “crazy side” that many of us stop indulging at some point in our lives. It reminded me of the following piece that I wrote a little over a year ago.

My son was brand new, barely out of the womb when we began the search for our first home. I had a troubled pregnancy, and he was premature but healthy. Thank God.

It was the early seventies. We were living in a townhouse apartment, located in what could have been considered the armpit of our city. It was in the East End, near the airport. Very near. We lived there for almost three years. Most of the couples were our age or a little older. A camaraderie of sorts sprung up among us. On summer and Indian summer evenings, we could be found sitting on our sidewalks, drinking cheap wine and beer, and telling tall tales. It was possibly the most relaxed, and carefree I’ve ever been.

This is not to say there were not transgressions among us. I did say we were young didn’t I? I didn’t? Well, we were young, and some of us were foolish, bad-foolish. People got hurt. If I recall correctly, one story involved the infidelity of a local beauty queen who was married to a volunteer fire fighter, and the boyfriend of her best friend who lived in the apartment next door. I always felt bad for the volunteer fire fighter till I learned he was not exactly a saint either. Whoo, how careless we can be with the lives of others when we haven’t learned yet. They had a beautiful little girl. Divorce – pain – sadness followed.

After we lived there almost two years, The Husband and I decided to have a baby. Three months later I was pregnant, and eight months after that we had a baby boy. I suppose that was what provided the impetuous to begin looking for a house.

We had very little money for a down payment. The Husband sold his motorcycle, and I sold my little, red, convertible Triumph. Sigh. Could it be any more obvious. We traded in our symbols of youthful freedom for a mortgage. This was the exact moment we took on the trappings of adulthood. Until then it had been just the two of us playing at being grownup. Those days of driving up to the mountains for the weekend on the spur of the moment, or throwing a cooler in the trunk and heading for the beach, or making love on a Sunday afternoon, or any other time or place we wished, were about to end. Spontaneity would not enter our lives again for eighteen years. At least not in the same sort of way.

That time represents one of those crossroads they talk about in life, where you can look back at a precise moment in time, and see how your life was altered in an irretrievable way. We were moving away from our past lives, and into the future at hypersonic speed. It didn’t feel scary though. Maybe it was because we were so young, or because we had each other, but we had no doubts. Baby equaled house! It felt right.

So The Husband and I took our last spin on his bike, flying down back roads, my arms wrapped tightly around his waist, wearing my jeans and my old stars and stripes ‘vote’ tee shirt, wind blowing through our hair, sun glinting through the trees, dappled shade spilling everywhere. Jesus, would we ever taste such sweet freedom again?! We didn’t even think about it. It slipped away from us like a thief in the night, and was replaced with something else, something solid and good, but free spirits we would never be again.

The following day we listed the bike, and my adorable little Triumph in the Trading Post. Within a week we were bike-less and convertible-less, but we had a realtor and, oh yes, that baby, and very soon we would have our first home.

As I read this anew today, it occurs to me that some people do remain free spirits. I know a few, but most of us have a more difficult time balancing the weight of responsibility with our “crazy side.” Perhaps we give in too easily, but I’ll have to think about it.