The Far Meadow

This is the Ferris wheel’s top, this the high-flying midpoint of summer, from which we can glimpse the whole landscape of our lives.

Just look there, in that far meadow: there is the toylike stage-set of your childhood, the stoops and sidewalks that made up your world. It was there you learned how to ride a bike and how to tie your shoes; how to give a noogie and how to recieve one without too much wincing.

The more we look the sooner the first person singular give way for we were kids in the company of other kids, And when I pull out my old diaries they carry me right straight to that place:

  • At Ballroom Dance class in Fifth Grade, my flailing hand catches Robbie Wilson square in the face and his nosebleed makes a Jackson Pollock canvas of his dress shirt.
  • In school during Sixth Grade the big magazine drive has me hard-selling kinfolk across three counties and 12 weeks later my “prize” comes in the mail: a cheap ballpoint pen.
  • My best friend Tina and I find a baby mouse separated from its mother. We bring it home, squeeze milk into its impossibly small mouth and pray it will last the night. The next day we hold a funeral, tissue-lined cigar box and all.
  • That Christmas, I get three great presents. The dog, I lovingly note, gets four.
  • Later that year, the dog gets a chest cold for which our veterinarian, with perfectly straight face, prescribes not just pills but an ounce of booze to be given nightly. (Afterward, my mother will never tire of telling of what she said to the druggist: “I need a pint of the cheapest whiskey you have,” then, on seeing his expression, blurting, “IT’S FOR MY DOG!”) 

Ah but how my sister and I love that pup, the first most grateful object of our young affection. We are all three kinsmen, we sense; we follow orders and come when the grownups call us. And more time passes and the diaries show our antics growing bolder:

  • Our next-door neighbor Dicky lights a fire of oak leaves and rolls in it to be funny.
  • He and his brother Bobby get trapped in a too-high tree and Nan and I wing buckets of hard little apples at them.
  • Spring comes and we pick sides for the big season opener of Softball out behind the Talbots’ house. Everyone is there: Tina and all four Talbot kids, Robbie Wilson and his younger brother Alex, Nan and I – everyone but Dick and Bob, held captive in their long Catholic-school workday.

We’re four innings in when suddenly comes a deep male shout. It’s Mr. Wilson on a child’s bike, roaring across the Talbots’ grass and heading straight for their big crimson maple.He reaches up as he passes under it, grabs a low-hanging limb with both hands and swings, letting let the bike rocket on without him. Then he jumps back to earth, limps to home plate, for one of his legs is polio-shortened, picks up the bat and hits one out of the park to bring everyone home.

I can see it now. And I can remember now, too, that he did this in a thousand ways, as did all our grownups. All through our childhood they brought us home safe, then leaned in, sheltering, sheltering, sheltering us in that golden far-distant meadow (but not all the time and not all that close as these pictures of Robbie and Dick testify.)

16 thoughts on “The Far Meadow

  1. Funny the things that come back, huh? I’ve been reliving memories with my former coworkers over the past few days and surprised myself just now remembering the name of the manager of the fulfillment center some 34 years ago. The bloody nose you mentioned reminded me of being knocked out on first base while playing softball in the 6th grade and had to spend the rest of the afternoon lying on a wooden bench in the cloakroom. That building is now a karate studio!! The school was within walking distance of Hilliard’s House of Candy so we had field trips when the teacher would walk us down to see the candy made and get samples!! Yum. What is it about summer that causes us to remember the old days? I asked a general question on facebook as to whether any one remembers Nurembeger park in Newton? The ballroom, the paddle boats on the pond…..

    1. Andrea so sweet lying on a bench all day with your head injury: that was the way back then!
      There Is something about summer you are right .. But what ?
      Did you get replies about the old ballroom and paddle boats there at that place? I was there once at about age six I think. I fell over onto my giant forehead I remember, something I did all the time …

  2. Hey Brian thanks. They sure are alive! One of them just now wrote me:this:

    “There was nothing scarier than going to the very edge of the west gable and looking down four stories to the pavement that spread out flat and hard below in front of the downstairs garage.

    Getting up and down was fun too, because, as you can see, the gutters form an overhang, so you have to somehow climb up while leaning backwards and then, on the way down, pitch over blindly into nothingness kicking your feet wildly trying to make contact with something. As I recall, the trick was to grab hold of the edge of one of the asphalt shingles and hold on tight as you pulled yourself up or lowered yourself down.”

    The title of his email made my heart clench: “Maybe we actually died when we were 13 and it’s been a dream since.” Food for thought ! I loved yours . You are LIKE Walt Whitman moving seeing it all . was there really a full moon the other night? How could I have missed that?

    1. Thanks!. I’m not sure I’m a Whitman; more of an Allen or a Marx, on a bad day…probably Zeppo.

      Don’t worry; I wrote that on the 16th, the day after the full moon. But it was very cool. I actually was up on that deck writing and there actually was a Beer Pong game in progress. However, the Ax Murder was made up. I think he was more of a strangler.

      As far as being alive or merely dreaming we’re alive…don’t get me waxing metaphysical; I’ll be here all day.

      Actually the truth of what’s real, at least to me, comes down to… if you believe it’s real…it is. Even the Red Sox winning the series.

      Like I said in my “Perspectives” post a while back… (shameless plug)

      “Perspective…it’s ours and only ours.
      Most think we all live in the same world. I think we all live in different worlds. In fact, I think there are as many different worlds as there are people, and as many different universes as there are worlds…and so on and so on. And I know many of you are thinking right now that you’re relieved that you don’t live in mine.”

  3. Yes, I remember Norumbega Park where we went canoeing in the mid 40s. It was during the war, and we danced at the Totem Pole to Dick Jurgen’s orchestra. The first time I went there, I was shocked because it was dark everywhere except on the dance floor. There were couches and tiny lamps, and a few couples “necking!” Actually, it was all quite innocent — there were no alcoholic beverages sold there. The boys had to wear neckties. If they didn’t have one, they could rent one.

    1. Joan,
      I always enjoy your “perspective” of the past. You have a crystal clear recall and you always bring it alive for us. Thanks.

  4. Andrea: You must have gone to see Vaughn Monroe atThe Meadows, which was nearby. Then there was The 1812 House where my BF forgot his wallet, and I laughed and laughed like Little Audrey. I never carried any money (except mad money, which was not very much because I didn’t expect to get mad.) Anyway, the BF had to leave his watch, which saved us from having to wash dishes. I don’t think that was the same night when he had the flat tire.

  5. Brian: I get it about the different worlds. Actually, I invented this one, and all the people in it. My cousin was taken aback when I informed her that I invented her too.
    We see history as in a prism, and it is specific to each one of us. And who can say it is wrong?

  6. Ha ha ha!.
    I’m glad you invented yourself as a sharp, funny lady, Joan. If you wouldn’t mind, could you re-invent me about 10 lbs lighter, 3 inches taller, and oh while we’re at it how about a little more hair. I’ll leave the color up to you.

  7. I am a pushover for male pulchritude. I see you as that once upon a time leading man, Tyrone Power. I was dismayed when he married Annabella.
    My cousin, the one I invented, told me that my version of her was a case of extreme solipsism. I thought she was pretty sharp to come up with that.

  8. I would have responded sooner but I had to dig out my dictionary to make sure you weren’t insulting me!.

    Okay…I‘ll take Tyrone. But I had to Google him first. Not that I’m all that young but he’s a little before my time. I know the name, but I wasn’t totally sure what he looked like. A little bit on the pretty boy side. I was picturing Errol Flynn; a bit more swashbuckling

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