I had a dream of an early morning sunrise and I was there, back home, and walking up the staircase at Eisenhower Park near the Korean War Monument. The sky was clear and the wind was warm and soft. I could see the glow from the early orange sunlight touching the east side of the monument.
Everything was still and quiet. I suppose this dream was more like a recollection to me or a mental picture, which is kept by my mind’s eye, and stored away in the mental Rolodex, which I call memory.
This town of mine (or should I say this town of ours an and those who know it) is a place that comes with a series of memories that touch all sides of the emotional spectrum. Every fabric of me was first woven here—who I am, where I came from, and how I became is a story that all comes from our little town. I have seen great moments here and bad ones as well. I have survived tragedies and storms, good times, created victories, and I endured heartache, loss, and as well, I have grown in spite of myself and in spite all or everyone around me. Life happened to me here. Age happened as well. Above all, I grew.
And now, summer is upon us. Our side of the hemisphere has tilted inward towards the sun to enjoy a few months of warmth. The daybreak will begin earlier now with a beautiful sunrise, which to me seems only exclusive to the summer months, and of course, the day will end later with a sky that is equally exclusive to a summer sunset.
Admittedly, I am one of those overly nostalgic people that fold my emotional pictures like an old letter from a loved one—and I keep them to remember the good and bad, the trials, the failures, and of course, I keep my memories because they not only make up who I am and where I come from; however, they remind me what I went through and the fact that who I am and what I’ve become has been deserved and earned by me.
Ah, but that town of ours and what it means to us. And the corners we waited on and the places we stood; they remember us still. In fact, as inanimate as these places may seem, they remember us exactly as we were, and anonymously, the places of our youth hold these memories in perfect, pristine condition.
No matter what the face-lifts may change, the corner of Merrick and front will always know what I looked like as a young boy. As well, this corner which I walked to as frequently as the sun went up or down; this place recalls me as the longhaired teenager, lost as ever, and trying to find some kind of crazed redemption in the winds of a wild rebellion. Then again, the corner at Front and Hempstead Turnpike, certainly remembers me at a crazy time. And I laugh as I admit this; I laugh about the way we stole beers from the side of the beverage barn. God, we were so ignorant and brilliant, and painfully as well as unforgivably young.
But I digress . . .
In my dream (I swear) I could hear the sound of a golf club swing. I could feel this within my being—and the sound linked me to another mental picture, which again, I keep stored away. I thought of The Old Man. I thought about the love he had for the game and the times my Old Man took me to the driving range. I thought of the times he took me to the golf course in quiet early morning—the grass wet with fresh dew, the upcoming sun cast an orange hue throughout the sky. I was young, but old enough to know that a memory such as this needs to be kept and kept dearly.
Maybe this is what sparked my dream . . .
Did I ever tell you about the time when I returned to the neighborhood?
I moved back after being gone for more than a decade. My mother was down in Florida. The Old Man passed on December 29th 1989 and much of my family had spread out, moved away, or there was also the sting of separations between others as a result of arguments and disagreements.
I was a grown man, beaten into submission by the heartache of poor decisions. And as such, I went back to the only place where I thought I could fit in, feel accepted, and find somewhere that I belonged.
I went back home to East Meadow and found a small apartment on the east side of town. And I was welcomed here by a loving and kind family. They were my landlords and friendly as ever.
I was welcomed home by the corners, which I have told you about. I was welcomed like a member of the family that had been goon or estranged for too long. And I was welcomed back with the same love that comes from a mother’s hand when she touches the cheek of her child’s feverish forehead.
Yes, I was welcomed home where some of my biggest, deepest (and unfortunately darkest secrets) live —and I was welcomed home by the landmarks that explained to me and comforted without words, “Don’t worry kid. Your secrets are safe with me.”
There was a day in my calendar that was sharp like a blade that cuts deeply into the flesh of a man’s heart. I decided I needed to feel something —perhaps something nostalgic, perhaps something comforting that would feel warm like a bowl of favorite soup made by Mom.
I was alone and felt lonely, angry, tired, discontent, regretful, and obviously emotional. I decided to drive around. It was a beautiful day in East Meadow. The sky was blue and the winds were kind and certainly warm. I drove passed McVey Elementary School. And then I parked.
I decided to walk the field behind the school. And it was here that I saw a little girl running around the field, running towards the feathery dandelions. And she would pull them. And then she would close her eyes. And then she would make a wish. And then she would blow on the feathers of the dandelions.
Nearby, a well-dressed woman watched over the young girl. This was her mother. Her face was stone and sad and serious. But the little girl’s face was hopeful and excited. And she ran around, chasing after every dandelion she saw.
And me, I was angry. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was faced with lonesomeness and resentful of the rest of the world and their happy, love-filled lives, which to me, was an absolute lie. In my eyes love was not real and there was no such thing as purity.
(Again, my town has a way of teaching me things)
That little girl picked nearly every dandelion in sight. Of course, she had not ventured towards me yet. The mother standing nearby called out to her little girl —beautiful as an angel; youthfully pretty in her little girl sundress, her arms extended outward in the direction which she ran. I swear she ran like a child excited to reach out towards gift.
When the little girl noticed the dandelions near me, she ran to my direction. And again, her mother called out protectively to keep her aware of me, a stranger I suppose, and not to bother me. But I wasn’t bothered. No, I was curious.
She approached me. Her cheeks like that of a little cherub, pudgy, beautiful with a smile which proved that perhaps I was wrong —that yes, there is still good and innocence in this world. Her eyes as blue as cool winter sky, untainted by truth and misfortune, and hopeful —yes, hopeful was exactly the look in her eyes; as if belief in God, in man, and as in all that is good cannot and will not be molested by the toxicity of life or tragedy.
The little girl grabbed the dandelions near my feet, and me, standing there like an adult amazed by her protected innocence of youth. And alas, I forgot that in youth, the belief in good is immeasurably curing. But me, I thought I was incurable and I was incapable of seeing anything good
The mother sprinted over towards me, calling for her daughter to leave me alone, which I solved with an understanding, “That’s okay.”
“What are you doing,” I asked the little girl.
“Daddy says that if I pick these and close my eyes and make a wish, I can blow on them and my wish will come true.”
Of course, I had to ask, “What are you wishing for?”
With all the faith in her heart and believing this; that her faith could make it so, the little girl looked at me, confidently, and explained, “For my Daddy to come home from Heaven.”
It was clear to me that my world; whether it was good or bad, tainted, or perfect; this life I have is relative and sometimes I lose sight of the wonderful moments, sad as some might be, which I need to hold and I need to remember.
Because above all, the one thing I need to know is I am not alone now, nor will I ever be. And as tough as times are, I still need to be grateful of who I am and what I have.
I was entering a divorce and at the time. My child did not want to see me. But at least I had a child to see. This little girl was about to embark on a long life without her father. And I thought to myself, “Who the hell am I to complain?”
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone back to visit my old town. I have never been a part of any reunions nor do i receive invitations; however, my town and the corners that remember me well—I know they would be happy to see me
I know this in my heart and I keep it here to warm me when the times feel doubtful.