Archive for the ‘innocence’ Category

Playing With Fire

Monday, June 25th, 2007

It is nearly midnight. The logs pop as I take my poker and stir up the coals once more before the flames die out altogether. Once enough embers are glowing, I hastily add another log to the fire. If the fire dies out, the evening is over. The sparks cascade heavenward and light up the surrounding fireside area. The light from the newly flaming log is enough to enhance the view I have of Michael. He is sitting directly across from me, and Gene has told me that Michael really likes me. I was fifteen at the time and not quite sure what that really meant.

It was my duty each evening at dusk to get a fire going in the common pit outside of the reservation desk of my family’s campground. As the night wore on, customers would come and go, just chit-chatting, or perhaps checking up on their kids who were likely sitting out there with me. Marshmallows were always available, and on occasion, someone would bring the required Hershey bars and graham crackers for s’mores.

By about ten each evening, any younger kids and any other campground guests would trickle back to their tents to go to bed. We always had guests who stayed for longer periods of time, and many for the entire summer. The teenage children of these guests were my inner circle. Michael’s family were summer residents.

Looking through the flames, I could see his long blonde hair shadowing his face. His bangs would separate in the middle and his eyes would mirror the flames that danced between us. As the summer wore on, Michael’s designated seat would move clockwise around the circle changing every few nights so as to not look suspicious. After about two weeks, his seat was right next to me.

The innocence of this nightly ritual is long lost, but the memory of the first kiss is still sharp in my mind’s eye some twenty five years later. Soft youthful lips. Hands not knowing where to go so they remain at our sides. A brief kiss, then it is time once again to give the dying embers a stir so that another log can pile on to warm the midnight sky as sparks cascade heavenward.

Grace in Motion

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

The Carnival

As I drive home from work at night, I hit an overpass once I have gone from 59 to the Beltway that allows the night sky to become animated with uncommon color. There are flashing bulbs of every color and design matched only by fireworks. I love the lights of the carnival in the night sky. I love the carnival at night.

When I was 16 or 17, I went for a girls night out with my best friends at that time. I think there might have been 5 of us piled into Colleen’s Maverick, Colleen, Tina, Eileen, Paula and myself. It was the end of summer and we were out to just have a grand old time. Someone had procured a couple of eight packs of Miller Light ponies, and we were on our way to the county annual carnival by dusk.

I remember the five of us actually all fitting in the seat on the Tilt-a-Whirl together. It was a celebration of sorts because Eileen had finally relented and accepted me into the group of locals. I don’t remember the five of us being exclusively social before this time. We were a pack of local girls out for the first time with none of the boy/friend regulars, also part of our group. It truly was unique to be out doing something with none of the boys figuring out where we were and just showing up.

There were mass quantities of cotton candy, funnel cakes, corn dogs and let’s not forget, beer. Someone’s cousin was working the beer concession so of course, there was more to drink than what we had on the way there. We stopped on the side of the road as soon as the night sky was filled with the lights of the carnival rides to drink the rest of our beer stash and dispose of the empties before unleashing ourselves for our night of fun. It was also the night of my first and only drunken tattoo.

As we took a break from the rides to stroll around and cruise for hot guys, someone suggested we play some carnival games. We went booth to booth and threw darts at balloons to win posters, played ring toss to win goldfish, and the best of all, thew softballs for record album cover mirrors. I remember bringing home Steve Miller Band and someone else scoring Fleetwood Mac. After a fresh round of beers, we came across the tattoo tent.

The tattoo itself wasn’t a bad choice . I got it on my left shoulder and it was about 4 inches high. There was a tiger with a sash across it where in my drunkenness, I took everyone’s suggestion to heart and I put my boyfriend Michael’s name boldly in black scripted letters. The tiger itself was vivid orange striped with black and behind the tiger was a red heart. Then the sash saying Michael. It really was stunning and I felt like such a rebellious bad girl. Truly one of the group for the first time. This was followed by more alcohol, more food, and more riding in the sea of colored lights. It really is one of my fondest memories of that era.

The next morning, I got up as usual and had campground chores to do. First there was the bathrooms, then the firepits and trash, then lifeguard duty for the bulk of the day. It was the lifeguarding where the drunken tattoo became a questionable choice. As my father finished cleaning the pool, He and I passed through the pool gate and I still had a hooded sweatshirt on over my bathing suit. I really was not consciously trying to cover the tattoo, I truly hadn’t really remembered getting it.

Michael and his dad returned from fishing and hit the pool at about 2 in the afternoon. I had been lazing around sunning for a bit and chatting it up with Stephan, one of our summer residents and a good friend and confidant. Stephan was a couple of years older and he and I developed a thick sibling like bond almost instantly when we first met the summer before. He asked about the new ink and for the first time that day my eyes went to my shoulder. Shit. I had been parading about all day without a clue. I touched it gently and instantly had the memory of the ink flowing off the artist’s brush onto my skin. Yes, brush, not needle. Thank God it wasn’t real.

So Michael and his dad came in for a dip. As soon as Mr. Wheeler swam the length of the pool, he got out of the water, dried off and told us kids to have fun while he went in search of a cold one. I knew he was also in search of my dad for some bullshitting. It was after fishing ritual. What didn’t occur to me was that he had taken notice of my tattoo.

Not five minutes after Mr Wheeler’s exit, I hear my dad on the speaker in the tree. “Inside, now” was all he said.

Out of the pool, towel around my waist, hoodie back on, I ran across the parking lot to the office.

“Let me see it.” I had never really seen my dad pissed off. Certainly not at me. If steam could have blown out his ears, he would have looked like many a cartoon venting frustration. I really was puzzled as to what he was talking about. This only infuriated him more as he yanked me into the back room. “The tattoo.”

I told him it was fake. He wasn’t hearing that at all. He wanted to see it and he wanted to see it immediately. My hoodie was off in a flash. My dad touched my arm. At that point I thought he was ready to beat my ass, something that had never in my lifetime happened. He was reaching for the first aid kit and he rummaged through it for something. Finally he comes out with an alcohol wipe. I knew this would take the tattoo off, and Michael who was still at the pool hadn’t seen it yet.

I got my dad to give me the wipe and I proceeded to take off the tip of the tiger’s tail to prove to him it was fake. My dad was instantly relieved and I was again his little girl. “Go” was all he said.

Mr. Wheeler was sitting at the counter drinking his coke and chuckling as I ran out the office door. I shed my hoodie and towel as I went through the gate and dove into the pool and came up in the deep end standing between Michael and Stephan. Michael and I had been a couple for about a year at that point and he had never kissed me in front of anyone. He was shy and protective. We were naive enough to think none of the adults knew and only many years later was this illusion shattered. Michael, after hearing the whole story leaned in close and hugged me. He then turned my face up to his and kissed me. I looked over his shoulder to see Stephan smiling and swimming off. Michael and I spent the rest of the afternoon sunning ourselves.

How does this relate to the theme of cultivating grace? The thread that continues through this from beginning to end is one or innocence. Never throughout this experience was there a shred of contrivance. Life was being lived in every moment from a point of purity. Grace in motion.