MORNING COFFEE 36 - memorial day

By Susan Weber

We used to come here with the boys. Later just the two of us would come. Three weeks ago, over there in the great lake that knew us all by name, we spread my husband’s ashes. It’s crowded here today, with people forgetting, remembering the dead. I spread my breakfast on a hardwood bench that overlooks the boardwalk. There are too many floats in this parade.
Mother and daughter leave a stroller at the end of the ramp and carry an infant down to the water. A couple my age saunters by, murmuring, at ease with their good fortune. A conversation while taking off shoes at the end of my bench goes something like this:

Small voice: “Bee. BEE!”
Grown voice: “Hey, hey, no yelling, she’s trying to read. Okay, other foot.”

I’ve brought no book. I’m writing. The bee hasn’t found my orange yet.

Small voice: “I can listen now.”
Grown voice: “Yes, that’s really good."

Jet skis sound off across the blue lake. A father and a teenage boy, a sister maybe half that age, stroll down the boardwalk. Lazy is the day. A pair of women in sleeveless tees chew gum; ponytails sprout from their helmets. They take a break from wheeling bikes where bikes are not allowed. They don’t read signs or do not care what’s posted. Bicycles are not as loud as jet skis, which seem to be welcomed here. In the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was the call of birds.

First biker: “What pisses me off is the girl who got full time hasn’t been there as long as me.”
Second biker: “That’s so unfair.”

Did they read the sign about life not being fair? I turn my attention to the beach where a guy—his chest tattooed like a tavern brawl—struts along the water and disappears around a bend in the shoreline.

Here comes a cute little kid down the runway in a turquoise shirt, golden ringlets, hot pink hat. She struts too, until the dad says, “Why are you walking like that?”

Yesterday I cleaned the garage and hauled a mound of garbage to the curb—remnants of habitat shared by humans, rabbits, rodents, and racoons. It felt good, though unfamiliar, to reap the rewards of noble intent.

The motorboats are loud; the sea gulls louder still. Mom and Dad with hands on hips watch their Goldilocks dip a toe in the water and squeal when jet ski waves roll in. The mom takes a picture of the designated rollicker. The father looks down shore.

Squashing greasy rags, acorn shells, and clogged oil filters in the trash, I thought about the crew in our garage all those years, shoring up supplies in the cozy nest of our indifference. A woman with pineapples on her shirt—salmon and teal—clasps her hands against the worn back pockets of her shorn off jeans. Thus composed, she contemplates the water. Her bosom is perfectly proportioned to the faded denim girth of her. Some would call her chunky, but they would not be sign readers either.

This guy’s swim shorts match his white framed glasses and fresh shaved scalp. He strides to the water like a spunky crane. The pink-hatted wunderkind follows her parents to the car. Her shorts are soaked, her legs collecting sand. Her querulous tone makes no impression on those who seal her fate.

“Are you gonna get sand in your toes?” a grandpa says to the toddler he carries, his cap set backwards, her sundress a coral reef. Grandma in her fluttering chemise takes the girl across the sand, too hot for tender toes, just right for callouses and bunions. Grandpa follows and they sit on the driftwood log, grandma’s thighs a cushion for the girl.

A gaggle of teens has this to say in passing:

First teen girl: “I feel like I’m getting sea hair.”
Teen boy: “Air of the sea?”
First teen girl: “No—hair.”
Second teen girl: “We all have it.”

I ask a flag-themed family taking pictures on my deck if they’d like a group photo. They say they would.

The grandpa’s returned to the boardwalk, the toddler in the crook of his arm. Rainbow sandals dangle from his freckled hands. The grandmother bushes off sand, finessing the straps around the toddler’s feet. Soon there are rainbows trotting toward me, the child pointing up at me, her entourage in tow. The breeze reminds me of life and happiness. Lifting all judgement from my shoulders, it marries me to the steadfast wind.

Photo by Susan Weber CC-BY-SA-4.0