Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 25 - Right as Rain

Bev rounded up the children for the ride into town. They had planned to spend the day at the park for an old fashioned Fourth of July celebration. Bev had loaded the back of the truck with an ice chest full of soda and fresh fruit. She didn’t want to have to pay exorbitant prices to the vendors while at the park. The night before she had fried some chicken and made a huge bowl of potato salad. Bev waited for the light to change as she entered the outer drive. At the entrance to the park there were several antique automobiles on display. A group of policemen were directing traffic and answering questions as she drove past; half way hoping to recognize a friendly face among them, she had the children wave.

“Just follow the markers to the main parking area. Follow the markers . . . “, the officer barked out in cadence as each car made its way to him. The heat of the day coupled with the heavy moisture laden air of summer wore quickly on the officers; their light blue shirts rapidly soaked through with perspiration.

Bev looked for a place under one of the ancient oaks, all the good spots were taken. Had she gotten to the park several hours earlier it may have been possible; the only places left were in the middle of an over flow lot. She rolled the windows down, but only an inch, to let the air flow through the cab; speculating that a late afternoon thunder shower was probable.

“William, you take the potato salad. Jenny, you get the bag that has the chicken. Bonnie, grab the other handle and we’ll take the ice chest.” Bev organized the crew before they could wander off.

“Aw Mom, . . .” William kicked some loose gravel with his sneakers. A cloud of dust settled as the pebbles scattered.

“ . . . And stop that before you kick those rocks into some car!” Bev handed William the yellow Tupperware bowl as she closed the door and locked it.

“When is the concert?” Bonnie’s interest in music was much greater since she had started playing the clarinet. She had spent several hours practicing the scales and learning some simple arrangements for the Beginner Band Concert. Sinclair had not been able to attend that one. Bonnie hadn’t said much about it; but there was a look on her face. When all the other parents were there, taking pictures and dotting on and on, Bonnie just sort of slinked back within herself, not wishing to draw attention.

“According to the schedule. . .”, flipping through the pages of newspaper, “’. . . there are to be several small concerts all day long. Tonight, after the sun goes down, there will be a final concert followed by the fireworks display.” Bev was just as excited as the children. She had played the trombone in her school band. She enjoyed the uniforms, bright splashes of glitter as the sun reflected off polished instruments and the sounds that came from a group of hard working young musicians. Sour notes were just as much a part of the band as the overall sound. When a squeak or blurt escaped it only meant that there was a human being learning to play.

“I want to go home; its too hot.” Jenny whined as she walked along dragging the paper sack that had the chicken, paper plates and napkins.

“Be grateful that you didn’t have to cross the plains with the Mormon Pioneers. Most of the time they had to walk along side the wagons in the hot sun.” Bev could always find a suitable topic to emphasize a point.

“How come they don’t let us pop fire crackets?”

"That’s, fire C R A C K E R S , William; and they don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Bev led them along the edge of the road, following the hundreds of families that headed for the center of the park. A large stage had been built in the shape of a gazebo which acted as a focal point. Banners of red, white and blue bunting hung at its base.

The Heritage Society was hosting the event and the ushers sported “turn of the century”
clothing. The men wore pin striped suits topped off with brimmed straw hats. A few even had handle bar mustaches, waxed on the tips to hold them to a point. The women had long dresses with lots of extra material covered with beads and lace; very Victorian.

One vendor had a stand where people could rent bicycles built for two, complete with an old fashioned thumb lever bell ringer. He stood at the corner of his booth, the sleeves of his shirt gathered by a blue silk garter, hawking his wares. The distortion of his voice as it came out of the tiny megaphone, held tightly to his mouth, made it irresistible; a long line formed waiting for a chance to rent bicycles.

The closer they got, Bev heard singing. It was a group of Barber Shop Singers pouring out their music as they strolled among the crowd.

“Lida Rose . . .oh”, a beautiful tenor broke followed by a stunning base that bellowed the harmony.

“Lida Rose, I’m home again Rose.”, the blending and contrasting of voices was wonderful.

“Mom. . .”, William tugged a few times on Bev’s long dress. She had made it from some material that was on sale; a small print reminiscent of the kind that the pioneers would have worn.

“What is it? Can’t you see that I’m listening to the song?” Bev wanted to hear one song, one piece of music without an interruption at least once before she died.

“Mom, that’s my primary teacher singing.” William eyes were lighted upas he pointed and waved. “Hi Brother Evans!” Bryce Evans continued to sing, pausing momentarily as he winked over to acknowledge William.

“Ding Dong Ding I can hear the chapel bells chime. Ding Dong Ding . . .”

About the only thing missing was Professor Harold Hill trying to sell band uniforms. The quartet shuffled and bobbed in unison as they made their way down the hill.

“ . . . How everyone knows that I am hoping your the same . . .”, the exquisite tenor topped off the trailing lines of verse. Bev found herself humming the other half of the musical’s duet; remembering how the camera work had panned from the quartet to Miss Marion as she sang a companion song. Sinclair had promised to buy the movie on Laser Disk and add it to their collection.

“Dream of love, dream of love . . .”, Bev filled in with some of the words that she could bring to mind. Humming as she inserted herself into the momentary fantasy.

“. . . So hear is my love song . . .”, the barber shop tones rested evenly between each line.

“. . . Dream of a love song that might have been. . .”

“. . . Not fancy or fine . . .”, Brother Evan’s voice came through clear and crisp as the song began to come to its close.

“. . . Do I love you; oh yes I love you . . .”, Bev pictured the young librarian rocking on the porch, singing the desires of her heart; now she had become Miss Marion.

“ . . Lida Rose. . oh. . won’t . . you. . be. . .”, the deep base held his notes as the rest of the group ran ahead to the next line.

“My Lida Rose oh Lida Rose.” The crowd gave them a resounding hand of applause for a fine performance. Bev waved once more to Brother Evans as they tipped their hats and bowed. Bev had the children take sections of newspaper so that they could sit on the
grassy slope of the amphitheater hill. The paper kept them from direct contact with the
ground and could be easily disposed of. The band was already warming up as they seated themselves. A piccolo went through his practice scales piercing the air.

“I know that scale. That's the “Concert B flat” scale. We do that one everyday.” Bonnie was feeling very pleased with herself at having recognized what he was doing.

“That’s right Bonnie. We used to warm up like that before half time when I was in the band.”

“What are they going to play? Does it say in the program?”

“Let me look.” The band director made his presence known and the crowd hushed as he turned to face the musicians. He raised his arms, a slight bend in the elbows, holding the baton high in the air. His white summer suit stood out against the cool green background of the park, reminiscent of Sousa. With no time wasted, he tucked his right arm down and the concert began. The audience quickly recognized the National Anthem and rose to its feet. The band director looked over his shoulder and smiled as the spirit of the music blessed the air.

“Take your ball cap and place it over your heart William.” Bev quietly suggested as she bent over and positioned the cap for him. After the National Anthem the band played some marches from Sousa, “Summer Time” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, and closed with a powerful “Stars and Stripes Forever”. As the last note triumphantly swirled past the edge of the stage, the crowd let loose with whistles and cheers; worthy of a at least a few extra bars. The band struck up the last sixteen bars; the roar of clapping of hands kept pace to the end.

“That was great! I can’t wait ‘till we get to play that.”

“I know what you mean.”, wiping the tears away as soon as she finished clapping. Bev’s knowledge of the human struggle to gain freedoms and keep them was close the surface as she wept. It was important to pass along the resolve, the sacred worth of our country’s freedoms to the children.

“Momma’s crying again. It must have been a good concert.” Jenny knew how to gage Bev’s spiritual and emotional status.

“Time to eat! Right William?” Bev knew that William would respond favorably. Opening the lid of the ice chest and at the same time motioning for Bonnie to start passing out the paper plates. Bev reached in, “Who wants a Delaware Punch?”

“I do!” William instantly grabbed it.

“I wanted that.” Jenny began to protest.

“There’s another one here for you; now stop that.”

“ ‘ Better be!” Jenny tightened her lips as she scowled at William.

“Jenny’s bein’ mean to me.”

“Stop it; both of you! I want no more of that. Do you hear me?” Bev slapped a glob of potato salad onto a plate and shoved it toward Jennifer.

“Can I have a thigh since Dad’s not here?” Bonnie knew that she had better make her bid before one of the others beat her to it.

“Okay.” Bev nodded without looking up. She closed her eyes for a few seconds; thinking of the simple changes that had influenced the family habits. While the meal progressed, the chairs that the band had used were rearranged on the gazebo. A podium was centered and a short row of chairs was lined for the V.I.P’s.

“There’s the Mayor, and the Police Chief. I think that the guy next to the Mayor is the Park's Director.” Bev pointed out each of the dignitaries on the stage to the children.

“Boring.” Bonnie injected her standard rejection of social grace.

“Yea, boring.” Jenny jumped in trying to emulate her older sister.

“Let’s have no more of that. Let’s show a little respect.” Bev silently echoed the children’s sentiments to herself. She did not want to hear another “up beat” political
message from the Mayor on how well “This” administration was running the city. There was a technical problem with the microphone and the Mayor stood by, smiling and waving while the electrician checked for the bad connection.

“I can’t hear anything.” William pointed out the obvious.


“Yea, boring.” The pop of speakers signified a successful repair as the Mayor stepped back to the podium. A few ominously dark clouds had closed in over the park; rumbles in the distance signaled the approaching weather. The wind picked up blowing bits of paper and dust as the air temperature cooled measurably.

“Time to head for the truck!” Bev didn’t have to tell the children twice. They had already started to toss their plates into the sack.

“At least we don’t have to listen to a bunch of boring old people talk.” Bonnie signaled Jennifer with a smirk.

“Are we gonna’ stay for the fireworks?” William became alarmed at the prospect of missing the most important part of the whole trip.

“We’ll see, we’ll see.” Bev hurriedly guided them towards the truck; hoping to beat the deluge. A flash of pink lightning raced across the charcoal sky followed quickly by a thunderous rumble and crash.

“That was close; only a couple of miles at best.” Bev was counting to herself, “One one thousand, two one thousand. . .” As the crew got within fifty yards of the truck the heavens poured out upon them. The four all got soaked to the bone as Bev opened the back of the truck.

“Let’s just sit here and see if it passes.” Bev looked at William who was next to tears, thinking of how much he had looked forward to the fireworks display. Another flash of lightning and an even louder clap of thunder disrupted the moment. The rain beat harder than ever as the storm centered itself over the park.

“Glad we only left the windows down a little.” Bev tried to think of something positive to say. Bonnie parted the small row of curtains that covered the window separating the camper shell from the cab of the truck. The window fogged from her breath but she was able to see the rain pouring in as the wind was blowing it sideways.

“How’s it look?”, Bev asked; not really wanting to hear the truth.

“Looks like Noah better finish the boat pretty quick.”

“Are the seats getting wet?”

“Yea, I mean, Yes Ma’am, they’re soaked.”

“Well, not much we can do about it. Who wants a piece of chicken?” Bev was determined to make the best of it. The storm had cooled things off nicely and there was no real damage done. The seats would dry and the holes in the floor boards wouldn’t let the water stand.

“William ! Get back in here !” William had opened the door and was looking up, letting the large rain drops splash onto his face.

“When the rain stops will they still do the fireworks?” William had a singular purpose for attending the park and nothing could discourage him.

“When your father and I were dating . . .”, a distant look came over Bev as she pleasantly was reminded of her youth.

“Was that before or after Noah built the boat?” Bonnie saw an opportunity to have some fun. Bev glanced unflinchingly in Bonnie’s direction, never stopping to correct the minor flaw of Bonnie’s chronological record.

“ . . . he took me to a concert in this very same park. It had rained on the Fourth, very much like it is doing right now.”

“Did they shoot off the fireworks?”

“No William; the weather was so bad it forced them to cancel so we went to the concert on the following week.” Bev continued, having set the ground work just in case the fireworks got canceled. “Where was I? Anyway, we sat on the hill in the evening waiting for the music to begin. Nothing else in the world mattered. We were young and enjoying each others company, oblivious to the clouds of mosquitoes buzzing all around us.”

“Here comes the mushy stuff.” Jenny giggled as she jumped ahead of the story.

Bev smiled; acknowledging the warm feelings that had been held in her heart.

“They played the 1812 overture and at the end, when the cannon fire is played, they had timed the fireworks to all go off at once. It looked like the stage was on fire with rockets and smoke. It was so exciting, so unexpected. We had forgotten about the rain out from the week before.”

“Did you . . .”, Jenny still waiting to hear the mushy stuff, “kiss and hug?”

“A little.”, blushing, not for guilt; but for having been reminded of how much she loved Sinclair and how the children should know how important that feeling was and continued to be.

“Kissy kissy !” Bonnie blushed too, looking at Jennifer; implying that even the old people did that kind of thing. The rain began to let up; the storm having passed. There were leaves scattered over the truck on the side that was to the wind. Small branches had been snapped off and lay in the fresh puddles of the crushed oyster shell lot. The air was fresh and clean smelling. People were getting out of their cars; looking around at one another. They all had the same question on their minds as William bellowed out in raw excitement.

“Great day for a fireworks display !”

“Right as rain William, right as rain.”