Monday, August 21, 2017

Last Words on Summer



Not only did we record another first day of school this week...the kids with their fresh and summery faces, their brand new clean soled tennis shoes a whole size larger than in May, and an invisible vibrancy and energy that screams ‘New Year!’ like it was neon….but this weekend we finish the triple crown of our August birthdays. Levi: August 10, Ben: August 15, and Matt, August 20.  After a summer with sadness in the shadows, a trio of celebrations is as welcome as wearing brand new Under Armour in your school colors.
I texted Matt this morning to ask him what he wanted for his birthday. “A roof,”was the wry answer accompanied by an eye rolling emoji.  It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what the Schlueters will remember about the summer of ‘17….
My TimeHop is chock full of politicians pressing flesh at the State Fair, kids with book bags on their back porches and early morning shots of dew dripping mums marching row by row.  Iconic August. TimeHop becomes time stopped when five years ago comes up on the screen.  There’s Levi, with wires and tubes attached and his tiny fist around his daddy’s finger.  Five years ago on his dad’s birthday, he could breathe without the oxygen tube stuck up his nose.  The camera captures what looks like a sly little smile, a realization that he is the apple of his parents’ eyes, that this whole early appearance was concocted just so he could get two more weeks of love here on earth.

And there is Ben’s birthday celebration...a genuine laugh after all the tension, anxiety, and care of the week before. A cake, a candle, and a UVA baseball….

Believe me, Levi will hear plenty of tales about his adventurous first year crisscrossing the country like a gypsy. He has always been a kid with lots of get up and go; maybe it was imprinted on him along I-64.
We are people that keep our memories alive in pictures and in stories.  What cannot be proven...or disproven….in photos will certainly be embellished orally.  Blake was born behind curtains on a segregated floor of a Florida hospital; Lee with a big old forceps scratch on her little nose in the midst of an epic snowmelt and late winter flood. Everyone in the neighborhood knew we went to the hospital that 4th of July evening before Ann was born; we still talk about the rain that fell July 3 that blistering hot year and gave us a corn crop. Her baby gift from my parents was a Weber grill that we used for the next twenty years.  The men of Hurst farms were building the grain bin by our house when Ben made his first moves toward birth.  I was doing the dishes when Blake came in to tell me we were making his dad really nervous with our relaxed notion of when to go to the hospital. Ben was delivered by Doc Niedermeyer mere moments after he reassured me he was “going to set a broken arm and then we’d have a baby.”  We did...and I'll always wonder whose kid determined Ben’s arrival was 5:25…..
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Lee had her ‘Be’, short for baby, a handy word to know when a real ‘Be’ showed up at her house not long after she started talking.  Ann would scream bloody murder if we stayed up past 10:30 to watch Johnny Carson after the news. Ben wouldn’t eat orange things.  Actually, there were quite a few things Ben wouldn’t eat...potatoes and eggs for example...which took some of the main mom staples off the menu.

But I cannot tell you any stories about my babyhood.  My mom and dad took lots of pictures of visits, of birthdays, of dress up and play and travel and just the day-to-day life that new parents record with their first born.  I remember rubbing balloons on our hair and hanging them on the wall; I remember the concrete chickens in my godmother’s yard.   I remember when my dad got appendicitis and watching him play baseball at Argonne.  I remember the giant spiders at the cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks and finding marbles in the bare dirt of our subdivision yard.  But the only stories my folks told me about when I was very young were that I broke my baby teeth once on the hard maple of our dining room chairs and again on the tile floor of the kitchen.  

Which is why this post is about everyone else’s birthdays...or birth days...but not mine!

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