Friday, June 17, 2011
Smiling in the Rain
Funny things trigger our memories. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows that sometimes your brain flashes back without warning. My dad has been gone for twenty years now, and I am still shocked how often a phrase, a place, or even a smell will make me think of him.
A few days ago on a quiet stretch of our cruise, as I bit into a red plum and tasted the tartness of the skin and the sweetness of the fruit, I couldn’t help thinking of my Grandfather, Paul. Grandpa spent the last several years of his life living in Newcastle on his niece’s orchard. Whenever he visited us in Sacramento, which was often, he always brought big wooden lugs of fruit; sometimes pears, sometimes apricots, but always plums. We ate plums till they were coming out our ears (and elsewhere!). Mom, making every cent stretch in those days, also made plum jelly, plum jam and even canned whole plums. Plums were a staple in our house year round. So, here, gliding through the Erie Canal all these years later, that simple taste of a ripe plum brought back all these good memories.
The next day we went through a bunch of locks of the Erie in the rain. Not a driving rain, but a pretty constant one. I have to admit, my job under the cover of the fly bridge canvas is a lot drier than my first mate’s out on the bow. Even after I come down to hold the stern I have a little cover from the fly bridge overhang. Carrie is for the most part out in the rain, with a smile on her face. I sometimes just watch her and smile myself at her good, sweet spirit.
So, I was really taken back when she rejoined me on the fly bridge after a rainy pass through a lock with a sad face and tears running down her cheeks. I am no brilliant marriage counselor, but I have learned at times like this to shut up and hug. Sure enough, a few moments later she was smiling again. She explained that for some reason, while she was standing out there in her rain gear enjoying herself, she remembered a story that George, a friend of the family's, had told at her mom’s funeral.
It seems they all used to jeep together, and sometimes they would get caught in heavy Sierra thunderstorms. Whenever the jeeps would reach a closed gate, Myrna was always the first to jump out from under cover open the gates and close them after the last jeep passed. All the while, she had a big smile on her face, out there standing in the rain.
So, this day, just for a moment, Carrie’s mom was with her on the bow of our boat, smiling in the rain. Pretty cool, huh?