Today's blog assignment is another double-header: the first is "A picture of your favorite animal."
That one is easy. My favorite animal is a dog. Any dog. Every dog. To paraphrase Will Rogers, I never met a dog I didn't like.
To be sure, there are dogs that aren't properly trained, and there are some that can be downright scary. I've been fortunate not to meet any of the 'bad uns.'
When I was born my parents were living with my grandmother, my dad's mom. The first word I said (or tried to say; I can't believe it came out very clearly) wasn't 'Mama' or 'Dada' or even 'Gamma.' It was 'Jack,' or as close an approximation of it as I could make. He was the last of the family dogs living there at the time.
You can see I've had an affinity for dogs from the beginning.
Growing up, we had a boxer who was the dog to end all dogs. I know, you've heard it before, everybody's dog is the best-ever and all that. Well, Rocky WAS, lol...
I don't have a picture of him to hand, but I found a couple of boxer pix that kind of capture his expressions:
That last gets me. His ears were docked, but he would do the same lopsided 'smile' with a couple of his lower teeth pushing his lip up.
Okay, that was the easy photo. Now for the hard one.
"A picture of your favorite memory."
How do you pick just one? I feel like Emily on the cemetery hilltop. One? I can't choose one favorite!
Most of my pictures - that is, my 'old' pictures, from BH - Before Himself - are back in Pennsylvania. So I went looking on the 'net for pictures of Jefferson County, where I was born and where most of my family lived, and where some of them still live, and where the ones who are no longer alive are buried.
I found a picture of the town hall. There was a picture of the waterfall near my grandmother's house, the one where Himself and I got married. There were pictures along the shore of Lake Ontario, and over to the Adirondacks, and even pictures of The Thousand Islands area.
Looking thru these pictures and surfing around brought so many memories to mind, that at one point I thought 'Place. I'll use the place as my favorite memory.' But it wasn't quite coming together.
A couple days ago we went to the park around a nearby reservoir. We went down to the little beach (the one with big NO SWIMMING signs all over - signs where the people were paddling around) and walked along the shore as far as we could, until the hill got steep and there was no place to walk.
At that point there was a path that led back up onto the road, a path that continued thru the park back to where we'd left the car.
When we crested the hill, I was taken by the view across a meadow - and it called to mind a memory, clear and sharp.
Every summer we would spend a week at my grandparents' house. We would make the long trek (two kids and a boxer, all day in a car - don't tell me it wasn't long) and go Up Home. That's what my parents called it, so that's what we called it.
Up Home meant family of all ages and more cousins than you could shake a stick at. It meant sitting on someone's porch on rainy days and coloring or reading comic books. It meant going to the lake and swimming (well, I had an inner tube). It meant picking strawberries out of my grandmother's garden, and going fishing, and playing out in the street with other kids until the streetlights came on - our signal that it was time to go in. It was staying up late and eating ice cream and being spoiled.
So different from the rest of the year on a farm. It was such a tiny village, but practically urban to us. You could walk to the store, the library, the playground - so much to do, with so many other kids. Their parents had gone to school with our parents - their grandparents knew ours.
Nearly fifty years ago this week - the summer I was 10 - we met my uncle's new girlfriend. Another year and she became his fiancee; two more years saw them married.
One beautiful summer afternoon my uncle and future aunt took a hike with us up thru the fields in back of town. Me, my best friend from up the street, my brother, and his best friend across the road - you see what I mean about different? At home our nearest neighbor was about a mile away; the nearest family with any kids our age closer to two miles. Here, we could gather up a dozen kids our age just by stepping outside Gram's and giving a shout.
The six of us set off, dawdling along. The meadows there were lush with knee-high grass, and there were some large trees that we could climb... a stream to wade in... apple trees, minnows, oh, just the fun stuff.
My uncle is nine years older than I am, so he and then-girlfriend were still child-enough to get into the spirit of things. After rambling around for awhile somebody came up with the idea of playing hide-and-seek.
We probably played four or five games, then the light started slanting and we knew it was time to head back to the house for supper. Once we got there, as Uncle and Future Aunt were getting ready to go to her house, we pleaded for 'Just one more game!'
All right, said Uncle, but don't go far. Just around the house and yard.
It didn't take long for him to find me, my brother, and my brother's friend, but my girlfriend didn't turn up. I started wondering if she'd sneaked home - she only lived two doors down. Finally Uncle called out 'She wins. All'ee all'ee outs in free!'
She popped up from just behind some tall grass at the back of the next-door neighbor's yard. It was great. She's the only one who didn't get caught at all, in any of the games we played.
When I looked across the meadow near the reservoir the other day, that all came back to me, in one flash. So I snapped a picture across the field and emailed it to my uncle:
I asked him if he remembered that day, a day of indulging children and being a kid again and playing games and enjoying life. A perfect afternoon.
I'll let it stand for all my memories - all the summer days, all the golden afternoons and wonderful people, of another place, another time.
Yes, that'll do it. Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!