I can only cull a scene or two from the pieces I find lying about. The other mundane events of the day fade to black leaving the significant ones for contrast.
Then too, perhaps I have compressed the many days into one and what I think is a singular day is simply more bits and fragments drifting lightly over weeks and months and years.
“They need something to do” my mother would have said speaking of us, my brother, my sister, and I.
I deduce that my father, thus prompted by my mother, decided a trip to the salvage yard would provide his children with the raw materials to occupy them…. and bring him a measure of peace and solitude, which he craved throughout his life.
It worked. For years ours was a backyard secured not by fences or guards but by the constant activity on the inside.
We stayed safely inside and rarely bothered with or even spoke to adults.
An endless stream was built: forts, clubhouses, tunnels, boats, cages, and the random “invention” that no one knew the name of.
Usually whatever we built soon morphed into something else. All was built and un-built until the yard resembled a construction site or a battlefield (much to my mother’s distress).
She was good at hiding it, however, and as far as we knew she fully embraced whatever we undertook…although at a safe distance.
This territory was ours and in this back yard world, benign neglect was king.
My father was a bit of a visionary as well…. he had built the house on top of a rocky hill …it was the first house in the area, built soon after the war. And before long an ocean of baby boomer parents and baby boomers joined us. Early on however, we were somewhat unique living on that sparsely covered lot high on that rocky hill. To get a backyard in that part of the world it was necessary to haul in dirt, which my father did. Then you add trees, grass, bushes, children, and dogs and soon you have the complete package. All except for some junk from the salvage yard, and on that day my father had undertaken the task.
There at the salvage yard my father stood off to the side talking to the owner. Two by fours, plywood tops to crates, and other pieces of scrap lumber were soon loaded into the station wagon. We ran around searching in the piles of junk at the yard, anticipating the activity to come.
Then it appeared.
“It’s a helicopter bubble, ” my brother cried. None of us could come up with a better explanation for the thing, and we never did, so it remained “the helicopter bubble” from then on.
It most certainly was a piece of military equipment straight from the recent war. Perhaps it was made from glass or an early form of Plexiglas. It was a bubble like thing, a half sphere with a metal ring attached. You could see through it and it was big enough for all three of us kids to get in it at once. My mother and father must have endorsed it because it was soon in our war zone of a back yard.
Hour after hour of childhood was spent with that thing and it still engages my imagination when I think of it. Water, rocks, mud and no telling what else were all placed in it at times. It made a handy cauldron. But mostly it was a magic window to the inside …to the places where children really live. “I’ll invent something with it,” I thought and dreams of what it could become occupied many nights as well as my waking hours.
And here the scene darkens for a while.
The helicopter bubble fades from view.
It must have been in our possession for a year or more…maybe several. There came a day, however, that I see all too well. As I look at it now I perceive that I was older and wiser …or so I thought.
I had a friend over. We were out in the front of the house. The helicopter bubble was there on the concrete driveway. I had out grown it. It was baby stuff now. Setting out to impress my friend I had gathered up a hammer or two. We took turns striking the bubble.
The glass did not shatter but rather broke apart slowly. It was hard, slow, tedious, work to destroy it. The helicopter bubble absorbed blow upon blow.
Soon I was in a veritable frenzy of destruction, partly because it was much more difficult than I had anticipated, and partly because I was in a hurry to complete the task without my mother’s knowledge.
Raising the hammer to strike the bubble I hit my head …there was no pain. More blows to the bubble were struck. “I’m really sweating.” I thought and wiped my damp head with my hand.
Looking at my hand which was red there was a wave of shock. “Its blood!” I said ‘” Blood! I’m bleeding!”
The destruction stopped immediately and I went in the house to admit to my mother what I had done and repent before I died.
She bandaged me up and we gathered up the pieces of the helicopter bubble and put them in the trash. Again the scene fades to darkness; there is nothing-important left to see.
I was full of regret however, I would think of the helicopter bubble and all of its possibilities and then the scene of its destruction would crowd out those happy thoughts.
And it always ended in blood.
Destruction for its own sake never tasted good again after that.
I sure wish I still had that thing ….I know I could make something good out of it.
The big red ball at last was at Eddie’s….. sort of.
To be more precise it was on the flat bed of a semi at Eddie’s and we had to get it off. Eddie’s kids fired up the big forklift and we undid the chains.
The forklift got in place and a small crowd gathered. The big red ball had that effect on people; it was almost as if it was magnetic the way it drew people to itself.
The tension was mounting and Ronnie gunned the forklift. The crowd stepped back and …..nothing, nothing other than a lot of smoke and noise.
The forklift strained to lift the big red ball but nothing happened.
Ronnie gunned it again and the ball lifted an inch or so. The lifting used up all the power and Ronnie couldn’t get the huge forklift to move either forward or backward. He shut it down. The semi driver was antsy …he hadn’t bargained for this much turmoil.
“You lift it up and I’ll drive out from under it,” he said to Ronnie, and with a nod from his father, Ronnie again fired up the forklift and gave it the gas.
The strain was visible from the noise and smoke of the forklift and it was also in the faces of all in attendance. It was as if we all strained together we could accomplish the task. The big red ball lifted an inch… then another inch .The semi driver pulled his vehicle forward till the ball was totally free of the flat bed and suspended in mid air….. but now what?
The driver hurriedly gathered his stuff together so he could make a break for it.
I assume the idea Ronnie had was to lower the ball to the ground as it began to descend slowly.
Just as it reached the 3 foot mark the forklift lurched, the crowd instantly stepped back and the ball slid off the forks and hit the asphalt with a resounding thud. The earth shook.
At that moment the big red ball was finally “at Eddie’s”
Unfortunately it was in a small crater in the middle of Eddie’s parking lot; we all stood there and stared.
The crowd drifted away. They had gotten their money’s worth and other things begged for their attention.
Eddie, Ronnie and I were left to clean up the mess,
“How much do you think it weighs? “ I asked.
Eddie just glared at me. “That forklift can move anything”
We spent an hour or two trying to prove I was wrong. We pulled, pushed, prodded, and cursed the big red ball.... all with no success. “Just leave it there,” Eddie said finally.
And that’s what we did, for a good long while.
to be continued