Time in a Bottle Rocket

I sat on the deck watching the neighbors and Gary’s son launch fireworks. It took me back to a time in my twenties. I was a newly wedded new mom, standing in the Inlaws’ driveway, watching the boys launch an arsenal of rainbow colored explosives until one of the neighbors had enough and called the police. In my thirties, I still see so clearly Keith’s ear-to-ear grin as we stopped at a mega fireworks stand driving out of Florida so he could stock up on bottle rockets and Roman candles.

There have been so much melding of memories over the past 2 days. Zach’s childhood friend, Cody, stopped in to visit yesterday. Now a grown man on leave from the marines, I still couldn’t help myself from seeing that same old kid who spent so much time on the farm. He sat at the piano and played it for a while, just like he always did. He showed us his tattoos and quipped that they were drawn in sharpie, with that same razor sharp dry humor he has always had. The child that once threw snow caps at a movie screen 10 years ago till one stuck, was now standing before me, sharing stories of being gifted a ring by Buddhist monks, traveling to Afganistan, suffering through the humid Japanese summers, and learning to play “Sweet Child of Mine” on the piano in a music store.

Today I spent the day on the Selina II to take pictures. Being aboard her is always magic. She brings me joy. My heart sings as the sail is hoisted. The couple on board asked where to get sushi in Baltimore. Next thing I know, I’m on the phone with my ex, Jimmy, getting names and directions. Reaching across the years to the father of my son, still happy to hear his voice and chat with him for a while. Captain Iris shared the story with them of my failed attempt to disguise myself as a shipmate to cover up the fact that I was actually on board to photograph a surprise proposal. She quoted me saying “what do you want me to do with this?” as I held a rope in my hand with a deer in the headlights look on my face.

My parents spent the last three days packing for another run to their new home in Bamberg, SC. I joined them on their last day. They took me out for an early birthday dinner where I indulged in the age old tradition of eating lobster to celebrate. At 4:00 am this morning, the Lankford gypsies were on their way home, just like we used to do when the family drove to Florida to visit relatives. My mother pointed out that this time they left me in my bed instead of bundling me up in a blanket and carrying me out to the car. Their brief stay with me as tenants has come to an end. A strange empty nest in reverse has settled on my soul, as if I were the parent sending them off to be on their own. My son is living on his own, my stepson is moving on with his own life, and my parents finally having a place to call home. All the while I think I am too young to retire and too old to keep moving heavy furniture to other places.

Gary stopped by my house to get the big TV Keith and I bought a couple of years ago. It’s all set up at his house. I’m sitting here in the dark, watching it in all its glory, the images glow and leap across the screen. There is some sort of nostalgic pleasure here in this moment, taking me back to when I would rub Keith’s feet until he fell asleep on the couch so Agent Jay and I could steal the remote and watch stupid movies on Netflicks.

We think of memories as frozen in time but they aren’t. Memories are like constantly changing flickering points of light, exploding before us. We find ourselves listening to the laughter as the rocket launches, the ohs and ahs as it bursts in front of a carpet of stars, and realize that we have been here before, we will be here again. Even if it is as fleeting as the pop after lighting the firecracker.

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