Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Breath In, Breath Out, and Carry On
As a kid growing up from the late 1960’s, until I moved away in the early 1990’s a piece of land owned by the county called the “Boulevard” by most was the center of many social activities in my hometown, Georgetown, South Carolina. Situated on a small low-lying peninsula jutting out into Winyah Bay the baseball fields, public boat landing, and playgrounds of the Boulevard are still used by residents even though the facilities have greatly changed. While the ghosts of the past outnumber any real connection I have with my hometown over the years, during my far too short visits, I have brought my kids to those same playgrounds in an attempt to link my memories of that place with their own childhoods. Unfortunately, during a visit to one of the newer parks on the Boulevard last weekend I was reminded that not all my memories are of the happy sort.
Simply put my parent’s relationship was the Chernobyl disaster of marriages, I am the oldest of my siblings and while mom and dad were together I cannot remember a time they were not figuratively and sometimes literally at each other’s throats. All marriages have rough spots, Hell my own has been quite the ride at times, but neither my wife nor I have ever used our children as pawns in some sort of strategic game. In fact with all the lies and deceptions perpetrated by my mother and father on each other I figure they could have easily given lessons on subterfuge to CIA agents.
Never one to let a divorce get in the way sticking the knife a little deeper into his former spouse, one Sunday around 1975 my dad shows up at the Boulevard while my siblings and I are enjoying the playground with my Uncle Maxie, my mom’s brother, and commences to give him detail reports on her late night activities. At times it was all overwhelming but I finally came to the point in my life realizing I could not change my parents or their destructive behavior and that I would somehow have to carry on in spite of it and deal with the scars as best I could. That was why my stomach began to turn inside out last Saturday seeing history repeat itself; it was a small, cold comfort that this time I was just an unfortunate witness to the mess.
After spending most of the day at the beach my daughter, Miss Wiggles, and I loaded up for the return trip home. Usually I would have stayed the night with my aunt, which would allow a sunrise walk on Pawleys Island but my son needed my car Sunday morning. As my usual habit my daughter and I still made our required trip to the Boulevard so she could play, at least for a few minutes, on one of the many elaborate children's playsets that now make up the park.
Since it was overly hot and getting rather late the locals had long since gone home and she and I were the only ones there. Being somewhat sunburned and suffering from a sore shoulder I took a seat on one of the nearby park benches and watched Miss Wiggles run around playing on the different segments of the brightly colored equipment. Truthfully, another reason for these visits before returning home is have my daughter burn off just a little more energy before we start the long drive back to Columbia. That way I am not asked ten-thousand times, “how long before we get home.”
We were not there five minutes when another car pulled into the gravel parking lot and offloaded two girls and a boy a little older than my daughter along with a couple I took to be their mom and dad at first. The girls, excited and full of energy, ran straight for the playset my daughter was on while the boy quietly went the other direction and took a seat on one of the older swingsets that date back to my own childhood. The “parents,” deep in conversation with each other, walked over to the farthest bench possible and took a seat there not even once exchanging greetings with me even though their girls and mine while playing together. This might sound petty but common courtesy, especially here in the South, is a very big thing with me and I took an instant disliking to them.
Not wanting to start a scene with Miss Wiggles since she had found two new friends I settled in for a much longer visit than I planned because if I told her we had to leave she would whine, beg, and plead to stay a little longer. There was also the added benefit knowing the longer she played the easier my drive would be so I grabbed my book and began reading. It did not take long to realize that the people sharing the park had some serious issues.
With the two little girls calling the man by his first name I quickly figured out he was not their father, several times they ran up to him handing him some small flower they picked or other item they found and he honestly seem to return their affection. In fact from my inadvertent but growing observations the girl’s mother gave the impression of promoting it. All this time the boy was still sitting on the swing alone and ignored. Every once and a while the man would turn and yell out to the boy some, from my perspective, empty remark about daddy loving him but would immediately return his attention back to the woman he sat beside or her girls. Never once did he get his ass up, walk over to his boy and attempt to play with him.
Feeling seriously creeped out and bordering on pissed I figured it was time to leave no matter what Wiggles might have to say. As she and I were leaving another car pulled into the parking lot, this time another couple got out and the boy who had not left the swing since sitting down ran over as fast as he could to the newly arrived woman screaming “mom.” The hug the boy gave his mom and the man with her was heartbreaking.
As I pulled out of the parking lot it was all so obvious the resulting scene between the two couples coming together to talk was not amicable. Call me crazy but the storyteller in me filled out the missing information several ways but the common thread in each one was that scared boy who was caught up in the varying degrees of idiocy on full display around him.
By the time I drove away the boy was being held by the man who arrived with his mom, while she was having what appeared to be an intense argument with the father and the woman with him. Stupid words popped into by head but if I could have said anything to that lonely boy it would have been something like breath in then breath out kid and carry on, your shit storm will eventually pass as well.