Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scarecrow Man: The Sequel

This year my grandkids are old enough to make a scarecrow man, and I am so excited.  Next weekend can't some soon enough to suit me.

This will take some thinking and remembering on my part.  It has been about fifteen years, I think, since I built my last such creation.  When Cookie and Teebo were still at home, the building of Scarecrow Man was as much a part of our October ritual as painting pumpkins, carving jack-o'lanterns, roasting hot dogs, and riding around town in our minivan with a huge inflatable skeleton strapped safely in the back seat.

I have been biding my time these last four Octobers waiting for the perfect year to reinstitute Scarecrow Man as an October tradition, and I have the unmistakeable feeling that this is it.  I can feel it in the gentle chill of these gorgeous late September mornings, and I can see it in the autumnal slant of the sunshine.  I can hear that raspy whisper calling to me:  "If they come, you will build it."  Yep.  Kevin Costner and I have a little something in common here.

Tucked away on a shelf in the basement are the flannel shirt and bib overalls that I rescued from the garage sale box just for this purpose.  They have been waiting patiently for Scarecrow Man's return.  I will need only to confiscate from Pa-pa an old pair of gloves, an old pair of boots, and a straw hat. Then, I will need to talk him into bringing me two bales of straw from the farm, one to use for stuffing and the other for the finished Scarecrow Man to perch on as he assumes his place of honor  against the retaining wall out front.  Oh, and I can't forget to buy a pumpkin:  Scarecrow man will most certainly need a head.

Next Saturday or so Sooby, Pooh, and I will stuff the shirt and bibs with straw and tie the legs and sleeves and waist with binder twine or big rubber bands.  We will tuck his legs into the boots, stick the gloves at the ends of his sleeves, balance his head atop the shirt (Scarecrow Man does not have a neck--he is an anatomic anomaly in this regard.), and top him with the hat.  Then, we will prop our life-size new friend on his straw bale, magic-marker him a face, and stand back to admire our work.  I imagine there will be a photo shoot in which Scarecrow Man will captivate everyone with his crooked-toothy jack-o-lantern smile.

A couple days ago I was talking to Sooby on the phone and telling her about our plans to build Scarecrow Man next time she comes to visit.  The phone line went quiet, and I knew she was thinking.  "Scarecrow Man?" she mused.  "What about the tin man?"

Hmmm.  The tin man.  Well . . . .

There are some big boxes in the garage and a can of gray spray paint in the basement.  I am thinking this New Millennium Scarecrow Man just might need a companion.  My little Dorothy from Kansas has spoken, and her words are more powerful than those of the Great Oz himself.  The last couple nights, I have drifted off to sleep with Tin Man blueprints running through my head as I contemplate what we might fashion into a makeshift oil can.

My small plastic watering pitcher is showing real possibilities.  " Hurry up, next weekend," I think as I become lost somewhere along the road of yellow bricks running through the field of my own dreams. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Horse, the Bull, and the Bump

While ago I was flipping--no, scrolling--through an album of pictures from my son Teebo's wedding, a momentous occasion in our family life that took place nearly fourteen months ago.  Granted, the bride was beautiful, and the groom was dashing--but, as might be the case with any self-respecting Googie, I was most struck by the pictures of Sooby and Pooh.  I am pretty sure there has never been a flower girl/ring bearer combo quite like them.

For one thing, I can't recall another wedding where the child attendants were quite this young.  At barely three, Sooby had her own ideas about the flower girl's job, and it did not involve an elegant, ladylike negotiation of the aisle while daintily sprinkling flower petals at her feet.  Oh, no. 

The flower girl, you see, is more like a horse who gallops down the aisle, splashing petals in sporadic bunches until she reaches the bridal party.  At that point she suddenly reins herself in, allowing inertia to dispense the remaining flora in a clump that would make any horse proud. 

When this elicits laughter from the spectators, Sooby turns around quickly, surprised that the church pews are suddenly full when they were practically empty at the rehearsal.  Her eyes grow large with disbelief as she mouths the word "Wow!" before her mother emerges from the line of bridesmaids to grab her halter and look for the nearest hitching post.

All eyes return to the back of the sanctuary, where Pooh makes his appearance in the doorway with the ring pillow.  (Luckily, these are fake rings that are sewn to the pillow--someone was thinking ahead here.)  At not quite eighteen months old, Pooh is definitely the wild card in this wedding processional.  Nevertheless, Pooh's daddy sets him down, hands him the pillow, and prompts, "Go give this to Uncle Teebo."  At this point, I perceive a collective holding of breath, including my own.  After all, just how much can you expect from a ring bearer wearing a diaper?

Pooh lowers his head like a bull preparing to charge the matador.  Then, those tiny little legs scamper down the aisle straight toward the groom, who reaches out to grab the pillow just as Pooh wheels around and runs right back toward the back door.  Pass complete.  First down.  However, apparently worn out by the play, Pooh decides to lie down across the aisle near the back of the sanctuary, effectively blocking any gain of yardage the bride and her father are hoping for.  Thankfully, a watchful spectator emerges from the sidelines to remove the object of interference, and the ceremony continues downfield.

Baby Bootsie also attended this wedding (in a somewhat more clandestine fashion) as a bump protruding beneath the empire waistline of her mother's navy blue bridesmaid dress.  As her mother sang a solo, Bootsie helped out by rendering her diaphragm unusable.  So much for the correct breathing techniques Cookie learned in her voice lessons; the name of this game was survival.

I am glad to report that everyone involved did indeed survive, and that, come spring, the newlyweds of that day are expecting a little horse, bull, or bump of their own.  Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie have prepared them well.  

As for me, I look forward to celebrating Bootsie's first birthday in a few weeks and Pooh's third later this winter.  Then about the time the last snow is melting and the dogwoods are thinking about blooming, I will depend on them all to show their new cousin how the ropes work here at Googie's.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"One Star"

Recently, as my brother was taking his turn keeping vigil at our dad's bedside, the two of them relived many a coon hunt of his boyhood nights gone by.  That's when he thought of a question he had always wanted to ask.

"It was so dark out there in the woods," he mused.  "How did you always know exactly where we were?"

The faintest smile flickered across Dad's face as he held up a weak forefinger and answered, barely above a whisper,  "One star."

Later, my brother shared this story with me over breakfast.  I have not been able to stop thinking about it since.  One star.  My dad, the consummate hunter, looked to the sky to get his bearings.  To keep his perspective.  To find his way.  How beautifully profound I find that idea.  How powerful that image is--a single star somehow separating itself from the others to say "Fix your eyes on me.  I will help you see through the night.  I will show you where you have been.  I will lead you to the next place you want to go."

The idea of a guiding star is certainly not new.  The Bible tells us that the magi followed a star to Bethlehem to find the Christ Child.  Poet Robert Frost bids us "Choose Something Like a Star" to use, in a figurative sense, as a moral and ethical compass that can somehow grace a faltering human resolve with certainty and steadfastness.  What is new to me is the surprising revelation that my dad, no less so than Frost and the eastern kings, understood, in his own way, the power of one star.

At this writing it has been less than a week since that early-morning conversation between my brother and me and less than twenty-four hours since Dad died.  As I sat with him in the early hours this morning, as his breathing was growing shallower and his heartbeat became barely audible, I knew what I wanted to tell him.

Look up, Daddy.  Find that one star.  It will show you the way through this darkness.  It will lead you home.