A Monogram and a Mercury
Dear old not-so-departed Dad. To say there’s not another one like him is the Father’s Day understatement of the year. Here, he is seen with his 1959 Mercury Montclair. Now, he is heard in the back of my head, seen in hawks and the number 555. On the photo, rests his first piece of jewelry, a childhood signet ring that fits my size 4 finger like a charm. And a charmed Americana childhood it was.
There’s nothing like jewelry with sentiment and a story, so here’s one for ya this fine Father’s Day.
It was a summer night and I was a fairly little kid. We were all together. Me, Mom, Dad, my cool older sister Lisa and my sweet, curly-haired little sister Amy. I don’t remember another time we all sat together on the front porch steps at the old farm house. But I remember that night’s dusk falling in perfect detail. Cicadas were singing in rounds and there were more lightning bugs than I could remember seeing. Maybe that’s why we were all sitting out there, it was such a luminous beautiful night. The trees and yard were brimming with lights and the perfectly parallel corn rows were illuminated to infinity like a Kusama.
We were quiet. Then Dad took a quick drag on his Camel short and said, “Connie Jill… dj’you ever see a red lightning bug?”
I shook my head and confessed I’d never even heard of one.
He explained their rarity and how they’re extra hard to see because they don’t fly like a normal lightning bug. They zip across the sky just once in a flash and you’re certain to not see him again that night. Maybe not for the whole summer and maybe never again in your life. Dad explained that people could go a lifetime not knowing about them much less seeing one. He reassured me that I shouldn’t feel bad if I never saw one either.
Dad has a way of talking slowwwllyy and deliberately. Line by line and thought by thought like stepping stones. Regularly punctuated with long pauses to sip his coffee or take a thoughtful drag.
“If you’re really, really lucky, you might someday see a red lightning bug.”
… pause…. drag…. slow head shake… pause…
“I don’t know though, honey.”
… slow head shake… pause…
“You’d have to be a pretty special little kid. You’d need sharp eyes and to pay close attention. You’d have to want it pretty bad to even have half a chance.”
I thought about that while eagle-eye scanning the yard and fields. I knew I’d found more four leaf clovers than anyone. I could come home with more asparagus scouted out along the fencerow than both my sisters put together. I had a collection of tiny, perfect fossils of mollusks no bigger than a BB. I knew I wanted to see one as bad as any kid could. Staring at those corn rows, I wondered if I was lucky enough ever spot a red lightning bug.
Just a few long minutes later – you know what happened. A bright red light STREAKED across the sky! Up and off it flew in a perfect arc into the darkness. I was of course beside myself. Dad shook his head slowly and said he never dreamed in a million years it would happen so soon. He carefully explained that it probably wouldn’t happen again. He said he never met a little kid quite as lucky as me, or anybody who wanted want they wanted as much as I did. He laughed and patted me on the head and I spent the rest of that night – and a good amount of time thereafter – thinking about that magical red lightning bug and what it all meant.
I’m not sure how long it took me to put two and two together that Dad had sent his lit Camel cigarette butt flying with a single, expert flick. But by the time I figured it out, the seed was already well planted. Thank you Dad, for changing the trajectory of my life with a single Camel cigarette and an inspiring, beautiful childhood leading to the luckiest, best, most fun and enjoyable life I could’ve wished for.