7/4/19

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Last week’s moment was about a conflagration of lightning bugs, collected in one small corner of Waukesha’s Riverwalk, and how it seemed like they performed a light show just for me. It truly was magical, a word I don’t use often.

So you can imagine how my heartrate picked up this week when I was in my car at a red light at an intersection right by the river, close to where the conflagration took place, and from my seat, I could see, around the corner, a bright flashing light. The fireflies! They were back! And I’d be able to see them from my car!

The light turned green and I turned and slowly approached the blinking light, not wanting to frighten them away. I almost hoped for a train, so that I’d have to stop and watch. There was no one behind me, so I could go as slowly as I wanted. Semi (my convertible) and I crept forward, getting closer and closer to the happily blinking light…

Only to find out that it was a tipped-over road construction sawhorse, its orange caution light blinking and blinking from the ground.

I laughed all the way to Farm & Fleet, where I was picking up my daughter from work. And I was really, really happy no one else was with me.

My imagination has duped me on multiple other occasions. When I was around eight years old and living in Esko, Minnesota, way, way, WAY northern Minnesota, I was out playing on a summer day next to the creek (pronounced crick, please) that ran between the neighborhood’s back yards. I saw a strange hunk of pink, streaked with white near the bank, and near where my brother’s friend built a treehouse that wasn’t in the tree, but at the base of it. I crept closer and saw more and more pink streaked with white. It was a ham! Someone left a ham out on the bank of the creek (pronounced crick, please).

I ran into the house and got my mother. “A ham?” she said. “Who would leave a ham by the creek (you know how to pronounce it now)?” She followed me outside.

It was a big sheet of insulation, probably stolen from one of the houses being built nearby, and tucked up to the treehouse.

I’m sorry. It was a ham. And that light was a lightning bug conflagration.

I also had a pet turtle for years. Her name was Myrtle. My brother had a turtle named Pokey, and when I found Myrtle, I was delighted to have a turtle of my own. My brother kept telling me (for years) that she was a rock. Well, she wasn’t. She had a perfectly shaped shell, and it didn’t matter that I never saw her head, tail or feet. Or that she never ate. Or moved. Or that she lived in a shoebox on the bottom of my closet and only came out when I thought to play with her. Or that she never died.

She was a turtle. I kept her until I was twelve years old and we moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin. My mother wasn’t willing to move what she saw as a rock. So I brought Myrtle out by the creek (remember? crick?) and set her under a bush, near a source of water and lots of green vegetation. I’m sure she’s alive and well today. Turtles live a very, very long time. Especially that one. She was magical.

A ham. A turtle. A lightning bug conflagration.

I visited a book club this past weekend, one of my favorite things to do. We got into a discussion on where the ideas for stories come from. I told them that I have a solid belief that fiction writers never lose that ability to pretend. Whatever it is as children that allows us to see our stuffed animals as real (I can still hear their voices), or to lose ourselves in sandboxes or sailing boats (sticks) down the creek (crick), or eating airy delicious fish caught from that same creek (crick) with a stick, a string, and a bent nail (no bait) doesn’t go away when fiction writers grow into adults. We don’t repress it. We don’t lose it. And frankly, we love it.

I love it. Some might see insulation, a rock, and a knocked-over construction sawhorse with a desperately blinking orange caution light. I see a misplaced ham, a loyal and faithful companion who never dies, a conflagration of lightning bugs, sending magic out into an otherwise normal life. And I also hear my own laughter.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me with our dog Debbie when she was a puppy, sitting on the steps of our house in Esko.

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