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Nuts and Ducks and Caps and Scraps

I recently heard the great Tom Waits singing Coney Island Baby. It brought back some memories of the time I once lived in Brooklyn with two little baby girls who I called my own. They are all growed up now with little girls (and a boy) of their own.

When we were young together in that best of all boroughs, sometimes the ladies would go with Dad in the trusty Land Rover for excursions to explore new territories. "City safaris," as it were.

One such trip was to gather horse chestnuts. [When I was a boy there was a huge horse chestnut tree on our block. Each fall I would search the ground under that tree daily for fallen bounty. After peeling off the spiked shells, inside were the most beautiful deep chestnut brown fruits (“conkers”). I would polish them and stash them away in an old cigar box that I kept with all my other collected small treasures. Jewels to this young lad.]


In Brooklyn, so many years away from that chestnut tree on my block, I knew of a chestnut tree in the historic Greenwood Cemetery. It is a national landmark site planted with a vast collection of various species of trees. It’s dotted with a profusion of 19th century monuments and is the resting place of many of the rich and famous.

It was a brisk and somewhat overcast day. Perfect conditions to add a touch of a spooky vibe to the experience. What was truly spooky, terrifying really, was our encounter with a pack of dogs that was ranging through the grounds. They didn’t want anything to do with us, but they did pause to consider us there for a nervous moment.

We found that horse chestnut tree on a hill. After we had collected a good share of the mahogany brown nuts we took a little stroll down to the pond. When we got there we came across a lame duck. No, not a politician; but, a duck… that was lame. Our hearts went out and we gathered the frightened creature and brought it home to nurse it back to health. Time is the great healer and in a few days we came home to find that our little friend had flown the coop. Happy trails.

On another trip we drove all the way out to Coney Island for a walk on the beach. It was off season and none of the rides were operating. [One summer we had a 10th birthday party at Coney Island and the brave among us rode the fabled Cyclone. I remember seeing my younger daughter and two other girls sitting as cool as cucumbers in the seat in front of me; and me with two little girls in back, one screaming “DAVID, MAKE IT STOP!!!” All I could do was to be as reassuring as possible, since I was pretty shaken myself. "There, there; it'll be OK." A comment came from the front seat… “You two sounded like a soap opera!” And, EXCUSE ME! for not stopping the Cyclone just as it started dropping off the crest of that first big rise. Props to Claire. I hope you haven't been scared too seriously by our little adventure.]

Back on the cold beach. My daughters were [“Were,” hah! Still are.] silly and sassy little ladies. They each got into a competition to see who could comb the beach for precious presents for dear daddy. But, typically, and gleefully, in reverse. The crummier and less significant the found object, the more fitting for their beloved old man. I didn’t know if they really thought they were giving me special treats or they were imbued with a wicked sense of irony. They never let on. I know the truth on that, but I will keep mum. Some mysteries are best left that way. “Why, thank you my little darlings, that is so wonderful of you.” Bottle caps, chips of driftwood, soft drink can tabs, green bits of glass rounded and polished dull by the sand and the waves. [One day when I met a living saint, I offered those shards of green glass. I wrapped them in a piece of lavender paper which was hand made from banana leaves. It was my way of asking God to look after my girls. And so it is.]

"All the stars make their wishes on her eyes..."


1 comment:

Kristie said...

I will never forget taking that duck home! Nor will I forget the trip to coney island when I was stuck on the inside of the music express ride, caught with the weight of all the bigger kids crushing me!

And by the way, my kids collect precious junk at the beach for me now! And so the cycle of love continues!

Kristie-