As I’ve noted in many of my recent posts, I’ve spent most of my working hours in the kitchen. The hard push to get all the outlets and lights rewired, remove the old cabinets, cut out a hole in the wall to recess the refrigerator, and tear out the old bulkheads in preparation for drywall has nearly come to an end. One junction box in the basement awaits my attention today. But, all in all, the kitchen is about ready. As a result of this restoration process, we’ve come to appreciate many of the simple conveniences or routines that we often take for granted, especially when you have eight mouths to feed.
In those non-working hours, usually the time between dinner and bed, other meaningful routines exist. That pocket of time is when I get to hang out with most of my children. Recently, the youngest boys either want to head out back to play baseball or take a bike ride around town. The older children would rather practice disc golf or play a game like Catan or Balderdash. These moments, too, I often undervalue, especially when I’m tired or simply craving a few moments of quiet to myself. Usually, this window of time provides me my only opportunity for reflection and writing, as I’m NOT a morning person. Up before 7:00 a.m. in the summer would be miraculous!
But a moment looking down from the second-story roof of our home’s addition this week allowed me to better see more than just my backyard. It provided that opportunity to get a heavenly perspective, if you will. It’s Mr. Keating standing up on the desk in front of his class in Dead Poet’s Society, it’s Buzz Aldrin looking back at the Earth from space – “a brilliant jewel in the black velvet sky,” it’s what enables each one of us to look at all that’s happening in the world and not lose heart. It’s the inspiration for this poem.
Vincent H. Anastasi 2020
Tonight I trailed my six-and-eight-year-old sons
down Bessemer Avenue,
taking our regular route through town,
No one performed any exceptional bicycle stunts,
the cool evening presented no challenges,
and, for the sake of convenience,
I had delivered dinner in two Fox’s pizza boxes,
one traditional pepperoni and
one with white garlic sauce and banana peppers.
Bedtime routines proceeded like clockwork
until each child, changed, brushed, and ready to read,
pulled out their Thinking Putty to knead and mold
while their minds wandered through
a Bible story and six books
followed by prayers and hugs,
then a quiet half hour for me to read or write
by the side of the bed
while my two youngest sons drift off the sleep
to the hum of the box fan in the hall
and Hidden in my Heart lullabies.
And yet sandwiched between these slices of normalcy,
I let my sons climb a twenty foot ladder
to stand on the new, low-pitched roof of our addition.
I watched them climb rung by rung,
helping them onto the roof as needed
(my daughter and twelve-year-old son joined us as well),
and we surveyed the view,
like passengers gazing from the bow of an ocean liner
returning home to dock
with renewed eyes for the familiar and commonplace:
the shed and garden just beyond our towering oak
and the partially graded yard
rolling down past the wooden swing-set
we salvaged from Pine Street a decade ago,
to Wolf Creek where a white heron
strolled by in the late afternoon.
In hindsight, our foray to the roof was dangerous,
some might even say reckless.
However, one needs heights.
The ground remains infinitely more safe,
all things considered,
but to peak from the peak
is the blessing of perspective,
the atmosphere of epiphanies,
the open invitation
to see with clearer eyes,
through expectation’s pounding streams,
to dare and dream –
one exalted moment
that reminds us
of the transcendence
of shared, ordinary experiences
like playing catch barefoot in the backyard,
laughing together around the kitchen table,
or sitting still on the front porch
beneath the star-studded firmament,
bathed in August evensong.