A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Look Park

Here we are...the Corbett family, circa 1951. Lester and Isabelle, little Leslie and Cicily. My guess is we're at Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts, and it's June 8th, Leslie's second birthday.

Look Park had picnic tables and grills under the pine trees, a brook full of frogs, ball fields, a pool, and a little train. It was the scene of many family outings. Usually it wasn't just the four of us--it was two or three carloads of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The kids played, mostly in the stream, the women set out the food, served everyone, and cleaned up, and the men played cards. I have many happy memories of those family excursions.

As an adult with children of my own, I remember reminiscing one day about Look Park, sitting around the kitchen table on Frontenac Street with my mother and a couple of my aunts.

"How I hated those picnics!" my mother said, surprising the hell out of me.

"What are you talking about?" I demanded. "Those were great!"

"For you kids they were," she replied. "But all that work! The cooking...packing up the food...carrying everything into the woods...trying to keep an eye on you kids...cleaning everything up afterward. The mosquitos and the dirt! All those wet shoes and socks! And then bringing all the dishes and dirty clothes and chairs back home and cleaning everything all over again!"

Well, that shattered some childhood illusions. I had been having such a great time, I always just assumed everyone else was, too. And of course, that's the way they wanted it. The mothers, I mean. We never thought about them having feelings or limits to their endurance or a preference for white meat over dark. We never realized we were kind of poor. We just ran around like maniacs, playing Davy Crockett or house or giant steps, eating lots of good food, and falling into soft beds on clean sheets every night.

Look Park is still around. I used to take my children there when they were little. And I'm still around--I was in Northampton today, in fact, and passed very near the park. And maybe someday I'll sit at a picnic table under the pine trees while my daughter and daughters-in-law cook and clean, my sons play cards, and my grandchildren run around like maniacs. But somehow I don't think it's going to play out like that. At least I hope the mothers-to-be can figure out a way to keep the kids as happy as we were, without making themselves so miserable in the process.