My wife and I have spent a good deal of our lives living between the city limit signs of one metropolis or another. As urban dwellers, we found the constant rumble of noises drifting in and out as life moves along quite comforting. But the older we got, the more we found ourselves longing for the quiet country life we remembered from our childhood days. So when we decided to retire, we wanted to move to a more peaceful setting. We searched the world over and chose this small house in the southern Missouri Ozarks and settled in for a quiet country way of life.
We were greeted on our first morning of blissful country life by the neighbor’s rooster telling us that 4 hours of sleep is enough. He was quickly joined by a chorus of dogs (at least one for every house within a five-mile radius) declaring their desire to have the rooster over for breakfast. Then it was time for every mufflerless vehicle in the county to rev up their engines in preparation for the parade down our country lane. ‘The Branson Belle’, a paddle boat on the lake ten miles away blared a horn to announce that it was time for another load of tourists. The whistle from a train crossing Hwy 248 mixed with a mooing of a hundred head of cattle, a couple dozen crows, and a few hundred other species of birds rounded out the orchestra.
But as I sit here in my rocking chair on the porch. I sip my coffee and watch the sun rise above the leafless oaks and maples. I raise my cup and give a smile. Because I know I’m home.
Joshua – 1977… You probably don’t remember that day. Even for me it now seems like it was another universe. It was your first birthday. We called Fort Ord California home and, as it was with most Army families, we were as penniless as the winos down along the banks of the Salinas River. Your mother baked you a chocolate cake from a .29 cent box mix and decorated it with some homemade icing. We stripped you down to your diaper and sat you in your highchair while we sang birthday songs to you. You laughed as you crumbled your cake into oblivion.
Dressed in denim jackets and bell bottom jeans with colorful patches sewn over holes that never existed, we tried to be normal 1970’s youth. We listened to Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Eagles, America and Pink Floyd. Our attempt to be non-conformists only managed to create more conformity. And short military haircuts can’t be disguised in a world where the length of your hair is a status symbol. No matter how hard we pretended to be friends, it was still just a stranger that passed the hash pipe back across the table. We’d take a hit and dream we were home.
My Sunday Morning Reflection: In the 1970’s, I was in the Army and stationed in a small town in West Germany. My wife and child were 4753 miles away in Kansas City, Missouri. Since it wasn’t considered ‘manly’ to shed tears in front of your roommates, early Sunday mornings, while my comrades slept off another Saturday night, often found me walking the streets of Ettlingen alone. Feeling sorry for myself and pretty much hating the world.
I think that each one of us needs that time where we can block off the problems of the real world and reflect on who we are and where we want to go. Even today, though my life is in a much better place, I get up early on Sunday mornings and head out for a walk in search of inspiration and reaffirmation.
This song always comes to my mind as I hear my footsteps tap the empty sidewalks along silent streets. I remember the loneliness and depression of those days. How easily I could have slipped into the darkness and not returned. How narrow that margin is between who each of us are and the man living under the overpass.
I think about how we’re always complaining that the world is rapidly changing and we wish we could go back to our childhood. On my Sunday morning strolls, the church bells still echo through the crisp October fog, children still run and laugh in the city park, and the sun still manages to poke its way through the haze of the morning. In our busy lives, we just don’t see them as clearly as we did as children. But I see them on my lazy Sunday morning reflections and they make me remember also, the promise that I made to myself on those empty streets so long ago. I swore that once I was reunited with my wife, I would never leave her side again.
Well I woke up Sunday morning With no way to hold my head That didn’t hurt And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t Bad so I had one more for dessert Then I fumbled through my closet For my clothes And found my cleanest dirty shirt And I shaved my face And combed my hair And stumbled down the stairs To meet the day I’d smoked my brain the night before With cigarettes and songs That I’ve been pickin’ But I lit my first and watched a small kid Cussin’ at a can that he was kickin Then I crossed the empty street and Caught the sunday smell Of someone fryin chicken And it took me back to something That I’d lost somehow Somewhere along the way On the sunday morning sidewalk Wishing lord that I was stoned Cause there’s something in a sunday That makes a body feel alone And there’s nothing short of dying Half as lonesome as the sound On the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down In the park I saw a daddy With a laughing little girl He was swingin And I stopped beside the Sunday school And listened to the song That they were singing Then I headed back for home And somewhere far away A lonely bell was ringing And it echoed thru the canyon like The disappearing dreams of yesterday On the sunday morning sidewalk Wishing lord that I was stoned Cause therels something in a sunday That makes a body feel alone And there’s nothing short of dying Half as lonesome as the sound On the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down
On The Train…written while stationed in Germany – 1976
We ride the train at night. Store front signs flash neon onto our faces through the window. Red, green, blue in words we don’t know. Just four foreigners crowded in with a hundred faces. They speak in a language we can only catch a few pieces of. We get stern looks from disgusted fellow travelers each time we speak. So we travel in silence. But I know what they are thinking. They don’t need to say it. I can see it in their anger. “You’d think if they are going to be stationed here, they’d learn to speak our language.”
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