A CHILD’S PERFECT SEDONA DAY (read aloud at Elfrieda Ball’s funeral)
At 6 am we rise and shine so the best part of the day isn’t lost – before the heat comes. An early morning skinny dip with Grandpa never Grandma in the 10 foot bird bath pool he built with red rock and cement, after we turn on the fountain which chases leaves and debris down past the faded green ceramic frog.
Grandma has breakfast prepared out on the covered deck and has laid out scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, rye bread for toast (to be toasted by Grandpa at his right hand-side) cereal with strawberries, raisins, bananas and melon slices with honey dew and cherries. How will we eat all this at this hour? And where did it all go, 15 minutes later? The sun is chasing us up by now it is seven o’clock and bright and orange as midday.
“And what are the plans for the day?” my elder cousin asks on cue. He knows if he doesn’t ask first, Grandma will quote him and there will be a great but friendly laugh at his expense.
“Perhaps we should hike down the mountain for a swim in the creek. We can bring our inner tubes. Or if it’s not too hot, maybe we can hike around Submarine rock. Grandma can drop us off in the blue car after we deposit the brown car at the Chapel!”
“Or we could hike from here,” Grandpa suggests.
“It’s too far Bill, I’ll get some things together for lunch, you go on before the heat comes.”
“Seth, you fill the canteens, we’ll leave in 20 minutes. Boys, we should help Grandma with the dishes.”
“Oh, Bill I don’t mind, it’ll take 5 minutes.”
“Yes Grandpa,” and off we go. The hike is marvelous and though we know the Broken Arrow trails well, somehow there’s always something new for us to see. We’ve not packed a lunch this time as we can tell it’ll be a hot one and if we’re lucky Grandpa will turn on the swamp cooler ( a most worthy investment” and we’ll have an indoor lunch. Exhausted and exhilarated after passing the turkey roost and avoiding some circling hawks who grow less interested in us after Grandpa shoos them away with his Stetson – we trudged up the driveway to the Catholic Chapel where the car is parked.
“Can we go inside and look at the Catholics?”
“Yes but only for a minute. We might as well stop and use the restroom.”
“And say a prayer” in the pews for whatever we like.
“Maybe we can feel the holy water.”
“That’s enough boys. Look here we had all better sign in at the register.” Nacogdoches, Texas. Oxon Hill, Maryland. Sedona, Arizona – Isola del Cielo. Grandpa. That’s right. That’s us.
Home and luncheon with roast chicken and potato salad, more fruit, 3 Pringles apiece and large glasses of the best water in the world cuz it’s our water from our well. Grandma sneaks us a coke cuz “it’s settling to the stomach” and Grandpa opens a second Old Dutch beer.
“Are you sure you want to take a second beer.”
“O for Goodness sake, it’s practically water.”
“You’ll be snoring all through our program” and he will which keeps us in stitches all through Another World.
Grandma decides that between the snores and all the kissing on TV that the three of us should go retire to the blue room for stories. Of the Bright Angel in the Grand Canyon which she reads and reads full volume in her happy crackly voice as she optimistically tells the tales of boys and men who get lost in the canyon and are nearly starving to death, the hawks circling them like prey just as we had also been hunted down only a few short hours ago. Though we had not been scared, not at all. And then it’s time for a nap.
“Mike, are you sleepy.”
“Why do they nap so much?”
“Cuz they’re old.”
“They don’t seem old.”
“What are we gonna do tomorrow?”
“Anything we want.”
After nap there are games to be played in the cool of the swamp cooler. Monopoly, Parchesi, checkers, chess (though he never lets us win so we can never figure out how to checkmate anybody). Never bridge in the afternoons, somehow it always being a game reserved for evenings. And if it’s not too hot, perhaps we’ll go swimming the creek or in the pool in town.
“Do we need anything from Bashas?”
“Yes! Fresh strawberries and short cake. And whipped cream!”
“And ice cream!” I add helpfully.
“Iced cream and whipped cream?”
“Bill get both, the kids needs it.” We need both, we do. We Need it.
And like that we’re off in the car again in search of iced cream and whipped cream and perhaps a second hike in Boynton Canyon which he’s been meaning to try and if the heat is really hot – a jump into the icy waters of Grasshopper Point “which should keep you boys cools for a week!”
“Let’s stop at the library and pick up the Beatles for the phonograph?”
“We’ve got to get back soon, the Bradley’s are coming for cocktails. They’re dropping off Millie for the week. You boys are in charge.” Are we ever.
Back at the house, Grandpa has started the grill which he monitors carefully, nursing a high ball and turning each coal with precision. Grandma’s got Mike setting the table and I’m cutting vegetables for the crudite. A can of mixed nuts. “Put’em in a little bowl”. The swamp cooler is on full swing for the guests and we can go play hearts for a while til dinner is ready. The Bradley’s come and sit on the deck. They’re happy to see us but they saw us only yesterday. They keep cheddar cheese goldfish in their pantry and you can have as many as you like.
“Let’s go to the water tower and climb the walls.”
“Let’s look for snakes.”
We run across the yard jumping over prickly pears which do their best to prick us and sometimes succeed when we’re not careful. And then the voice of our grandmother announcing “Dinner” to the mountains and the boys. Two well-fed but perpetually hungry boys who run back to the house with no less vim and vigor than that which brought them out to the water tower.
And as I run, I fall a little behind Mike who turns back for a second yelling, “C’mon Seth I’ll race ya! Let’s jump over the big cactus over there” and I can see my grandfather off to the right standing over the grill in shorts with his hat on, carefully heating the pewter platter – it won’t be long now. Steaks! Steaks that were on sale! And there’s Grandma waving at us next to the cherry red humming bird feeder and there to the left is a fox watching us run unafraid but still cautious, down below is a half moon swimming pool of a neighbor of theirs. Maybe she’ll let us swim in it tomorrow. And rising against the twilight is Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock and all of our wonderful red rocks that belong to us and all of us and I pause and look all around. At Mike, at Grandpa, at the mountains, the Bradley’s, the house, our house, our fountain, our little pool, our garden, our cottonwood tree and our grandma next to the hummingbirds. I want to run every place at once. All around me is where I want to be. How can I run toward everything all at once in the very same time.
The Bradley’s have gone but the dog has remained. Grandpa calls her, “Miller High Life” when she’s naughty. “Why Miller High Life,” he’d say very sternly and her eyes would widen and her ears would go back..
“How did they know to name a beer after the Bradley’s dog?” I wonder and wondered for years after that. Grandpa has wheeled out the television so we can eat and watch Wink Martindale and Tic Tac Doe then the Joker’s Wild because both are entertaining and educational. No one complains. Perhaps we should all have a taste of Lancers wine, just a taste and we do and we eat and we eat. Then way that tired hungry boys can eat at dusk after a day in the sun. The Bradley’s are going on a long trip so it seems. To Australia or was it Austria. Grandpa will show us on the Atlas after dishes and he does – he needs no reminder. There are more dishes than usual this evening so we do them by hand. Well, the Bradley’s were here – all that glassware. We don’t mind. Some happiness lingers through a great pile of dishes.
By the time we are finished, Grandma tells us to go out front – Grandpa has a surprise for us there. What else can there be on a day such as this? I choose a walking stick. Mike chooses his – for defense against snakes and coyotes you understand.
“I’ve got something to show you,” Grandpa says as he appears with a long black leather case. He walks swiftly out in to the dark. We follow.
“Don’t we need a flashlight?” one of us suggests trying not to sound scared.
“Your eyes will adjust in a minute,” and they do. How did he know that? We walk past the Bradley’s their house bathed in warm yellow light. Brad is painting and Muriel is making something in the other room with her hands. Grandpa smiles at them but wouldn’t dream of interrupting their evening solace. Up we go, past the Beving’s to the very top. And opening the case he quietly pulls out his telescope. The sky above is simply pocked with stars and planets so bright we can see each other smiling. No words, just stars. How many nights like this will there be? And what if I forget, but I don’t know how to remember. This is all I can think of as we walk back down the mountain. Grandpa pats me on the shoulder and leaves his hand there without my having to ask.
Back at the house we see Grandma at the kitchen window. We’d forgotten. Strawberries! With sugar on top. And shortcake! And whipped cream! And ice cream on top! How could I have forgotten? After seconds of helpings with no short cake this time we retreat to the living room for a few hands of bridge. Just a few hands mind you, it’s past 9 o’clock. 9 o’clock, I’m still up, playing bridge, eating nuts, bidding my hand like a real true adult! I mustn’t forget to get my trump out.
“A Child’s Perfect Day in Sedona” was written by Seth Bauer.
Seth Bauer is a playwright, screenwriter, father to Simon and new husband to a Elysa. He lives in New York City and Yardley, Pennsylvania.