Archive for the ‘Picnic Table’ Tag

Thimble Peak   Leave a comment

Romero PoolsSabino Canyon Picnic Area with View of Thimble Peak — Image by kenne

Wedding, Patio Table and Basketball Backboard   2 comments

Michael & Lisa blogMicheal & Lisa

As we prepare to attend Lisa and Michael’s wedding on Lummi Island this Saturday. Lummi Island is part of the San Juan archipelago, twenty minutes from Bellingham, WA., and ten minutes by the Whatcom Chief ferry. Lisa is my brother Tom’s youngest daughter and her wedding will probably generate several blog entries over the next week.

Tom has written on himself, usually in the third person, as someone who felt and thought like a certain kind of person that Samuel Beckett was interested in; “… someone having nothing to express, nothing with which to express, but a desperate need to express.”

There was a time when Tom would write rambling stories on James Talbott, his pseudonym. In June of 1988 we received thirteen typed pages on his annual struggles with the patio picnic table.  With Tom and Lisa on my mind, I thought I would share a little segment of Talbott’s thoughts.

“It was one of those late June days when the clarity of light and the greens of the foliage in the yard combined with the azure blue of the Pacific Northwest sky to mesmerize, if not invite a momentary reverie. Talbott sit down at the table. Light has a way of swaying our imaginations, our emotions. He had always known the effect of the absence, the dulling or the clarity of light on his sensibilities. On cloudy dull summer days, he never gave a thought to that table, but now in this mesmerizing light of a beautiful late June day.

“Dad,” the voice of his oldest daughter, Vanessa, rang out from the house. A few years ago, he couldn’t distinguish his two daughters apart from the sound of their voices on the telephone. But, she was now seventeen and her voice carried her unique identity.

“Dad, what are you doing?”

He was about to respond, but another quick question displace it; “Where’s Lisa?” she was his youngest daughter. “I thought she was going to have dinner with you tonight.”

Lisa had just recently left the house and home she had lived in since before first grade to live with her mom. She was now entering her sophomore year in high school. Talbott had taken on the duties of caring for her cat and goldfish, which she did not take with her. He felt ambiguously sadden and confused that she had not taken them.

“Oh, she is,” he said. “She is across the street at Jenny’s.”

How many times had he said that Lisa was over at Jenny’s? The echo of his words reverberated through his mind.

Events and circumstances, which appeared to be so simple were so damn ineffable. He thought of the laughs and good natured sneers of derision that he and his daughters would delight in the years from now as they looked at all the old photographs from those years when the picnic table was holding forth its position on the patio. But he knew that neither of the girls ever consciously connected any significance to that table, he realized that as we experience our lives we are often unable to distinguish what should be cherished and what should not.

“Dad, what are we having for dinner?” Immediately he was back from an emotional time warp to the quotidian and the necessary.

“Oh, let me see,” he said. As he was leaving the table to return to the kitchen, which faced the patio, he heard Lisa’s voice as she entered the house through the front door.  In some inexplicable way, he associated Lisa with the patio picnic table. This association was not made on a conscious level. No. The table had often been a pain; Lisa had always been a joy.

“Can you guys remember any occasion that took place around this picnic table that stands out in your memory?”

His contrived, rather forced question was a bit like a researcher groping for necessary impersonal background, and he felt it was asked with an intonation that was definitely phony. But nevertheless, there it was. Then he really began rambling:

“Years ago, when I was in college, I wrote a paper on backyard basketball backboards. They always reminded me of a special barometer that measured the life of a family. The care and repair and use of the backboard would suggest the age of the family or history of that family. Do you guys think that a picnic table can be seen as the kind of same barometer of age or change?”

He suddenly, humiliatingly, realized in the hesitation before their response how pretentious the question sounded. He knew that his longing for passionate Shakespearian speech had launched this dud. This had to be resisted. He wanted to cry aloud for an intimate familial communion that he so needed. He wanted to be eloquent and moving. But what if he were to burst out like Lear to his daughters? It would get him nowhere to utter burning words. His daughter’s wouldn’t understand. Suppose he were to exclaim about morality, about flesh and blood and justice and evil and what it felt like to be him, James Talbott, facing the transitions and rites of passage that were exploding before him? Hadn’t he tried in his own confused way to bring some good for them into the world? Having pursued a “higher” purpose, although without getting close, he was now ageing, weakening, and doubting his own endurance and even his ability to cope. Where the hell was equity and conscience?

“Dad, are you alright?” His oldest, Vanessa, asked.

He realized the frustration and impatience he was experiencing and he backed off.

“Yeah, I’ve just been reading a lot of nostalgic, haunting vignettes today. You know I’m such a sentimentalist.”

He fumbled for whatever he was looking for and realized that he had lost it. The table and its symbolic significance were truly personal. Its importance lay in the need for continuity and connections in his life. That was easy. But there was an importance that seemed to transcend the personal. At least he thought that. He began thinking that the philosophical idea of Solipsism was not just a romantic concept for anti-utopians.”

Tom & Kenne 2006-09-10-03x— Thomas R. Turner, June, 1998


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