Janet Sheridan: Sometimes I can’t believe my eyes
“I saw a sight in town today,” Aunt Bertha told Mom, “Really, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was parking my car in front of the five and dime when Eunice came parading by in cut-off jeans, a tight top, and high heels. Why would so much mutton dress like lamb?”
I found my great-aunt’s mutton metaphor confusing but knew exactly what she meant about not believing her eyes. Young though I was, I, too, had seen unbelievable sights: a bloated cow, my brother Bob playing with matches, Ruthy Tuckett eating toothpaste in Sunday school, and Dad without his false teeth.
Since seeing those early, astonishing sights, I’ve collected many others. Some seemed too good to be true because of their beauty and newness: the unceasing motion, changing hues, and enormity of the Pacific Ocean, a grove of giant redwoods stretching toward heaven on trunks made huge by centuries of growth. Others seemed beyond belief because of the emotional impact they carried: snow falling on the blackened, burned ruins of our Lake Shore home, and the first time I saw a classroom filled with twenty-eight children who would call me teacher.
This summer, an astounding event brightened my life with laughter. It began when Northwest Colorado Health, as a fundraiser for its hospice program, dropped a yellow cascade of roughly 150 rubber duckies into the Yampa River where they twirled and tumbled, bobbed and bounced, rammed one another and turned in confused circles.
Despite such shenanigans, the swift current eventually carried most of them to the finish line where the first few speedsters claimed prizes for their sponsors in approximately eight minutes. In the meantime, my plucky duck out-dawdled the remaining 142 competitors and crossed the finish line in solitary splendor, a full hour later, winning the prize for last place, an unbelievable accomplishment. I chuckled for days about my dilly-dallying ducky.
In June, I struggled to believe my eyes when my siblings and their spouses, arrived in Craig for our annual reunion. I watched them as they slowly and stiffly exited their cars, and when I rushed outside to greet them, I saw diminished hair, faces folded into wrinkles, skin polka-dotted with brown spots, and swollen ankles above sensible shoes.
“It’s as though I’m looking into a mirror,“ I thought, “I can’t believe we’ve come to this.” Like the sapling fruit trees my parents planted when we were young, we had grown, matured, produced, and aged, slowly losing any resemblance to the children our parents had nurtured.
But the surprise we felt as we examined one another after a year apart soon melted in the warmth of our pleasure at being together. Our smiles, our memories, and our ease in one another’s company hadn’t changed. We had a grand time.
Though it was too rainy to sit outdoors, the moist spring had coaxed our yard into a bounty of beauty we viewed from inside. We also visited Craig’s two museums, which provided first-class entertainment for people old enough to exclaim, “We had one of these. Remember?” In addition, the faded glory of the Marcia Car, a community treasure, taught us a bit of Craig’s history, amazed us with its clever use of space, and impressed us with the craftsmanship and rich materials used to create it.
When I hugged my siblings goodbye, I no longer noticed how we had aged; instead, I saw the brothers and sisters who’d enriched my life with challenges and protection, companionship and squabbles, raucous games and shared worries, angry tears and happy laughter.
When we’re together, it’s as though our parents are present as well, a gift we give one another every summer.