A Eulogy to Aaron Scott Palmer



Aaron Scott Palmer, March 22 1981 – January 11 2014


Our Father of love and mercy, you know better than any of us the anguish of our family, where joy of life has turned to the sorrow of death, a home that is today desolate by this sudden loss. Father, you know, since you gave your son for us. Give comfort in this numbing time of grief, as only you can through your Son, Jesus Christ, The messiah in whose name we pray. Amen

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus tells us “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted… “

We are here to mourn, remember, and celebrate the life of Aaron Scott Palmer. Aaron was many things to many people, he was a son, a friend, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, he was like a father and a husband, and even a soon to be uncle.

To me, he was my cousin, a friend, and while growing up, he was the closest person I had to brother. We were born two weeks and two days apart. Before Aaron and I knew any better, my mom, and my Aunt Pam, used to get some strange joy from dressing Aaron and me like twins. Those photos certainly weren’t anything we’d have wanted our prom dates from high school seeing, but I can’t help but look back on them now with a smile and a tear. They say time flies, and they say the older you get the faster it goes. Probably the most telling photo is one of Aaron and me dressed alike, sitting on those little animals mounted to car coil springs that McDonalds used to have in their children’s playground. We were at the McDonalds along route 30 across from Greengate mall. Here it is, 2014, and both the McDonald’s, and Greengate mall are gone. We’ll probably all be just fine without McDonald’s and Greengate mall, but we’ll all be missing a piece of hearts without Aaron.

We are here to remember Aaron, and the good times, and all the fond memories we have. So, although I probably have enough stories to fill a book, I thought I’d limit myself to sharing a few that come to mind right away. I’m sure we’ll laugh, and I’m sure we’ll cry, but that’s what we’re here for.

I’m sure my grandma and pap secretly thought Labor Day, and the return of school couldn’t come fast enough. Aaron and I used to spend day after summer day at grandma’s house swimming, riding bikes, skateboarding, and pretty much just being ornery boys.

Do you remember those tube socks that were popular in the 80’s? They came up clear past your knees, and you wore them with shorts, even in the summer, and it makes absolutely no sense all, but that’s what we wore, and we all looked just as foolish. Well, Aaron and I used to take those tube socks, and while grandma and pap were in the house not paying any attention, we used to stand at the edge of the pool, and tie our legs and hands together with the tube socks, and pretending we were pirates, we would make the other, “walk the plank,” and push each other in the pool tied up. How we didn’t drown I’ll never know.

Then, after swimming half the day, we’d come in to eat. Grandma would make us Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. She’d make them one sandwich at a time, and cut them diagonally, giving us each a half. She’d bring the sandwich out, and set it on the table with a glass of milk. She’d leave the room and go back in the kitchen to make another sandwich. A minute later she’d come back with the next sandwich, and first sandwich was gone, and the glass of milk would be empty. This cycle would repeat over and over again, and ultimately it would turn into a joke for Aaron and me. By about the fifteenth sandwich and a gallon of milk later, grandma was onto us. Apparently, our joke wasn’t so funny to her. She’d yell and say we were just trying to see how much we could eat, which of course was absolutely true. We’d tell her that we were going to tell our parents we were hungry, and grandma wouldn’t feed us anything.

One time Grandma left for a few hours, and Pap was in charge of keeping track of Aaron and me. It was winter, and Grandma’s house was heated with wood. Pap was upstairs, and Aaron and I were downstairs. We put a scrap of wood into the wood burner in the wrong spot. A few minutes later Pap runs downstairs yelling, “What did you kids do?” The whole upstairs of the house had filled with smoke from wood burning on the wrong side of the wood burner. I think Pap was more worried about what Grandma would do to him, than actually getting Aaron and I in trouble. So, he opened all the windows of the house, turned the fans on, and aired the house out. When Gram returned home, he never said a word to her about what happened.

One time, uncle Gary took us to Potter County to their camp, Palmer’s Paradise. In the field, across the street from camp was an old school bus. All the side panels of the school bus had fallen off and were lying in the field next to it. This made the most absolutely perfect place to find snakes. After catching, no exaggeration, over 100 snakes that day, it was time to leave for home. Three of the snakes we had caught were a rare, non-poisonous snake, called a milk, or corn snake. We wanted to take them home, but Gary said no. We begged and pleaded, but he still said no. Aaron and I decided to take the three snakes home anyway. So, we put them in a shoebox and hid them in the trunk of the car. About halfway home, we stopped to eat and get gas. Aaron and I, covertly opened the trunk of the car to check on the snakes, but the box was empty, and the snakes were gone, loose in the car somewhere. We spent the whole rest of the ride home watching for the snakes, and hoping they wouldn’t show up on the dashboard or under Gary’s feet. We never did find them.

One summer my Uncle Frank took Aaron and me camping with him. We were staying at a KOA near Hershey Park. We scoured the woods around the campground for firewood, but other campers had picked the woods completely dry. Walking back to our campsite we came past an area with a small building, a tall fence around it, and a locked gate. Inside was the nice, dried, perfectly split firewood the campground sold to campers for outrageous prices. This was just what Aaron and I had been looking for. Aaron climbed the fence while I stood on the other side, keeping watch, and catching and piling the wood up. He climbed back over the fence and we proudly walked back to the campsite to show my uncle all the great firewood we had found. That night while all the other campers were stuck with small wimpy fires, we had a blazing fire and a huge pile of wood next to it. We were sitting, enjoying mountain pies when the ranger stopped by to tell us how he was on the lookout for people stealing firewood. Looking back on it now, my uncle probably knew where the wood came from, but he kept a perfect poker face. Uncle Frank invited the ranger to have a seat, and promptly made him a mountain pie cooked over our blazing fire. The ranger probably knew where our nice pile of wood came from too, but there’s almost no problem a pizza mountain pie can’t solve.

The stories I’ve told are mine, and they’re what I remember. I hope they help you think of the good times, and the good memories of your life, and your time with Aaron. He left us all too soon, and far too young, and absolutely under the hardest of circumstances. Aaron and I wanted to be farmers together growing up, and although I’m still not exactly a farmer, it was always my wish to be close again with Aaron like we were when we were young. I had hoped that someday we would be old together, and laugh over old stories, and tell tales of all the crazy things we’d done, and the good times we’d had.

Over the years we grew apart, and we would have brief periods of a rekindled relationship. The last time Aaron and I had this opportunity was at Courtney, my sister’s graduation. I was surprised to see Aaron there. After meeting again at the graduation, we had a period of about a year around that time when I would see Aaron frequently. I was married in 2005, and Aaron was my best man. We had dinner afterward at little diner on Route 40 called Glisan’s. After dinner before we all headed home, we hugged, and I said I love you. He said I love you too, and we both meant it.

We all knew Aaron had his share of problems, and I had always hoped that by being there for him, accepting him, meeting him where he was in his life, and by not reproaching him, I had hoped that he would feel loved and welcomed by me. I hoped more than anything that I could share the love of Jesus Christ with him. I’d pray, not nearly often enough, that somebody, even if it weren’t me, would have the chance to share the good news of the gospel with Aaron. I know it is only through Christ that we can overcome our sins, our problems and our addictions. Reading from the New Testament the book of Romans chapter 8 verse 37 tells us; in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. I believe Aaron wanted to be a conqueror. I don’t think he knew where to start. I wish I would have been bold enough or had the right words to say. I always thought there would be more time.

That’s the problem though, we always think there will be some other time to make things right. We spend our time on the things in this world that are of no real meaning. We worry about our jobs, sports, our houses, 401Ks and the cars we drive. Ecclesiastes 2:11 tells us, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” In chapter 14 verse 5 the prophet Job tells us, “A man’s days are numbered. You oh God know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time you have set.

These are sobering, and humbling words, but the Good News is that God sent His only Son Jesus Christ, that we might be comforted, encouraged, and ultimately saved through Him.

Titus 3:5, tells us, “Christ saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

In Matthew 11 verses 28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Aaron was a hard-worker, he was smart, athletic, energetic, and everyone loved him. I always envied the sheer number of friends he always seemed to be surrounded by. People were just naturally attracted to him. A couple years ago Aaron had some of his things in a box at my house, and I was helping to organize them. I came across a group picture from a week we had spent at Pine Springs summer church camp in Jennerstown. As I looked at that picture, it seemed to say so much. Why had Aaron hung on to it? What meaning did it have for him? Why was it significant? Going through the box I found other things that were dear to him, and other keepsakes he cared about. In this box, were photo albums of family, and friends, photos of vacations, and of childhood pets. As I sat looking at this box of cherished memories, I realized that no matter what callousness this world had tried to cover his heart with, this was Aaron’s heart, and deep down this was the Aaron we all loved, and this was the Aaron that loved us. There in those pictures was the Aaron that longed for things to be right. This was the Aaron that longed for the reconciled relationship with his mom, his dad, his sister, and his family and friends. As we depart from here and say goodbye, take with us these thoughts of the Aaron we loved, and the Aaron who loved us, and let our memories be filled with what is true and noble, and everlasting.

God of hope, love, and grace, we come to you in shock, and grief, and confusion of heart. Help us to find peace in the knowledge of your loving mercy and kindness. Give us light to guide us out of our darkness into the assurance of your love, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.


A Short Story, or the Beginning of a Novel?

The old man sat. He leaned back in his chair spit into the fire and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He lighted the cigarette breathed in then exhaled long and slow. When he spoke his words were faint and slow as if he were thinking of the right words or if he should even speak at all.  The story he told was of a military chaplain. This military chaplain had grown up in a small town of some suburban mid-Atlantic state. Some little town with a name not unlike a thousand other small towns. He had gone to church every Sunday worked on the family farm graduated high school and enlisted in the army. He had said it was his duty to serve God and his country, and he could think of no better way to do both. Years later when the war had started he was sent to Europe. One evening while walking the streets of a small village he had solicited the services of a prostitute. Under the false name of John Smith they were on the second floor of the inn and he was on top of her when an airstrike had flew over the town dropping bombs and unleashing gunfire on the civilians running the streets. A bomb had hit the taller building across the alley from the inn, and sent a spray of shrapnel and debris in all directions. A large chunk from the parapet of the roof came in through the window of the inn crushing the scull of the young chaplain. The prostitute lived.

He sat forward and took a final draw from his cigarette, and flung it into the fire. He looked at the boy who had sat listening to the story. None spoke.  The silence continued. Then.

And what should I think about that the boy said.

More silence then taking another cigarette from the pack in his pocket, the old man began. You shouldn’t think anything of it. To think whether in this lifetime God rewards or punishes those who serve him or sin against Him is foolish. A whore who all her life had sold her body to the lust of men’s hearts is now saved by God’s servant who in his moment of weakness had succumbed to temptation. What then, was God punishing the chaplain for his sin? Was He saving the prostitute from hers?

I guess what the prostitute did after that is what matters said the boy.

The story ends there said the old man. We don’t know what happened after. He lit the cigarette. We can only know that God weaves lives and stories in a plan that goes beyond a priest and prostitute. Beyond the people they interact with in their lives. It makes them part of something that was begun before their birth and continues even after their death.

The boy said he must be going now and the old man flung the half smoked cigarette into the fire as he stood up. The boy stood also but seemed to be waiting for the old man to say something more. Perhaps some final words of encouragement or some last bit of wisdom but he offered none. He only moved toward the door and the boy followed. He stood in the doorway the boy stepped past on to the porch. He reached out his arm extended to shake hands with the old man but he only stared indifferently toward the sun setting on the ridge to the west. He reached in his pocked taking out another cigarette then changed his mind and put it back. The boy dropped his hand back to his side and turned to leave. He placed his left foot in the stirrup and grabbed the big horn of the old wade saddle. He thought at his gesture of leaving a final word of farewell would be spoken by the old man. He swung his right leg over the cantle and into the deep seat turning toward the open doorway but the door swung shut and the old man was gone.

He rode out and down the slope from the old man’s cabin. He followed an eroded logging trail overgrown with greenbrier. Crossing a small creek and opening into a clearing he stopped and sat the horse watching the last of the sunset over the peak. The crimson of the setting sun in the late August evening burned like boiling blood spewing from the wound of the waning crescent moon kicked over on it side by the foot of Atlas himself. He rode through the meadow and in the last of the light pulled the Remington SPR94 from its leather scabbard and shot a rabbit that had come out from under a nearby brush pile. The old mare he called Penny started for a moment at the ring of the shot but then remained with her feet planted steady. The rabbit was struggling and its back leg was injured. He dismounted and the horse stood waiting. The boy walked over to the rabbit and picked it up by the back legs with his left hand and swung down with his right breaking its neck. He walked back to the Penny horse and tied the rabbit to the saddle strings behind the cantle. They followed the logging road up the ridge and made camp for the night in a hollow off the side of a switchback. He dressed and skinned the rabbit picking out the shot lead pellets. The horse was cropping grass and eating the new growth from the briars and saplings. The boy cooked the rabbit over a small fire and ate in silence. He untied a fleece blanket he had been using as a bedroll from the back of the saddle. He hobbled the horse and loosed the latigo allowing the cinch to hang easy. The boy lay back on the bedroll to stare at the night sky and some time pasted and he was asleep.

He woke the next morning to the first ray of an orange sun rising over the eastern knob in the distance. The beams of light beat in scattered intervals between the trees and cast an enigmatic glow passing through the fine mist that hung in the air. The fire was well out and only a faint spiral of smoke hinted up out of the black. He kicked at ashes to see if any hot coals were left. None were. Penny was standing twenty five yards away waiting for him with ears forward and hind quarters cocked resting her back leg, the heels of her large hoof elevated and resting with only toe and steel touching.  He tightened the cinch and they rode the logging road until began to arc back toward the valley below to the east. The peak of the small mountain was close and he reined the horse to the right and began busting through the brush and thistles leaving the trail behind. They crossed over and down the range and across two more that day. When he stopped they were on western slope looking down on a small boulder field that lay choking out trees and briars and grasses and anything that would grow. He dismounted and led the horse across picking his path and hoping she did not pull a shoe or worse. Below the boulder field a small patch of forest began and he continued to lead the horse. The boy stopped for the night and camped under a large overhang of a rock standing out from the hillside. He woke the next morning and ate the remainder of the rabbit. They rode all morning and early afternoon until in the distance he could see a small town ahead.

He rode on towards the town. On a road outside of where the roofs of homes marked the edge of town a stream of cars was lined up filling a field that was already laden and bursting with the steel and rubber of automobiles. The afternoon sun glistened off the glass windshields. They rode on and down the side of the ridge and through a small patch of hemlock and then down the embankment that bordered the road leading to town.  They neared the field and in the center of the field was a large white circus tent. Outside the tent gas grills blazed with fire and smoke rose high into the air with the smell of charcoal and chicken and steak. Men in black suit pants and white crew shirts stood at the grills with tall white chef hats, knife in one hand and spatula in the other. Women stood passing out foam cups of lemonade and iced tea. Children were running and scampering about stuffing papers under windshield wipers and passing them out to people walking by. Guitars and drums clamored and boomed from inside the tent and the crowd roared and swayed and clapped with the beat and the pulse of hypnotic rhythm. He neared the edge of the field and began heading toward the large white tent. Passing among the rows where the cars filing in, a large fat man with yellow stained armpits was waving his arms flagging traffic, large blaze orange batons swinging wildly. His gut hung over the front of the black sweatpants he was wearing and his belly button stuck out like the teat of a Jersey cow ready for milking. Another large sweat stain was below where his crack stuck out above waistband. He dug in his pants with his left hand while his right waved the baton prodding and placing the cars in rows through the field.

C’mon folks there we go. Right there a little more now stop. OK, now you pull ahead pull ahead keep coming. The man said, reaching his left hand up and sniffing it. He smiled with pleasure. Keep coming OK now stop right there. Perfect now you sir, pull ahead and stop right there. Alrighty, now I’m going to need you to loop around and start the next row. OK. Good. He stared at the boy who had come up behind him and now sat the horse staring at the white tent. Now you son, git that horse the hell outta here before it drops a steaming mess everywhere. We don’t need people slippin’ and falling in that, now thats for darn certain. Go on, git. Tie it out by them there trees and go on and get in there and getchoo sumthin’ deet. The real show is startin’ soon. Git goin’. He went back to directing traffic. Pull right up folks OK stop right there. That’s it.

The boy did what the fat man said and tied Penny at the edge of the field. He loosed the cinch, but left the saddle on. Cars continued to pile in. Groups of people waited in line for the free hot dogs hamburgers and lemonade. He got in the back. The crowd had moved into the circus tent by the time he stepped out from the john into the afternoon sun. The music continued to boom from the tent. Some hard rock version of You’ve got a friend was being hammered out by an electric guitar ran through a pawnshop distortion pedal. Bass drums and cymbals crashed as the singer howled in a raspy smokers snarl, Winter Spring Summer of Fall, all you have to do is call. The crowd thundered and the band went into a growling version of Stayin’ Alive. The bass guitar man slapped the notes of the old disco tune and the band bobbed their heads in perfect time as if this was one of their favorite songs to play. The people were filing in to the opening of the tent. When the last of the ones outside entered, they boy followed. He slipped inside through the large opening of rolled up white canvas tied back like a large set of curtains.

Inside the tent was standing room only. There were no chairs save for a large wooden medieval chair on the front stage that looked as though it had been brought through a time warp centuries back for just this occasion. The right side of the stage stood a podium of equal age and antiquity. The band was to the left and was now playing a rendition of Breakfast at Tiffanies through acoustic guitars. The crowd swayed from side to side with arms up stretched and moving with the smooth rhythmic wave of their bodies. The band finished the last chord and held the note letting the amplifiers ring the tone until it faded softer and softer until it could not be heard at all. The curtains at the back of the stage shifted and then were pulled aside and a man appeared. He stood almost six foot tall and was built like a wrestler or some over grown pit bull. His trousers were white with a large pleat down the middle and rolled up cuffs at the bottom that rolled half away up his shins. Shiny black shoes covered his feet and he wore white socks. A white suit coat covered a black button down shirt adorned with a white bolo tie and silver medallion hanging from the middle. A black top hat covered his head and the boy could see the man was bald except of large mutton side burns that stood 3 inches from his face. His lips were cherry red and plump and his mouth was filled with dentures for his teeth were too straight for any man.

The man stepped forward to the podium. The band receded through the curtains leaving only man standing on stage. He scanned over the crowd with his eyes. His head and body were motionless as he looked from one side of the tent to the other. The eyes stopped on the boy for a moment and he removed the old John B Stetson that had been his fathers and held it at his side. Silence filled the tent. The only sound was the distant hum of the generator at the edge of the field powering the audio system. The man continued to look across the crowd. Then he stepped right up against the podium like he meant to bowl it over and adjusted the microphone until it was touching his thick red lips. After another long pause he spoke.

He went on at some length about the government and religion and blacks and gays. The boy’s mind glazed over and his thoughts drifted.

The people were transfixed on the man with the red lips and black top hat. No one noticed when the boy put his hat on and slipped outside. He walked through the cars parked in the field. The windows were down on an old Ford in the third row back and he reached in and took a Rand McNally road map from under the drivers seat. In the glove box was a sealed plastic bag with Black Cavendish pipe tobacco in it. He put the tobacco in his pocket and pushed the button inside the glove box releasing the trunk. The latch of the trunk opened and the spring hinges of the trunk lifted it 2 inches. He went around to the back of the trunk. The trunk was empty except for an old newspaper. He took the newspaper and walked back to the Penny horse. She stood cropping grass. The boy tore off a square of the heavy paper that was the cover of the road map. He rolled the Black Cavendish tobacco in the square of paper and lighted it with the Zippo that had been his fathers. He choked on the smoke at his first inhale and bursts of the white tobacco smoke bellowed from his mouth and nostrils in uneven spurts like some elderly dragon. Then he inhaled the tobacco again and exhaled smoothly. The boy stuffed the newspaper and atlas into his saddlebags and sat leaning against the tree smoking. The voice of the red-lipped man lingered on unintelligibly drowned out by the slow drone of the generator. He put the rolled cigarette out against the heel of his boot and flung the remainder behind him with his thumb and forefinger. He fell asleep for some time beneath the shade of the old tree. When the boy woke the man was done speaking. The band was back on stage banging out covers of old show tunes.

The boy wandered toward the back of the tent. An old stainless steel Airstream trailer glistened reflecting the sun’s light in a prism of colors. The man with the red lips and mutton sideburns was standing in the window of the trailer with his back to the boy. A young tan skinned girl of about sixteen or seventeen years stood facing the man. Neither noticed the boy outside. She was tall, and long straight black hair came down to the small of her back and she looked to be a mestizo or of Indian descent, or some exotic race not yet named. A dark dress with full sleeves covered her slender body, and a black bonnet covered her head. Her dark eyes looked down at the floor of the trailer. The man in white reached out and slapped her across the face knocking her to the floor. She let out a scream and he kicked her while she lay on the ground holding the side of her face.

Little savage. It’s the likes of you and your kind that make me sick. The large man said.

He turned toward the window and the boy rolled under the trailer before he was seen. The man slammed the blinds down and jumped on top of the girl lying on the floor. The boy lay in the grass under the trailer. He could hear the man breathing heavy as he tore the girls dress and began unbuckling the button on his trousers. The girl lay face down on the floor of the trailer as the bald man mounted on top of her pulling her hair up then slamming her face down forward against the floor.

At least there’s something you’re good for. He moaned and breathed expelling foul gasps of hot breath.

Through a small crack in the floor the girl’s dark eyes met the steel gray eyes of the boy. For a moment nothing. Then the boy drew his Colt Bisley from inside his boot and put it to the crack in the floor thumbing the hammer back. The girl forced her head to the side with all her effort, as the boy squeezed the trigger of the heavy caliber revolver. The shot went through the floor and into the man’s neck just below his jaw line. It exited the back of his scull, blowing bits of bone and spinal cord throughout the trailer. He fell on top of the girl with a thud of finality. Blood ran from the wound at both ends spilling on to the floor and down through the hole the Colt had made.

The band continued their musical tirade of cover songs. No one missed a beat. The sound of the revolver ending the bald mans life was drowned out by the thump of bass drums, the crash of cymbals, and the cheers and roar of the crowd. The boy rolled from under the trailer and stuck the forty-five back in his boot. He opened the door of the old trailer. The girl lay pinned against the floor, the man on top a gaping hole in the back of his scull. The bonnet was gone and the girl’s straight black hair soaked the blood from the floor like some rancid form of mop. He rolled the man to the side and stood the girl. She followed the boys every move but said nothing. The boy checked the man’s coat and jean pockets and pulled out a black leather wallet. He went through the wallet and found nothing of use. An old drivers license long expired with a crack running through the center from years of being sat on. The name read Ellsworth Nottingham. Behind the drivers license was an Amway employee identification card. A few one hundred dollar bills and a fifty were doubled over in the billfold. He tossed the wallet aside. Paper currency had no value. The boy turned to the girl and their eyes met. She did not speak. He could see fear in those eyes, an untrusting hardened glance that said everything words did not and could not. The boy was just another man with a baldhead. A reincarnation of the evil that that had defiled her for so long. He was no savior to her. He merely stole her like war pillage and plunder looted during some ill begotten military campaign. As if the girl were part of some native village spoiled and burned, its mothers raped and children beheaded.  He ordered the girl outside and pulled the small stove away from the wall and kicked the propane line free. The boy ripped a gold chain from the neck of the man and stuck it in his pocket. She followed him through the field to the Penny horse as though she were in fact a prisoner of war. Then there was a burning. When they had saddled up and started through the woods the show had ended and the music had quit. The crowd filed out from the white circus tent. The airstream was a world of smoke and fire so violent tornados of heat ablaze swirled above it like a product of its own climate. Giant billows of black smoke poured from the windows and an orange and red fire glowed like some combustible and alien blood. The smoke set the evening sky black, the flames dancing like sinister and demon marionettes. The inside of the tent glowed orange as if its occupants were in Hell itself. Panic set over the crowd and they scattered under the sides and into the field.

The last breath of twilight cast a faint light on the gazetteer. The girl said nothing, she only watched the boy as she sat the horse. He was afoot in the woods trying to get enough light on the map to make out words and roads and mountains and water. He walked in an odd stagger searching for light cast down between the trees like some sage or prophet with a divination rod trying to find water.  The boy’s back was turned and the girl squeezed her heels into the side of Penny. The horse stood. She picked up the reins and squeezed again this time harder. The horse only stood, ears pinned back as if at some minor annoyance. This time she kicked with her heels, snapped the reins, and clucked with her tongue and cheek making a weird kissing sound. Penny only stood. The boy turned and looked up at the girl as if he had been expecting this.

He thought about saying something to her and almost did but in then he changed his mind. She looked at him in silence. Their eyes met again and he could see nothing in them. The boy wasn’t certain she could understand English. Her dark round eyes gave no clue of comprehension or bewilderment. They carried the gaze of utter stupidity like some circus sideshow retard, or of knowing all too well and understanding far too much.

He shrugged and stuffed the atlas under the saddlebag and climbed into the old rig. A light touch of his heels and the horse walked off. The boy looked straight on and they rode. The sun had set and the night sky was full. Clouds passed across the moon giving and taking light like some child of God turning the switch off and on to his bedroom which was this world. The forest was thick with greenbrier and vines. Before long the sky was complete and full overcast. He dismounted from the horse and the girl moved into his place in the deep saddle. The boy led Penny through the wooded darkness trying to find the safest passage, pulling vines out of the way and uttering minor obscenities under his breath. The maps in the McNally atlas were not detailed, but to the south was a small meandering line with red dots, indicated they would cross a hiking trail heading east to west. He said nothing of this to the girl. There was little way to tell how far the trail was anyway. In the darkness, he continued to stumble over boulders and trip on the vines. Once, he fell completely down, a large thorn slicing his forehead open as his hands reached for something to grasp. They moved on. He continued all night, and in the first light of the dawn sky they found the trail. Exhausted, he climbed on the horse and they followed the trail west. He sat behind the girl as the horse walked on and the morning sun rising in the east was hot on his back. He slept.

Holiday Season Musings… The Norman Rockwell Christmas

I have this thought and I’ll call it the Norman Rockwell Christmas. Those paintings he made, he made for a reason. They are this stereotypical American, old fashioned Christmas, or old fashioned whatever.

So why did Rockwell paint those paintings? Well, there has to be some truth to them. I think the truth is that for an approximate 80% of all Americans, we have experienced that Christmas at some point in our lives. For some of us, it was our childhood, and for that child whose Rockwell Christmas was their childhood, we can assume that Child’s parents also had the Rockwell Christmas at that time period. It was mutual. The parent was largely responsible for giving it to the child, and consequently, providing that Christmas for the chid, they also experienced it.

The other scenario would be the child that did not experience it growing up. Maybe they came from a foster home, or alcoholic parents, or something along those lines. That person always saw the Rockwell paintings, or they saw those classic Christmas movies on television, and they always dreamed they would, or should have had that. Therefore when that person grows up, they find a way through hard work and fate, that they are able to provide that stereotypical Christmas for their children. In this case it benefits them as much as it does the children.

Now, the third scenario I can think of is the opposite. It is the child that had the Rockwell Christmas while growing up, but no longer has it. This is where I am for some reason, and its not constant. It ebbs and flows, but being at my grandma’s last night and looking at the photos of the times past and thinking about my other grandma and my family. Its just hard.

I can remember Christmas Eves at my Grandma Eddy’s house. The whole family there. All crammed into her little house. The tree would be up and she would make sure that she had a present for everyone. Uncle Lloyd would be there telling stories about how Iron City was the best beer ever. My uncle Frank would park his red Dodge pickup in the front yard. Grandma didn’t have two nickels to rub together and everyone knew it. No one wanted her buy them anything, but she always did, even if it was just a couple pair of socks from the D&K store. My cousin Billy would be there, and my Uncle Frank. There was always this rum cake she would make that was to die for. We always felt like we were getting away with something by eating it, as if we’d get drunk off the cake. The drinks were in a cooler out on the screened in porch were it was about 20 degrees, and there would always be someone out there smoking. The was that green porcelain pine tree decoration with the white snow accents and the colored bulbs on the tree branches that lit up. She always had it sitting on this old record player with the top that slid open next to where the recliner sat. There was a heater vent between the recliner and the record player, that was about one foot square, and we would always sit in front of it when the furnace kicked to have the heat blast on us.

After leaving Grandma’s we’d go to church for the late candlelight service. We’d finish by singing Silent Night a cappella by candlelight. We’d leave church and Irwin would be dead quiet. The light at the corner in town would be flashing because it was so late they shut off the actual red and green stop lights. The sidewalk would be lit up with luminaries.

The next day, we’d go to Grandma Pats. The whole family would be there. Aunt Pam and Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Ross and Ian, Colin, and Heather, Aaron and Ashely, my sister. Pap was there. We’d run and play all through the house just having a good time. That’s my Rockwell Christmas. Now, pap is gone, Billy is gone, Grandma Eddy is gone, uncle Frank is gone, Aaron never comes around. Aunt Bonnie moved to Ecuador, Ross is gone, Colin lives in Iceland, Grandma Pat is in a home, Ashley lives in Florida.

How many people out there can replace some of the names I mentioned and have this be their family’s story?