A Morning’s Reflection
I sit squashed in the shotgun seat of our small blue GMC pickup, my hulking brother’s beefy thigh and a variety of dusty hand tools press into my legs on this humid morning. My grandfather is driving, an elderly man who values his time too much and a disposition of calling out those that waste it in the most ‘endearing’ ways. My weed whacker rattles into Andrew’s Lawnmower, or maybe the other way around, as we go thundering down the 105, Grandpa turning a blind eye to the speed limits signs we pass in a blur.
I scratch the bug bites that have come much too early this summer and wonder if I can pop them like a pimple and end the unbearable suffering. But then I look at the other two tries on my arm, open bleeding sores, and decide against it.
Another day, another lawn to mow. I squint out the window into the bright morning sunlight and try to enjoy the last moments of rest I have before I shuffle around in the heat till 1 o’clock. Grandpa begins to curse out the workmen in bright florescent vests who block off half the road as they fill in potholes, the large vehicle crawling at a snail’s pace and exuding foul sulfuric tar. I try to tune him out and surreptitiously raise the radio volume one click… then another. Hopefully Grandpa doesn’t call me out and I can enjoy the throaty country singer in my sliver of peace.
We finally pass the workmen but Gramps continues his tirade, stretching from just the roadwork to taxes, the school system, even today’s generation as a whole, though I’m still unsure where the first few connect to the last. The whole song and dance is practically scripted, Andrew and I able to follow him word for word, he’s gone through it so many times. I’m tempted to argue with him but I don’t have the energy to waste on such a roundabout gesture. Instead I watch the passersby that enter and exit my view in flashes. I notice the boutique shops zoom by, tables and chairs and cabinets in a variety of rich brown and black woods, the tackle shop with its forest of fishing rods in the door and a somewhat grungy sign above that still seemed to exude character as it held on to its twin rusty chains, and the multitudes of delis, diners, and café’s I’ve seen so many times that they have ingrained into my memory of the road. I notice the runners, teenagers with earbuds blasting and sweat dripping from their collars and armpits, moms pushing ergonomic strollers shading their little giggling children or leashes tethering to their panting dogs who tug forward in gleeful excitement. I wish that I could have their freedom, and then realize I can’t run down the hall, let alone the street.
We pass an intersection and I watch another pickup see us through, a trio stuffed in its rusty tan cab and barrels full of garden tools and rakes adorning its bed. I nod to them, but we pass before I can catch their response. Gramps is stills grumbling over the things that have already soured his morning, there’s always something, but I just tune it out. I watch the bagel shop we are completely devoted to shoot past our right side, having been closed for a week and beyond our comprehension. I remember the nice cashier there, how she would smile even when we stopped by at 6:15 for some bagels and Gramps would stress “Only a little butter on mine”. I wondered about what she was probably doing instead of making bagels, how she probably had bills to pay and dues to keep on top of like everyone else on Long Island. I hoped she would be ok.
The idle thought s continued with the scenery and I thought about how the local flower stands would be hurting from the lack of rain we’ve been having, wishing the humidity would break out a shower now and again on the side. I saw pot after clay pot full of wilting flowers zoom by and kids no older than me tugging on lengthy and probably heavy hoses to cover the plants in life sustaining water. I smiled at those sights, not because I enjoyed watching the kids struggle, but it took me back down memory lane to all the odd jobs, scrap iron I threw onto trailers, electrical cord I untangled, pets I cleaned up after (all of which I did not own). Once again I was shown that Long Island was more than a ritzy fancy-pants neighborhood for the privileged.
Just then a nice and shiny sports car zoomed into our lane, cutting in front of Gramps and causing me to grip the armrest with renewed vigor as the 70 plus year-old pushed heavily on the gas pedal in retaliation. I remember all the times my Grandfather made a close call on the road, often times telling me other drivers worried more about their new cars than he did about his nigh indestructible pickup. That, to this day, still gives my stomach a twinge of anxiety, and at that moment especially. Needless to say my blissful thinking was abruptly squashed.
Beyond belief we make it to the farm stand in one piece, Grandpa already barking orders before we exit the truck. Andrew lathers sunscreen while I take out my twice folded wide brimmed hat. The dew sparkle on the tall unruly grass and we know there’s a lot to do today. We nod at each other and begin the many tasks our grandfather has laid out for us in those early hours of the morning. Like every day out here, it would be long, grueling, a little bit rewarding, and absolutely memorable for both of us.