Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Birthdays and the Big Boom Theory

The last weekend of January was a pleasant one, marked by the annual visit of our friend and his wife who come down every year at this time and use the house as base camp while they attend a historical symposium of some sort. This fellow is the one who sent me the link on the mortar for Mark’s Christmas gift, and he came here on this trip with the back of his truck full of boxes of powder, several different cannons and mortars, and lots of golf balls and wine corks. So Friday afternoon upon their arrival we set up on our tail gates out on the pond dam with our toys,  I mean guns, and fired lots and lots of charges. I am sure my neighbors must’ve been thinking that the siege had begun and the horses went to the far end of the field to escape the loud blasts.

The wine corks were for a tiny brass mortar that had a bore the diameter of the cork and this tiny gun would fire the cork out into the pond about fifty yards with an amazingly loud boom, unexpected from such a diminutive thing. The fact that one must drink a bottle of wine to save up ammunition for such a cause was not lost on our friend and he had lots of corks to fire.

Many dozens of golf balls were sent sailing into the sky, our general target being the moored pontoon boat at about a hundred yards out. Getting the powder to fire consistently, tho, was a bit of an issue for Mark’s mortar so a great deal of thought and discussion as to why filled the dinner time conversation with many theories brought forth.

Compression of the exploding air inside the barrel is what sends the golf ball, or cork, into the air, and this was being difficult to control. The fabric patches Mark was using didn’t make a tight fit every time and occasionally the “fire in the hole” signal was followed by a soft “poof” and the ball would slowly roll out of the barrel, which was hilarious to everyone but Mark.

The next day, eureka, our friend John came up with the solution for these embarrassing silly expulsions, in the form of good ol’ southern grits. The brilliant idea was to put grits in front of the powder with the grains sealing the shape of the ball to the barrel perfectly. From then on there were no more soft “poofs”, but resounding “BOOM”s were then the norm as Mark’s golf ball flew far and high.

So Saturday afternoon we set another siege on the pond and we all had such fun making loud booms but disappointingly, when done, we still had not gotten one ball to assail our target, the boat, having given it  a first class effort. Sunday, however, when Mark and I were out in the fishing boat we went over to the pontoon boat and found that, yes indeed, one ball had actually landed on the floor on the soft carpet and hadn’t made a noise, and which had lead us to believe in the failure of our attempts. The question remains as to whose ball it was and both the fellows are claiming it  and the victory.

It was thirty years ago, this week, that our first child was born, a lovely little girl, who we gave a family name of Emily. We had been expecting a boy back then, as we had just felt that having a boy child was our destiny, and with the lack of ultrasound back in the day, it could not reveal the answer. So it was pretty funny when Mark’s first words upon her arrival were, “Honey! He’s a girl!” We were certainly not disappointed at this turn of our imagined fate then, and in the rest of her time since that day, Emily has failed miserably to disappoint us at almost everything. She has grown up into an epitome of grace, beauty, and intelligence and it is my privilege to have known her as she has progressed through her years to this point.

I do have to admit that in thinking about having a kid of mine now be thirty years old is a bit daunting in its milestone marker. My father must have thought the same at my fiftieth birthday when he turned to me and asked me how I had gotten so old, as tho he hadn't. I am questioning this too now myself because I sure don’t feel much different than I did when I had her, way back then, at least mentally. I will refrain from the whining I could do about the physical damages that have come with both age and injury that do make me painfully aware of the passing of the decades.

Emily and her husband came out to dinner to celebrate the blessed event the other night, along with a good friend of ours. I fixed a rich thick stew of boeuf bourguignon, sautéed some fresh green beans and shallots, and mashed up some creamy potatoes. All of this fare was nice pure comfort food, a soothing end of the January night and the month. There was champagne and toasts to begin the evening and copious amounts of red wine for dinner. Not being able to deside between them, dessert was a helping of both a tiramisu that my aunt had sent to Emily, and a pumpkin bread pudding with rum sauce that I had made. There were many “mmmm’s” while we munched merrily away.

When dinner was finished and plates put away, the shaker came out and graciously chilled enough vodka to go around the five empty martini glasses, each with a nice plump olive awaiting emmersion. Then we went outside to fire the mortar into the night sky to further celebrate the birthday of this fine child. With a full load of black powder and a good sparkling fuse, the charge exploded, sending the poor golf ball far into the air, way across the pond to the other side.

No mere ordinary golf ball, this was, but this one was one that upon impact, or explosion, a light comes on inside the ball and flickers. The flickering continues for about five minutes and then turns off until the next impact. So we watched the ball as it rose high above the trees and it traced a perfect arc across the dark sky. Gun powder, loud booms, and martinis were the perfect end to the evening that recounted a very special day for a very special person, our daughter, Miss Emily, or as she has been called by her dad all of her life, Pooh.

So January has come and gone now, a fairly benign couple of weeks, weather wise, but February has begun  with a monster of a storm that has screamed across the map and has blanketed a line from Texas to Maine with deep snow, ice, and treacherous conditions. Where we are here, below that frontal line, it is simply very cold, wet, and gray, this the official Ground Hog Day. I have not read yet what the verdict was on the forecast for the next six weeks, but today, here, it is gross outside and the now nearly bomb proof horses munching hay in the barn will not be worked.

My parents were married on this day fifty nine years ago and I will take them some flowers later today and tell them thank you for starting the chain of events which, by their union, became the amazing gift which led to not only to my birth, but subsequently, to the births and lives of both of our two wonderful daughters.

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