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Monday, January 24, 2011

(Part 4) In Conclusion...

...I lay on my back in the snow, battered and bruised, staring at the moving gray clouds above.  The charge had been a disaster and my brother, finally coming to his senses, sat whimpering behind an oak tree.  Into view, standing above me suddenly appeared a giant smirking face and my former friend, Timmy.  "You want some more of that, chump?", the giant said, Timmy nervously laughing by his side, snowballs still in his hands.  I couldn't respond.  I fought the urge to tear up; the time for heroism was gone.

The two victors began to slowly walk away, but not before the goon kicked some loose snow in my face and Timmy lobbed another snowball as Scott.  It was a final show of power and a mortal blow to the Green boy's egos.  As Timmy and the giant walk back home we could hear them laughing, relishing in their triumph.

My sadness over the situation began to turn to anger.  Those turds had cheated for one thing and they had hurt my little brother for another.  As the two figures laughed and walked further away, my anger grew.  Laying in the freezing snow didn't seem to cool me down.  I found myself being picked up off of the ground, snow in each hand.  I felt that snow being packed tightly in my gloves, forming the perfect projectile for exacting a bit of vengeance.  The two cheaters, now quite small in the distance, laughed again.  Something popped in my head and I felt my arm cock back and my vision hone in on one key area; the top of the giant goon's head.  All else in the periphery had gone fuzzy.  The top of the boy's crew-cut may as well have been a target as I felt myself take a hopping step forward, exacting my full weight behind a lunging heave of a throw.

The snowball left my hand and swinging arm which looked something akin to the minute hand of a clock in fast motion with a perfect release at 1 o'clock.  This created a wide arcing lob, the zenith reaching some 30 feet high.  The snowball gained speed as it fell, reaching terminal velocity as its downward force of gravity equaled the upward force of drag.  Timmy and the giant continued to walk farther away, laughing, unaware of the approaching frozen projectile.

I have sometimes felt that God physically intervenes in my daily activities.  And as a 10 year old child, I felt as if God Himself directed that snowball.  As an adult, looking back on the situation, I am certain of it.  The snowball crashed into the unprotected head of the bully, exploding, sending him prostrate onto the pavement.  He was out.  Timmy turned around stunned, his crooked bangs swinging, and I am certain to this very day he can't figure out how I hit his friend at that range.  Sometimes there is no explanation for these things, and who would need one anyway?  As for me, I'm just content knowing that the Green boys won in the end.  And the bad guys lost a little dignity that day.

Things were never the same after that.  It would be the last time we sought out Timmy on one of our visits to Spartanburg.  After the snowball fight we finished the day in the comfort of Grandma Harris' living room, nursing our wounds, sipping hot chocolate and listening to adult political commentary.  Enjoying every minute of it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

(Part 3) Snowballs...

...began flying, the blur of ice in combination with speed heavy in the air.  I saw my little brother collapse under the impact of a bullet thrown by the boy-giant across the yard.  Scotty's teeth made a clicking noise as his stocking covered head was forced one way by the impact of the flying snowball, his lips the other way- suspended for a moment where they had once been in perfect alignment with his red face.  My tiny comrade was down for the count.

I had three choices at that point.  Stand my position and fight it out (impossible as I was running out of "ammo" and far short on defensive positioning); fall back to the safety of grandma's couch (I liked this thought more and more but it would come with a lifelong stigma); or charge the oppositions bunker.  Now I'm not a war strategist, but I thought the third option could at least buy me some time for Scott to pull himself together and help a brother out.

In warfare, charging is generally a last resort. It is most likely necessitated by a critical shortage of resources in combination with a lack of a fall-back option.  It is the equivalent of football's 4th quarter, final seconds "Hale Mary" where you will either take the field in victory as a gutsy s.o.b., or you leave the stadium in shame- in war, dead.   There are songs about heroes who, in desperation, beyond all reason or possibility muster the courage to chance it all.  Grabbing handfuls of snow as I went I began to run toward to onslaught.  For a moment the ploy worked.  Timmy and his goon, stopped to look at each other briefly before throwing snowballs with more fury than before.

I knew the charge had been a mistake from the beginning.  For one thing, I'm not very fast.  For another, I was the ideal target- stunned and enlarged by a super puffy red coat, waddling toward (not away) from the enemy.  Timmy and goon were delighted, licking their chapped lips as I approached.

If you enjoy war movies at all, Platoon was one of the all time best.  There is a classic scene where Willem Dafoe, thought dead, emerges from the jungles of Vietnam.  His men helplessly watch from the helicopter above as his body is riddled with enemy bullets, shaking and lurching violently (though dramatically in slow motion) with each point of contact.  This was me that day.  Broken and defeated, but perhaps with one last opportunity for glory and revenge.

To be continued and concluded...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Part 2) Timmy had a friend...

...with him that fateful day that we, the Green's, rolled into town.  After having kissed Grandma Harris and wishing her a happy new year, my brother Scott and I headed back into the snow, running as fast as we could to see if Timmy wanted to build a snow fort or something.  We knocked eagerly on his front door.  But instead of the familiar crooked grin and botched bangs, the boy who opened the door looked like a linebacker.  He was freakishly big.  He had hands like catchers-mitts and a melon sized head sporting a perfect brown crew-cut.  It wasn't my friend and I instantly hated him.

"Is Timmy home?", I said, standing on my tiptoes to try and catch a glimpse over his massive left shoulder.  In my memory he answered something like, "Who's askin?", though I doubt that ever really happened.  Chances are good that he said yes and that Timmy soon came out on the front porch.  The big kid was perhaps his cousin, though the details of the relationship have been lost in time.

To make a long story a bit shorter, suffice it to say that Timmy and his giant crony challenged me and my younger brother to a snowball fight.  Even in the ignorance I my youth, I knew that Scott and I had several things working against us.
  1. We were unfamiliar with the local terrain
  2. We hardly knew how to make a snowball, much less throw one with any accuracy
  3. My only wing man in this endeavor was 7
"You're on", I said with a cracking voice, feigning confidence.  Lines were drawn and 5 minutes were given for each side to create a stockpile of ice grenades and dig in.  As I was doing so, I felt something cold and hard hit the back of my puffy coat- a snowball. The big kid had begun the offensive without warning; while we were still under the gentleman's white flag agreement!  It was evident that I would be on the field that day with a foe not limited by the boundaries of human decency.  For me, everything went into slow motion.

To be continued...

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    (Part 1) The Final Leftovers...

    ...of the Carolina snowfall are slowly disappearing.  Puddles have formed in the low spots while the last of the white patches trickle and fade into but a memory.  It's the stuff of stories.

    The whole event has reminded me of a childhood "snow story", taking me all the way back to about 1978 or so.  The upstate of SC had gotten a pretty good snowfall that early January, but despite that Mom and Dad were intent on loading up the burgundy LTD for a trip to Spartanburg to visit the great-grandparents (I had 2 complete sets of greats until I was 8).  I was personally very excited, not so much to hang with the old folks that day, but because I had an acquaintance who lived next to Grandma Harris.  And who knows what kind of loot he had gotten for Christmas.  His name was Timmy.

    Timmy was about my age and someone that I occasionally hung out with when visiting Grandma Harris.  He was a weird kid with crooked teeth and a bad haircut, but it beat sitting on the living room floor listening to the old folks talk about taxes, arthritis and the downfall of humanity as evidenced by Threes Company.  Little did I know as I stepped out of the warmth of Dad's giant car and onto the crunchy white of Grandma's driveway, that on that very day I would make history- as the most insanely accurate snowball thrower that Timmy (or anyone else in Spartanburg, SC) had ever seen.  Or ever would again.

    To be continued...

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Wishing You All...

    ...a happy and fulfilled life, at 1:11 PM, 1/11/11.  Now ain't that neat?  :-)

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    "Hey, Babe, What Did You Do WithThe Camera?", I Asked.

    "What makes you think I did anything with the camera?  I think you had it last", she says.

    "No I didn't.  Maybe it's at your Mom's house.  You know how cluttered it is there", I said.

    "If it was at my Mom's house we would not have been able to download the snow pictures.  Think back to when you last had it", she says, in a manner which I view as quite condescending.

    "Well, I am thinking of where I last had it, which is why I am certain you had it last, smarty pants."

    (Pause)  "Alan, did you leave it in the outside pocket of the cooler, which is where I last saw you with it?  Hmmmm?"

    (Longer pause)  "I suppose that's possible", I say.

    Upon my return, I took this picture.  I hate it when she's right...and she's always right.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    I struggle...

    ...from time to time with low self-esteem.  Everyone does I suppose, some more than others.  Am I really good enough to be a part of this group?  Do I deserve to have someone special in my life?  Does God really love me unconditionally?  When is the other shoe going to drop?  These are all legitimate questions.  And they are also questions asked by someone struggling with their own personal value- struggling I suppose with a sense of worth.

    Some people have to really work hard at keeping their ego in check.  They are by circumstance, by upbringing or just quite naturally- arrogant.  Pride is their downfall and many battle hard to remain humble.  I recall a time, I was around 15 or 16, when I went to a local family reunion with my parents.  The reunion was attended by distant cousins, I guess, and I knew from the beginning of the event that they were not "my kind of people".  Some were in straw cowboy hats of all things, big shiny belt buckles and dusty boots.  Some men wore overalls, the women had their hair in buns and wore big flowered-print polyester dresses.  They were poorly educated and obviously people of humble means.

    I remember clearly, at some point, turning to my dad and saying something like, "We're related to these yahoos?  Has anybody hauled granny and the rocker down from Uncle Jed's truck, yet?"  I will never forget his response.  He looked me square in the eye and said, "These are relatives of yours who make an honest days pay with an honest day's work.  They are poor but good people.  You have no right to look down upon them."  Wow.  That exchange rocked me-  I was ashamed and humbled- and I deserved every bit of it.  On the surface, that wake up call from my dad may not seem a very significant exchange, but for whatever reason that single event transformed the way I looked at people then and today.

    Yes, Jesus was very clear on the subject.  It's the meek (the humble, gentle and kind) that will inherit the kingdom of God.  But stop for a moment and think of the far end of that spectrum.  Think beyond meekness or humility.  There are people, me and you at times, who are paralyzed by fear of failure.  Low self-esteem and self-doubt are as big a hindrance in serving God (and others) as is pride or egotism. They are two polar ends of a scale that serve to isolate you and keep you from your full potential as a person- and your full potential as a representative of Christ.  Pride is destructive, but a lack of faith or confidence in your own God given abilities will have the same outcome when you are allowed an opportunity to serve.  And we all are called to serve.

    Meek, humble yes.  But frozen by your own fear of failure or perceived lack of unworthiness misses the mark. And perhaps it even misses the mark with a similar outcome as looking down upon others of lesser means or a different upbringing- your relatives or not. 

      Tuesday, January 4, 2011

      Happy Birthday, George...

      I wanted to give a big shout-out to my pal, George who turned 43 yesterday.  This marks the official entry into his mid-forties, though unofficially he has been an old man trapped in a younger body for 20 years.

      Also, he and his family are soon to occupy their new home where he will be known as the old guy who occasionally goes on his front porch in his boxers and wife-beater-T, yelling, "You kids get out of my yard".

      Happy B-Day wishes, Dook.

      Saturday, January 1, 2011

      Quote from my oldest daughter, today...

      Dad, 2010 seems like only yesterday.  (smile)