By Delbert H. Rhodes
The day could not be better. The sun is high and the Park hosts people from everywhere. City people fill the area each year and the smells of foods and the sounds of music float the air. Petersen arrives early; he lives up the road. Lina and her daughter live exactly two miles north of Petersen’s residence. While sitting in his car Lina and Nessa drive up, Wow! Lina is sooo lovely. Her hair is beautifully prepared and her clothing, a one-piece pantsuit, is enticing. Lina is quite curvaceous.
Smiling over at him, Lina’s eyes touch Petersen’s soul. Oh how he adores her. Petersen walks to Lina’s car and they exchange hellos. Then Petersen strolls to the opposite side of the vehicle, he says hello to the little one.
“Hello.” Petersen offers, as he leans in for a closer look. Half turning toward him and half ignoring him, the child says “Hi.” Smartly, Petersen asks, “Do I get a hug and a kiss?” “No!” The child scorns, twisting her body away from this strange awful man. Petersen laughs and says, “Okay, but by the end of the day, I will.” The child’s gorgeous honey bright eyes sweeten Petersen’s heart. He realizes something he has always known. Since the first moment, he saw the child. The man knows without doubt that he loves her. She is the child he has wanted all his life.
Jannessa (just) looks up at him as though Petersen is out of his mind. Well all these years later, the strange awful man remains out of his mind. He loves Nessa so much it hurts. (Moreover) whatever he did or didn’t he is (so) sorry. So awfully sorry. Petersen wants her to come back to him, to reconnect. Even to say hello once or twice monthly, the man would be gratified. He thinks of his Nessa constantly, he misses her terribly.
The photo shoot progresses as expected. Nessa is camera shy at first, during the first shot she actually peaks from behind Mommy. Before too long however, Petersen needs only to be ready because the little darling loosens up, and then begins to set up each shot. She smiles laughs looks deeply into the camera lens and poses. Petersen is in shutter heaven and the day is a joy. Near the end, the child tires and becomes fretful. Petersen recalls that he even insults her intelligence-at least once.
On the zoo trail, Nessa sees a display for a specific type deer. One lone deer is shown, and she asks if the deer are extinct. “Extinct?” Remarks Petersen, he is impressed that a child of Nessa’s youth knows such a term. Well, Nessa gives him a quick, “how dare you glance,” and then stomps off. “She’s pissed,” says her Mother. “Yeah, I think I insulted her,” admits Petersen.
He feels foolish, of course, today’s children are quite bright, and this one certainly is intelligent. “Can I go and get her?” “Do you think she’ll come back with me?” Smiling, Lina says yeah, I think she will. Petersen seeks Nessa out, and then apologizes. Nessa is obviously upset, but she relaxes, and then walks with Petersen back to Mommy. Lina smiles at the situation.
During the walk back to the main area of the Park, Nessa is okay. She is talkative laughs and playful. While Mommy and Petersen chat, Nessa takes a position between them saying, “I’m in the middle, no more conversation.” Petersen and Mommy glance smilingly at each other, realizing that the daughter is ‘commanding’ attention. Petersen is happy to spend the day with Lina and Nessa. He has love for Mother and daughter, it is a perfect situation…life could not be better. To Petersen’s misfortune, currently, Lina is committed to a long-term relationship. The good ones are always taken. Oh, well, another one of life’s minor tragedies.
Petersen offers the little one a ride on his shoulder and she loves the idea. Nessa falls into Petersen’s arms, and is hoisted up. Placing Nessa on his left shoulder, Petersen secures her legs onto his left chest. Petersen is delighted and adds a little bounce to the experience. Nessa is having fun and likes the view from high up. She wants to remain up top, but Mommy says, “No, he is getting tired.” Petersen offers that he is fine and not tired at all. Lina then becomes concerned that her daughter’s sneakers are soiling Petersen’s shirt. “Hey, it is only dirt and dirt can be washed away.” Petersen never cares about the dirt, it is Nessa’s dirt, and the more the merrier…so there.
Suddenly Mommy is missing in action and Nessa asks, “Where is Mommy?” Well, Petersen knows Mommy has taken a position to the rear. She walks behind him…but why? Glancing back at her, the smiling man makes the connection. Is Mommy having fun? “Mommy what are you doing?” asks her curious child. Mommy says, “I’m checking things out.” Let us leave it to say, we choose to leave “things” to the imagination. Mommy and Petersen share knowing glances and smiles. Soon Mommy returns to Petersen’s side. Petersen sneaks a private peak at her. Lina is sooo beautiful.
On the walk a young woman about Petersen’s age, approaches from the left front. She is looking at Petersen, Lina, and Nessa. The lady obviously thinks that the three are family, as she continues to glance from one group member to the other. She seems to be searching the faces for likeness, and is satisfied with her findings. The woman offers a warm smile in acknowledgement. Petersen and Lina notice the woman’s attentiveness. Though Lina and Petersen never look at each other, the feelings are sweet.
Standing near the lake, everybody pauses for a chat. Looking out at the water Petersen is filled with wonder. The entire lake gleams with brilliance, torrents of reflections bathe the water’s face. The affect is a maze of sparkle spreading like blankets of light. Petersen imagines his thoughts graphically displayed as emotional skyscrapers. The scenery displays his words sprouting from the water like buildings from Mother Earth.
The lake is lovely: it demonstrates as a liquid mirror, the expansive body reflecting everything surrounding the pool. Staring into the glassy sheen, a blue sky admires its puffy white hair. Not far away, a lone turtle sits upon a rock sunbathing. The creature’s neck out stretched, as though its historic skin requires tanning. Birds do a fly-by, and rowboats pierce the waterbed.
Petersen is delighted as he looks into the trees. Gently: the winds rearrange the treetops, and from behind bushes, shy deer sneak peek the day. Probably wondering what all the fuss is about.
An empty bench sits at the far north end of the lake. There Petersen (sometimes) rests. The location is a great place to view the entire region.
Petersen spent much of his youth in water. Born of a seaport community, his Floridian heritage instructed much about the seas. He gained his sea legs early, learning to swim soon after learning to count. Petersen adores water, it soothes him, and it helps him think. The water in many ways is parental to this man. Though he rarely swims these days, still, Petersen relishes tidal pools. Here: the man is at peace.
Nessa requests to go for a boat ride. Naturally, Petersen is all for it, but Mommy is tired, and wants to go home. She says no to her daughter. This upsets Nessa, and she becomes saddened. Petersen offers to take the child for the ride but Lina asserts, “I want to go home.” Okay, then we can go another time, he says to the little one. Although this fails to satisfy Nessa, she concedes to her Mother. After all, Mommy deserves to have what she wants… this time.
The photo shoot results in two lovely photographs of Nessa. Initially: Petersen selects one black and white and one color shot from the film he exposed. Next and in the blind: Lina is requested to make selections from the works. She chooses the exact two prints. The selections are beautifully professionally framed, and then presented to Mother and daughter. The framer (even) expresses grand compliments about the photographs. They are quite lovely.
On a second occasion, Petersen has the wonderful opportunity to meet Lina and Nessa at the Park. Again arriving early, he decides to take a stroll around the lake. The lake is quite familiar to Petersen; he runs the path every weekend. In his younger days, Petersen arrived in the Mountain at about seven A. M., and ran a course from the Inn up to Perkins Drive, and then back. The return trip included the lower wooded portion of Perkins. The total run equaled an exhilarating eight miles.
Petersen also enjoys hiking the Bear Mountain region. Many times, during the spring, the rains would begin just as Petersen starts his hike. The first mile or two would be uncomfortable, but afterwards, he just moves. Although the rains would be (awfully) heavy, it never matters. The wooded territories are spectacular, and Petersen uses the treks (most times) as therapy. During these ventures, the man dumps lots of Psycho-emotional baggage.
Following a six or seven-hour hike, Petersen feels great. Exiting the trails, he is mentally emotionally, and not to mention physically, clean. Now the day, or whatever is left of it, belongs to Petersen.
Petersen soon meets with Lina and Nessa. After talking for a while, Nessa wants to go to the Arcade. The Arcade is inside the Inn, and this time Mommy concedes. Petersen is invited to come along.
Nessa likes to play the racecars and though Lina protests, Petersen feeds the little one with quarter after quarter. The roaring engines tire screeches and turbulence of the game thrill the child, and she is a great driver. Petersen enjoys watching as Nessa maneuvers the vehicles on a fast and furious track. He revels at the child’s hand eye coordination. She has keen senses, quick action response. The game is fun for the child, and the child is fun for Petersen. Though both Nessa and Petersen want to continue, the “Pit Boss” takes charge, demanding that she wants to return home. Once more, it is Mommy’s world.
Everybody strolls back to the parking lot and says goodbye. Petersen, Lina, and Nessa never meet again at the Park. Plans are made, but sometimes things (just) get in the way.
Lina and Nessa visit Petersen at his residence many times. Nessa loves to play on his exercise equipment, or use his computer. Having the child near him makes Petersen feel special. One day, unfortunately, Lina and Nessa come no more. Though Petersen is saddened, thanks to Lina and Nessa he has two wonderful Christmases.
Normally: Christmas is a sad occasion for Petersen. The sadness begins in his childhood…
…His family is a poor family, and many times Petersen never receives gifts. The child stands outside watching as other children happily play with the many toys they received.
Alone he would stand with tears in his little eyes. Because Petersen has no father, his Mother is everything to him. Although the child hurts terribly at Christmas time, he knows his Mom always does her best….
(Whenever Petersen shops for Nessa, he feels special. She is a precious gem, and heaven-sent. No other Angel boasts her wings; hers are the loveliest. Nessa’s happiness is important to this man. He loves her.)
Children many times fail to understand: the difficulties of family life are complex. Though it takes Petersen many years, he makes the realization.
These days: sadness continues to creep in during the holiday seasons, but Petersen’s memories of Lina and Nessa at Christmas shield him. Yes, he may be melancholy, but the man is able to smile. Sometimes, he (even) sings.
Children should be happy and though he has none, Petersen (privately) has adopted one…Nessa. Respectfully: he never imposes during Christmas time, yielding to Nessa’s true family, still, Petersen loves to buy her a birthday gift. Failing to give Nessa a gift for her birthday would make him feel awful, terrible.
Life ever imposes suffrage (of some type) upon children. In his childhood, Petersen hosted various depressions. His torn mind and hurting heart were without shelter. Petersen persevered, yet the chains of childhood are haunting, and hurting.
Doubtless, during her growth, and in her own way, Nessa has known suffrage. Many times family, friends, school, and living can become unbearable. Still, she demonstrated a vibrant thrilling and lustrous joyfulness. Nessa loved to smile she fully embraced laughter. Petersen recalls a night she and Mommy dropped by for a visit.
On the night in question: Petersen notices a rash on Nessa’s face. Staring at the reddened area, the quizzical man asks what happened. Smiling up at Petersen, Nessa informs, “I am allergic.” You are allergic, repeats Petersen. “Yeah,” returns Nessa. From across the room, ‘smarty’ offers, “To what, “Mommy?” with great eyes, Nessa explodes with laughter. The spell quickly affects Petersen, who too bursts into laughter so deep, the man almost cries.
While laughing so hard it hurt, the little one, glancing over at Mommy, says, “I’m sorry Mommy, he’s making me laugh….” The words barely escaping Nessa’s mouth, her laughter taking up too much space.
Finally, and with teary faces and sore lungs, Nessa and Petersen, still giggling here and there, slowly return to normalcy…or something less painful.
The thrilling moment, and its memory lives with Petersen. The years have aged, yet; they fail to diminish the sweetness of Nessa’s joy.
Often: the man recalls the wonderful night, and each time the results are the same…something special touches Petersen’s heart.
“This is me in fourth grade, Love Jannessa.”
Many years ago: Petersen receives a photograph of Nessa hosting the above inscription. The words are written in Nessa’s (own) sweet hand.
The gift is a treasure…
…Petersen walks over to the record rack, and selects a favorite album. The cut he chooses he has loved for many years. Chuck Mangione’s “Bellavia” always fills Petersen’s eyes with tears. The melodies float the man to a magical place, a sweet place. Outside: the birds tend to provide a chromatic chorus. They seem to tweet along harmoniously. Petersen breathes deeply, tenderly touching his thoughts.
(He thinks of his Nessa…and smiles.)Copyright © 2010 Delbert H. Rhodes