Tea Room Memories

Like Polaroid snapshots dropped one by one on a table, new memories replace the former. The static, scratchy broadcast of a cheap FM radio which sits high on a shelf behind the ice cream counter adds to the evening din; made worse by the surrounding mountain peaks that bounce the signal. The weak antenna draws intermittent snips, broken pieces of Bennie and the Jets and Love me Like a Rock, but even then, only if the weather is clear and still.

The slam of a screen door and footfalls on the wooden floor in the stagnant summer air evoke visions of a Tea Room where no one drinks tea. A single oscillating fan aided by two ineffective paddle fans force air movement. Vacationers gather to eat sundaes, play checkers or assemble puzzles together.

The adults tap bragging rights, sharing the year’s accomplishments of their children. “Bradley got straight A’s again this year. He won the spelling bee, he’s captain of the championship baseball team, still sings in the choir at church, and since he’s going into sixth grade this year, he’s a shoo-in for the lead in the winter play.  How’s Gregory doing?”

In hushed tones they share gossip. “Did you hear about how that Nick got Susan Wilson—preg.”

“Shush. His mother is coming in just now.”

Occasional titters punctuated with sudden blasts of uncontrolled laughter suggest shared off-color jokes. “Maybe you kids ought to go play shuffleboard for a while.”

The children finish their sundaes and rush outside to the shed beside the courts to turn on the lights and reach through cobwebs for poles and discs, vying for red sticking the opponent with dull black. The buzzing white lights draw swarms of gnats that dip and sway occasionally bombarding eyes of the competitors.

Later, gentle commands float on the humidity from the edges of the yard beside the Tea Room. “Fifteen more minutes. Last game! Remember to put the poles and discs back in the shed.”

Then, “Turn off the lights now. Grab your flashlights. Let’s go.”

Together they plod along the path that leads into the mountain dark back to the cabin.



Maybe We Were so Vain

In January 1973, President Nixon announced a halt to all U.S. offensive action against North Vietnam. A couple of weeks later, the draft officially ended. By March, the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, and release of the 590 U.S. prisoners of war held by communist forces in South Vietnam was complete.

It should be no surprise then that the 1973 pop music chart topper was Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, which won an American Music Award the following year.

Past double digits, and not yet a teenager, I had a whole life ahead that I foolishly believed would no longer include war. My life to that point had included the backdrop of the war in Vietnam and the incessant drum beat of potential global annihilation, so I had an idyllic sense of hope that this would be the last. It did not escape my attention that we could become victims of “the button” at any time and that all was not right between Israel and Syria.

Maybe it was political; ridding the world of communism, maybe it was like the song Money from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album…


It’s a crime

Share it fairly

But don’t take a slice of my pie


So they say

Is the root of all evil today

Perhaps it has always been about power or vanity —about who’s in charge. I never understood war then and I am no closer to understanding it now.

In April that year, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the World Trade Center in New York. I first saw the twin towers as I stood on the sidewalk alongside them in 1976 while on a field trip to New York City, but I didn’t get the opportunity to go inside until late spring of 1993 only a few months after the bombing there.

The sidewalk, closed for repairs made the surrounding block much more crowded, even for New York. I admit it was unnerving to step into the place that I knew had been a target before.

Our group went to the mezzanine and at some point took a high-speed elevator to the top. I have a photo of myself taken atop the observation deck; a 3×5 piece of history. I cannot begin to wrap my head around the colossal loss of those structures, any more that I can fathom the enormous loss of innocent lives.  Maybe we were just so vain to believe we were invincible.

Then what happened?