Sunday, March 23, 2008

Official Spokescharacter.

Maybe Easter Sunday is to blame for my crazed affection for all things weather. We had around our house, first at Goodfellows Road and later at Brandon Ridge Drive (the latter a street, actually, in the woods made semi-famous in the odd, odd Mark Trail comic strip), all the regular Easter trappings: Easter basket, new Easter ties, Easter dinner with the good china and the silver and the etcetera. But at church — Holy Innocents' Episcopal — there was a white wooden cross drug out from somewhere on Easter Sunday which had chicken wire bounded within the wood and into which chicken wire the children of the congregation, at a set moment during the service, were to put flowers brought from home: daffodils, tulips, dogwood branches, seasonally depending. This was more Easter for me than anything else. My mother would keep a close eye on developments in the outside world, keeping keen track of the forecast, of her flowerbeds, looking always for what we boys might be able to bring to church for the chicken-wire cross. She may even have planted the garden specifically so that, no matter what, something would be blooming at the appointed time. I remember shining shocking Easter Sundays — weather like what we had yesterday here in 27408, a day so warm and overwhelmingly perfect that neither AMR or I could bring ourselves to do anything other than lie in the lawn all afternoon with the animals — and I remember sleety ones, too. Frozen ones. But I remember that regardless, whether we had snow or rain or heat or gloom of night, we always had flowers for the kiddie cattle call to the altar. I do not believe we once bought them at the store. My mother had some kind of agreement with the weather.

That Goodfellows Road yard, if I'm remembering right, had seven billion daffodils. I also remember a backyard expanse so large that comic strips should have been written about that acreage instead. A highlight: In center-left field, somehow just out in the middle of the grass, there was a tangle of thorns we called the Bye-bye Bed. Must have been two stories tall. At least. Hit a ball in there, and there would be no Easter Miracle to bring it back. No need even to wait vigil at the mouth of the cave. It would just be gone.

A quick spin through the internets, by the way, results in this little gem:

Elrod [ANYLF note: Jack Elrod drew/wrote Mark Trail] was honored in 1988 by President Reagan for his efforts to develop more pride in America. In addition to a Sunday page in which Mark Trail urged everyone to "reduce carelessness and abusive activity such as littering, vandalism and theft, and wildlife poaching," Elrod has also produced a variety of materials for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help teach schoolchildren respect for the environment. In addition, Mark Trail is now the official spokescharacter for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), making him the voice of the National Weather Service and NOAA Weather Radio.

Jesus seems a little something like a spokescharacter to me these days. He's in a damn lot of coloring books and comic strips, for starters.

On the way home from work Friday, there was out in the front yard of a church on Highway 70 what I think has to be the worst crucifixion reenactment I've ever seen: some nearly-naked high school kid wearing a bad long wig and up on a lumberyard cross, and a bunch of people standing around underneath him in what were clearly bedsheets and flip-flops. It was a beautiful day. Warm. Breezy. It was the kind of day to do what the handful of little kids who were there were doing: running around in street clothes (as opposed to crucifying clothes) and playing in the yard and in the little cemetery next door. It seemed a pretty bad day to be half-assedly crucifying people. Jesus had some Crayola-red paint on his chest. The soldiers and Jerusalemites both were standing around trying to remember how to look when you're supposed to look sad.

I don't probably want to get in the business of choosing churches, but I think I'll take instead a week of looking out the window, hoping like hell that the freeze won't take out your daffodils. I'll take, too, so long as we're here, what happens after you hit a towering shot out towards left, the tennis ball leaping off your metal bat championship-style, you knowing even in the moment right after you hit it where it's going to land, knowing what that's probably going to mean.

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