We’ve got a leak in the cinderblock on the unfinished side of our basement. Our home will be 20 years old next year and it’s finally starting to show signs of aging. But that’s cool. We were expecting it. What we weren’t expecting was the image of water streaming down from the basement windows like a crying Mary Magdalene statue in some gothic horror movie. Oh well. It’s just one of many projects that I’ve got to work on in the coming weeks.
As I stood there staring at it yesterday, it put me in the mind of days long since forgotten by family and friends. But not me. I think the reason I can’t store anything new in my mind is because I have an overload of remnants of yesteryear…
A Labor Day Memory
East Chicago, The Early 80s
The entire house smelled like sauce, raw chicken, green peppers and onions. It had been that way for the better part of the last 24 hours. We didn’t complain because we knew my father was about to throw down something special. It was Labor Day weekend and he, just like many dads in the neighborhood, was hard at work on something he did very well or something entirely new.
In his case, it was something new. Well, it was new to us.
Dad had made this marinade with an unbelievably delicious fragrance. It was sweet, yet strong, almost fruity and spicy. Amazing how certain scents can last in your memories for years. Then again, I find it equally astounding how your olfactory senses can catch an aroma that triggers specific moments and events.
He had taken a break from checking on the two wooden posts he and another man dug holes for and inserted in our grassless backyard. We didn’t have concrete, so hardened dirt served as our driveway and parking behind the house. Living on the corner and having an alley behind us made the need for a back lawn unnecessary. Especially since we didn’t have a fence. That also made it a play area for all the neighborhood kids.
They attached a net between the two posts and wiggled the posts to ensure that they were firmly in place. Oh man, we knew this year was going to be different.
My mother removed the chicken from their resting place in the bags that contained his new concoction and was adding more spices to them. I swear they had everything laid out on the kitchen table and counters: chicken parts, pork chops, hotdogs, hamburgers, sausages, steaks, corn on the cob, missing children…
We were finally about to enjoy the new homemade grill he had made two weeks prior. At the time, we kids had no idea why the truck showed up with all of that cinderblock on its bed. When he and my older cousins cleared the area and placed them on the ground, I thought he was making his own homemade jail to put me in, seeing as how I was always in trouble. I mean hey, what would you think if you saw concrete and a large steel grate?
Either I worry too much or I have an extremely guilty conscience about all of the things I did that they didn’t know about. Or did they?
After what seemed like hours of morning grilling, we enjoyed what the neighborhood kids considered a block party, only it happened at one house. There was music pumping out of the jukebox through the open window (remember my story: “The Jukebox Room”?). There was a smorgasbord of carnivore delights for anybody that walked up or passed by. Want a burger? Grab a bun. For fun, there were frisbees, badminton and volleyball, when we weren’t knocking the ball into the immovable pit. And there was dancing. Yes, there was plenty of Soul Train line dancing.
You know, looking back on those days, you can only stop to admire the things your parents did for your family and the surrounding members of your village. If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know that my father and mother were well known and highly respected in the area. It was their church/community involvement and gestures like this that made me instantly recognized as “one of the Davis kids” or “Ken’s boy” almost everywhere I went, just like my siblings. We didn’t have a lot of money, growing up (which made me wonder how he got all that food – bah, some things you just accept and don’t ask), but we had love and we gave love and assistance to those in need.
That was one of the cool things about growing up a Davis. Everything was special. Everything was unique. Everything was unifying.
Mom and Dad, thank you for an awesome Labor Day.
Mom and Dad, thank you, for another Davis Family Adventure.
I can read your minds. You all are probably thinking, “Wait? You mean to tell me you actually have a story that didn’t end with you getting a whoopin’?”
Y’all just HAD to bring that up, didn’t you? *sigh* Well…
Later that evening, I thought it would be cool to relight the remaining charcoal briquets (that we hadn’t thrown against the brick wall of the garage on the other side of the alley).
As luck would have it, my father looked out of the rear-facing window to see why a large glow kept reappearing into his bedroom.
In the end, my father came outside with belt in hand and my friends got to enjoy TWO spectacles to close out their Labor Day.
1. What happens when you throw gasoline on a fire.
2. What happens to kids who THROW gasoline on fire…
Happy Labor Day, everyone. Be safe!