Friday, July 25, 2008

The big DeSoto

I grew up in an old house that had a wonderful screened porch looking

through the remains of an eccentric apple plantation down the yard toward the drive and garage.

In the summers of my pre-teen boyhood, I often had friends spend Saturday night, and we invariably “slept” on that porch, watching fireflies and discussing the vital issues of boyhood, which in my memory seem to have centered on the key topics of baseball and whether we’d get the mean teacher or the nice one in the fall. We’d eventually conk out, and very often I was nudged awake shortly after Sunday’s dawn to answer the whispered question, “Who is that guy?”

I never needed to look. “It’s my father’s friend, Mr. Anderson.” And there in the drive would be, not just our little 1953 Hudson Jet, but a big, gray, magnificently finned DeSoto. Next to it, on the dewy grass apron in front of the left-hand garage door, would be a very long man lying on a nearly horizontal beach recliner, singing a hymn.

Mr Anderson, six-foot-six, was a generation older than my father, but a friend and mentor from work. Divorced and lonely, as even a boy could see, he lived in the city my parents had left in favor of this fixer-upper in the country. He visited fairly often, sometimes taking us for cloud-like rides that always seemed to include a stop at an ice cream stand. At some point, he’d asked my father if he could come out on Sunday mornings to commune with nature and the deity at the edge of our driveway.

Regular sleep-over guests got used to the big DeSoto and the tall man in the chaise longue vocalizing in the driveway. (The whispered comment became, “There’s Mr. Anderson.”)

He didn’t expect company or an invitation to breakfast. My dad had discovered that early on and had decided simply to leave his friend to his own sabbath devices. Eventually, the tall man would stand up, fold the recliner into the DeSoto’s cavernous trunk, and motor silently away, leaving two boys, wondering, on that big screened porch.

1 comment:

Alan Sloman said...

Every family should have a 'Mr Anderson' in it's history. In fact, every family shoulf just have a 'Mr Anderson' full stop.

The world would be a better place for it.