There was a big shuttle launch out of the NASA station at Wallop’s Island tonight that should have been visible from many hundreds of miles away. We didn’t see it from our balcony (since we were too busy watching Loren wash dishes in the kitchen for the first time), but the thought of Wallop’s Island brings with it a flood of memories from my childhood and teenage years.
My family has owned a little vacation place just around the bend from Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for years. It was passed down from my Grandfather to my Father and, eventually, will be passed down to my brother Chris (at least that’s what we’re all assuming, since he seems most up to the task and has put enough time and effort in to it that we couldn’t imagine anyone else getting “dibs” on it). We also all assume my brother Donnie will inherit our childhood home and the place where our parents still live. I don’t really understand how that came to be. It just sort of happened, joking over a lot of beers, and now it’s become family lore. I don’t know what Katie and Steven have their eyes on, but I’d like to go ahead and call dad’s books as well as that secretary/hutch that’s resided in the living room for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the way the drawer pulls sound when you let go of them that will forever be home to me.
Anyway, my parents are totally healthy and rocking it. I’ll stop burying them now.
But seriously, the books and the secretary and I’ll sign any paperwork you need, dear siblings…
I digress. We’ve always known that little vacation spot as “the Place.” You don’t have to say more in my family to know which place we’re talking about. It’s always just been “the place.” It is also the place where I mustered greatest Zack Morris moment of my entire life. Natalie and I were 15 and IN LOVE. I can say that in a sort of jokey manner now, but fathers, take heed: Your daughter might bring home a guy at age 15, and despite the long odds there is a slight chance, however remote, that this ends up being “the one” – the one that sticks around for years, that marries her, that will be the father of your grandchildren, the one that quits his job to be a stay-at-home father to those same adorable grandchildren. We are living proof of this rare phenomenon. It can happen to you too.
But at 15 there we were, standing on a dock, just a rock-skip from Wallops Island, hoping to catch the sunset, when Natalie said she was cold. “It’s because we’re not dancing” said the still-too-young-to-have-any-real-game-author-of-this-blog. And wouldn’t you know it, the moment those words left my mouth – and I mean the exact moment – from behind the many loblolly pine trees that populate much of the Delmarva peninsula, comes blasting the opening lines of Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
And so we danced.
And I’ve never come close to managing a romantic gesture of that magnitude since. I kinda think my late grandfather had a part in turning on that stereo that evening. He and my grandmom had one of those epic, romantic relationships that lasted well beyond their needed years, and I’ll never forget the many times I saw them sitting on the couch and watching as he’d lean over to whisper something in her ear, causing her to blush uncontrollably.
A rocket launched from Wallops Island tonight. There was doubtless a grand count-down for the event. But I have to assume that it’s timing pales in comparison to that experienced by me, my old lady, and Ray Charles on that dock 15 years ago.by