And then there was one

A million years ago, my family and I went to the Easton Waterfowl Festival. My parents had just moved away from Virginia to NYC, but they made a special trip back down for this and my sister Janet and I came up from Richmond to join them.

My parents loved the whole Waterfowl thing. They enjoyed the brisk walks in the mid-Atlantic autumn quiet. They loved the buildings full of hand-carved and hand-painted duck decoys, and hundreds of beautiful paintings on display, each competing to be this year’s Official Duck Stamp. (You are probably unaware that the US Fish and Wildlife Service issues an official Duck Stamp each year, using an original painting of a waterfowl chosen out of hundreds. But they do!)

My sister was a painter, and I was in college learning how to be a commercial artist. Caught up in the moment and surrounded by all that amazing art, we had big dreams that maybe one day we’d work together on one of those paintings and maybe we’d get our art on the official Duck Stamp. Maybe we’d carve the winning Decoy. That would have been fun. Maybe next year. Or the year after that. One day.

I’m sad to say we both got caught up in our lives and other concerns and never did anything about it.

It was a particularly brisk November when we were there, and a certain kind of day brings those memories back. Clear, impossibly blue skies with horsetail wisp clouds. A rising sun lighting up just enough ice crystals in the atmosphere to bring a warm glow to the whole Eastern sky.

We spent the night in a nice hotel a short walk away from the Festival there in Easton. I remember getting up and looking out at that glowing sunrise while my sister turned on some morning news TV show and made herself some coffee that was really more like hot chocolate than anything else when she was done. Plenty of cream. Plenty of sugar.

I took a sip and thought it was delicious. There was no reason for I-only-drink-it-black coffee machismo. Janet loved it. And I could see why.

I made myself a cup the same way and took that habit back to college with me whereupon I was mocked at the University breakfast table. Where was my Black Coffee Machismo!? One friend said, “I feel like you’re just dumping packets into water.” And I was. And so what.

Why am I telling you all this? *shrug* Memory preservation, I suppose. I went outside this morning to bring in the recyclable bin and the Washington Post, and it was one of those mornings. Cold, crisp. Frost on the grass, blue skies, wispy clouds and a glowing sunrise. A line of geese overhead. It reminded me of that trip to the Waterfowl Festival back then, and I just wanted to share the experience.

Really, I wanted to pick up the phone and reminisce with someone who had been there with me. But of the four of us who took that trip – my mother died in 2006, my sister died in 2019, and my father died over Christmas from COVID-19 – I’m the only one left. So I can’t do that.

So I tell you. Lucky you.

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