Friday, October 30, 2020


Several years back my Mom turned 80. The family celebrated with a picnic at Wheaton Regional, the park a mile or so from my parents' house. A couple of hours in, after the cake and the celebrating and the food, people started wandering off. The August day was pretty, and nieces and nephews and siblings explored the park, looking at the rides, the petting zoo, the miniature train that still moves charmingly through the grounds, a mainstay from our childhood. At one point, two of my older brothers, John and Jim, left to check out Pine Lake where we used to hang as kids. I left a bit later to join them, and I was halfway down the path when I spotted them on the way back. An ordinary moment in an ordinary day, yet the way my bothers were silhouetted on that path, their heads down, talking quietly to each other—at once transported me to the past. John and Jim are older than me by eight and seven years, respectively, and when we were younger that gap felt enormous, a chasm across which I'd strain to hear echoes of forbidden conversations, or on the far side caught fleeting glimpses on their faces describing emotions I'd heard about but hadn't experienced, a kind of foreign language their countenances spoke. Now, of course, the differences in our ages is a non-issue, yet I was startled at how quickly I devolved back into the yearning younger brother, the familiar chill or tingle in my chest reminding me of how I'd felt as if I'd never catch up with them and their tall friends and their adult behavior and bell bottom jeans. I don't know what brought on this: something in the way they held their bodies on that path, the way they walked, the animation between them as if they were sharing a secret. I was back in my bedroom, trying to eavesdrop on their conversations—of course lurid in my imaginations—that they muttered to each other on the opposite side of the wall. Older siblings are always standing in a room before you are, having sussed out the surprises there and now playing it cool as you catch up, breathless and embarrassed, the perpetual motion machine of feeling that you've missed something. I guess that that dynamic never truly dissipates. Anyway as soon as it arrived, the moment left, and we were middle-aged men again, standing in the woods waiting to be spooked by the past in surprising and unnerving but not unpleasing ways.

Image: Woods Path by Julie Tremblay


Unknown said...

Spooky how I thought about you today. Your poetry course was one of the most enlighting of which I particapated at Loyola Chicago. "Don't go quietly into the night.."

Joe Bonomo said...

Thanks so much for writing, and for the kind words. That was a long time ago. I have a lot of fond memories of my students at Loyola. Who is this?

Unknown said...

Was a long time ago. I remember you speaking of skeptics. Lately, I am seeing the contrast. Bill Mayer