Remembering Ricky

In the wake of the spring book tour I’ve made a concerted effort to excavate the hidey-hole I call an office.  For one thing, I exposed the entire floor surface and vacuumed.  Three years I’ve been in here, and this was the first time that particular home appliance cleared the sill.  Please note time will not destroy carpet-bound Cookie Crisps, although they do lose their zing and the lint will catch in your teeth.

In digging, I came across a piece of paper I’d been looking for ever since we moved.  I was trying to fill in the blanks about a section of Coop in which I wrote about the funeral of my friend Ricky, and I was certain I had made notes about the day while sitting in my car at the cemetery.  In the end I decided I was mistaken, gave up, and wrote this on page 139:

I made it graveside and stood in the cold wind while one of his friends put a boom box on the headstone and played a song I should have written down because now I can’t remember.

But this week while sorting trash from treasure I found a simple remembrance card.  On the back, my scribble:

The priest did his thing by the book, then Ricky’s sister played “Fire & Rain” and “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” on a boombox.  Someone lit a pack of firecrackers, and we all retired to Hardees.

Recently my oldest daughter and several of her dance classmates performed a ballet version of “Vincent” and the combination of the song lyrics and my daughter moving so graceful-ghostly through the blue light in her white costume left me searching for breath.  Now her two-year-old sister puts on her purple spangled gown and requests the same song.  Her tottering interpretation elicits the same emotion, no matter that her diaper droops and she tends to collide with the couch.

I cannot speak for Ricky, but I suspect he – as well as the Vincent in question – felt deeply the potential beauty of existence while simultaneously despairing over the waif’s chance it stands against the more brute forces of reality.  I think this helps explain why the sight of our young children dancing in purity and joy leaves us simultaneously transported and terrified.

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