In the years after my return from Vietnam, my family lived in the newly built house in Boulder Hill. At that time it was a summer Saturday afternoon tradition to have grilled hamburgers and fresh sweet corn for dinner. And iced tea – from a huge jar which my mother had sitting in the sun all day long.
In the middle of the afternoon my mother would journey to a butcher shop in Montgomery, where the butcher would, right before her very eyes, grind the Saturday afternoon beef. Before visiting the butcher shop, she, and a number of other ladies, would visit a farm just off Montgomery Road picking out fresh ears of corn, literally as wagons arriving from the fields were dumping their newly cut bounty into the bins.
At the appropriate time my father would position the grill in the driveway, just outside the open garage doors. As the charcoal got going, he would drag out a lawn chair and sit – just taking it all in. If the day was warmer than normal, or perhaps just if he felt like it, he would have a cold beer. A rarity actually; these are the only times I can recall him drinking beer, or pretty much anything else. I would often drag out a chair of my own and join him, though I passed on the beer. In truth I’ve never really liked the stuff.
For my dad, and for my mother as well – children of the depression, survivors of the war – this was, I believe, a dream come true. The setting, the family, and – despite the turbulence of the era – the peaceful nature of it all. For me it was the living embodiment of the Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, played out on idyllic late Saturday afternoons.
One such quiet and peaceful Saturday afternoon in 1971, my father asked “Say, what you think of this?” And pointed to a pronounced bump on the side of his neck. In that instant, although I was not yet aware of it, my world began to tilt.