Saturday, July 03, 2004

Magic amid the mayhem

Holiday weekends can be brutal. So many obligations and so little time to find little moments of peace. I came home Friday afternoon to 11 messages on our answering machine, all with lovely offers of picnics and various other festivities.

We were long ago committed this weekend and so we just stuck to our original plan. Only it wasn't the traditional Fourth of July plan. Two of my husband's brothers came in to town for the first time in three years. And our friends, the Bests, were back in Bay Village, having lived in New Jersey for the past year.

After a day of too much sun at the pool on Saturday with Hokes too numerous to count, we headed to the Bests to "get it going" as my boys (all four of them) like to say.

The Bests moved into a lovely brick home on the south side of Lake Road, just across the street from what used to be the Sam Sheppard house. (The original clapboard house was torn down in the mid 1990s and replaced with a large stucco home that looks more at home in Arizona than on the southern shores of Lake Erie.) When dusk fell and it was time to head to the fireworks, Dan Best told us he had the perfect spot. Our traditional fireworks festivities involved scads of Hokes amid blankets and coolers at Cahoon Park.

Dan Best halted traffic on Lake Road, a cigar clenched in his mouth, so our clan of kids (mostly boys!) could cross the street and head toward the lake. We cut through the driveway and surprisingly large backyard of what is now a vacant home just west of Huntington Beach. (Apparently the owners dabbled a little into their company's pension funds, put a backhoe into the lake while reinforcing their breakwall and have found themselves in a mess of financial and legal trouble.) As our crew traipsed through the grass I heard the oldest Best boy tell the rest of the crew that the house was empty—and haunted! As we walked between two homes, a motion-activated light clicked on causing some of the younger kids to shriek in terror. "There's no such thing as ghosts," we moms reassured them, looking around to see if the ghost of Marilyn Sheppard was lurking on the 50th anniversary of her brutal murder.

We wound our way, single-file, down a path mowed through knee-high weeds, making hairpin turns as we descended to the beach, constantly counting heads: "Who's got Matty B? Nick, are you holding someone's hand? Patrick and Jake, don't run too far ahead! Dan, did you bring the cooler?"

Once we were down on the beach, we spread our blankets and kicked off our shoes to enjoy the display. I was glad for the darkness, because I was able to sit in my spot and take in the beach at night, which is one of my favorite places.

There was a small-craft advisory during the day, so the foot-high waves were rolling in pretty fast. Although the rocking may incite nausea in a boat on the lake, the sound on the shore is mesmerizing. I would sleep so well if I knew I could fall asleep to that sound every night. To the east the orange lights of downtown spread across the horizon like a large ocean liner. And bobbing along the lake were the lights of dozens of small boats, anchored to watch the fireworks display.

Huntington Beach rests at the bottom of tall cliffs, filled with large trees and overgrown shrubs and weeds. But in the darkness that filled the sky we were treated to the twinkling display of fireflies amid the darkness and greenery. The phosphorescent glow looked like a million stars in the sky and gave the little ones a rare treat.

Of course Dan was right. It was a great spot to watch the fireworks display since they were shot out over the lake. The kids lined up on the giant sandstone rocks that form a makeshift pier and watched in quiet delight.

In the end, that's where I found my peace amid this hectic weekend, in the quiet darkness of the beach, with the rolling sound of the waves, the twinkling lights and fireflies and the colorful bursts of fireworks. After a few moments, my husband turned my way and said, "How you doing back there?" Just taking it all in...








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