SEA TO SHINING SEA: Going away party
CHESTERTOWN, MARYLAND — I crossed the peninsula last Saturday morning to my old spawning grounds. Visited with my mother Mary Margaret and her caretaker Chantel. Too chilly for Mary Margaret to sit out on her screened porch, but when she's not actually doing it, that's what she thinks about. At 96, Mary Margaret has come to most appreciate life's simplest pleasures. Sitting on the porch on warm days, she listens to the mockingbirds, bluejays, red wing blackbirds, cardinals and robins all singing.
Mary Margaret always sang in the choir at First Methodist Church where my father directed and sang. George Hessler played the organ and he liked nothing better than taking an interlude between the third and fourth verse of some great Charles Wesley hymn, modulating up a key and then pulling out all the stops to really rattle the roof during the home stretch. Felt so good. At any rate, Mary Margaret really enjoys the choir of birds sitting on branches of the big sycamore tree in the back yard, even if they rarely modulate. But their stops are always pulled.
She listened intently to our plans for the big cross country trek, looked at the map I brought, wished us well and said to stay in touch. I told her I had to go to a going-away party at the Bluebird Tavern but would be back later with a milk shake. My sister Mary said Mary Margaret really likes milkshakes. Milkshakes and choruses of bird song. That does sound pretty good. So did the prospect of a cheeseburger and a cold Yuengling draft at the Bluebird.
With all my friends of course. Didn't want to be late for the party. A lunchtime soiree. I organized it myself, not wanting to make anyone feel awkward about who would get the honor.
Four guys showed up. Johnny and Coke and two other guys who were shooting pool on the table next to the table where we sat. Don't know their names but they were nice. Johnny was sitting at the bar with a Coors Light when I arrived. We hugged and hooted. Made me feel good.
I gave Johnny a copy of the Tao Te Ching a few years ago. Great wisdom. He's really enjoying it. He told me he took it on vacation a few years ago. Just recently he picked it back up and found seven $50 bills he had stashed inside for safekeeping and promptly forgot about them. Sheer pleasure turning the pages of the ancient book of wisdom. Dust on the bible.
Coke was late. Had to call him to make sure he was coming and the waitress was getting antsy. Some lame song and dance about dropping an important project midstream to join us. Hold our horses. Johnny and I talked. Showed him pictures of my grandson, still wet behind the ears. He ooed and aahed.
Johnny and I ordered burgers and another round of beers. Burger for Coke too. Yuengling lager out of the tap and into an icy mug. Nice amber color. Used to buy it in my second decade for $3.43 a case. "A very special glass of beer." Sweet.
I like the Bluebird. Bluebird of happiness. Knotty pine paneling. Big old race-track-shaped bar. Neon signs. Folksy. Pool tables. Juke box. Pinball machine. Windows that catch east light.
One of the guys took a picture of the whole gang of us. Did a good job don't you think? Got the whole gang. It's the picture up top. Memorable. Me and the boys love each other. Tom called in on a conference call from Bethany where he was playing tennis with Larry and some of the other boys. Betsy was tending geraniums. Mike on his way to Frostburg with the sheriff and a few others. Lacrosse game. They all had good excuses. I'm glad it was just Coke and Johnny and the two guys shooting pool.
Mary Margaret loved her chocolate shake from the Freeze. I had them put in some malt. Extra love. Put me in mind of the A&W Root Beer stands out west that we look forward to visiting. M&M said to stay in touch and be careful. Maisy and I wrote a song together the last time she was here. "You have to be careful all the time." I'll sing it for you some time. Maybe the bluebirds will join us. That would make Mary Margaret smile.
Headed back across the Chester River, eastward. Choptank River, then the Murderkill in Frederica, finally the Broadkill and then homeward into Lewes. Jiggity jog.
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