My daily routine isn’t exactly structured and certainly not particularly interesting. This morning was no different. With the first cup of coffee in hand, I went outside to sit and check into the world. Reflexively, I picked up my phone to see if anything crazy enough to warrant writing about had happened. Fortunately, I thought better of it and put the phone down.
Then there was a moment when I thought about picking up the book I’m reading. Re-reading actually. I wish I could say I’m taking another swipe at Remembrance of Things Past, but it’s just The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. But I’m not in the mood for that either.
So I’m just sitting outside, thankful that I had the idea a few years ago to extend the roof to cover a good size portion of the patio when it was having to be replaced anyway due to a major hailstorm. That’s when I saw him.
There on the post of one of those solar powered lights tricked out to look like a carriage lamp was a garden lizard, doing his push-ups and inflating his dewlap. Perhaps he was trying to attract a lady lizard, it being spring when all types of young men’s “fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” In any event, he had gained my attention and sent my thoughts tumbling backwards in time.
Suddenly, the front porch of my grandmother’s house came into focus, as I remembered the delight of seeing the lizard who lived in her hydrangeas. “Show us your money bag,” Big Mama would call out, and he seemed to obey, expanding his throat to reveal its dark pink skin with what seemed to be white polka dots on it. This part of the mating dance—the showing of the money bag—is not unique to the anolis carolinensis.
I observed the contemporary lizard for a few minutes, moving around the lamp post and showing out from various angles, before scampering away into the rose bushes. Then, as if placed there by Lord Tennyson himself, my eyes were drawn up to the top of the fence where a robin had just landed. He began a little parade—literally bob, bob, bobbin’ along—showing a very plump and “fuller crimson” breast, perhaps in honor of spring and his own thoughts of love.
Simultaneously, “his old sweet song” started playing in my head. Not sung by Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, or even Doris Day, but by Susan Hayward. When I’ll Cry Tomorrow, a biopic about Lillian Roth, was released in 1955, it was practically unheard of for non-singer actresses to do their own vocals. Miss Hayward had previously played singer Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart, lip syncing to her voice to good effect and getting her third Oscar nomination. But this time, Miss Hayward sang herself, and she was good.
So there I was, watching the robin and seeing if the lizard would return while doing a duet with my favorite titian haired movie star—“I’m just a kid again, doing what I did again, singing a song.” The only thing missing was the heavy scent of Big Mama’s magnolia tree.
My next remembrance would come from reluctantly checking out the news when I went back inside to get an update on a killing eerily like that of Eric Garner. In a tweet earlier this afternoon, the ACLU referenced Mr. Garner as well as Breona Taylor, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile, saying they should all be alive. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson and so many more could have been listed. So many names that we need to be reminded which circumstance led to their needless deaths. “That was the one in Ferguson.” “The one who got choked to death in New York.” “The boy who was shot in Cleveland while holding a toy gun.” Like some kind of macabre game of match the name with the cause of death.
Just last Sunday, George Floyd was unknown outside of his community. Now his death has a page on Wikipedia. You know, the one where the Minneapolis cop took a knee on his neck while Mr. Floyd was handcuffed lying facedown in the street.
While I may be able to avoid Proust in favor of Dominic Dunne, it seems there’s no getting away from actually having a remembrance of things past as long as I do what I did again and watch others continue to do what has been done before. Is that really what bob, bob, bobbin’ along is supposed to mean? You tell me.