I'll be the first to admit it. In most ways, I'm pretty square.
My wardrobe is simple. My drawers and closet have a neatly organized selection of beige chinos, polo shirts and white Keds. My winter wardrobe is similarly practical, featuring my trademark white turtleneck and cardigan wool sweater. My pocketbook is plain leather, no designer logo, containing a simple wallet, a tube of red lipstick, and several important necessities -- most importantly, my Swiss Army knife, a Sharpie ™ permanent marker, a flint and steel, a one-time-use toothbrush, and at least one crisp, fresh, linen handkerchief.
My creativity is pretty square and simple, too. When I weave, I design utilitarian blankets and cloth out of wool. Nothing artistic that you'd hang on a wall or use for household decor. When I knit, I make practical wool socks and durable, long lasting sweaters out of good home-spun sheep fleece.
My music: square, dated, and corny -- and I suffer a crippling case of lyricosis for anything recorded after 1972, often singing along with entirely incorrect lyrics.
To that end so far, I've led a pretty responsible life, taking few risks, usually drinking in moderation (oh, yes, we've all had our moments), and following the advice my father gave me when I was 12, I watched out for the Good-Time-Charlies. Overall, I think I've been a fairly good example, either by word or deed for our four children, as they've all made us proud.
But one summer several years ago, after a difficult lonely few weeks, I'd been invited away and it was then that I strayed. I left the path that was good and narrow and I ran away. For about eight solid hours. It was wonderful.
It was all Gerry's influence.
Gerry Couture is a good friend who became well acquainted with our family when he helped my Dad, Wallace, build The Gazebo at Waterside, New Brunswick. My folks had purchased an eight-acre piece of waterfront land about 20 years ago, and Dad designed a secluded eight-sided cottage that faces The Bay of Fundy with a 180 degree window exposure to the water. It was meant to be a primitive getaway from the hustle and bustle of Alma Village (population 298) where they lived. Gerry helped Dad fine-tune the design, adding a sleeping loft. During the two-month spring-time construction they spent many long days together, joined by Gerry's constant companion, Byron, the goat.
Since Gerry lived close by The Gazebo, he and Dad would often return to his house for a break at lunch time and a much needed respite from the unrelenting mosquito population at Waterside. It wasn't long before Gerry became a good friend in fun or in need. Besides being adept with hammer and nail, Gerry was an excellent guitar player, though he played only by ear. He'd perfected almost every Beatles song, but could also play just about anything requested. We all enjoyed many late nights joined in song.
Gerry didn't ever seem to have many serious obligations. His children were grown, and he was on his own. He worked at several odd jobs in the area to earn his living, and seemed talented in getting the work done well. He enjoyed his music, his friends, a bit of whiskey, and any whim.
One night, Gerry called, telling me his good friend was having a bonfire, and they wanted friends to come out and sing under the moon. There was a bright round moon on a clear summer night, the B&B was empty and Stephen was away so I said I'd come along! We met and I drove us both to the camp where his friends and son and daughter would also be joining the fun. But first, we stopped at the liquor store to pick up a church pint of Crown Royal.
The bonfire was lit in a huge dedicated fire ring at least 6 feet across, and the wood supply was ample. Gerry invited me to join him down at the water's edge, as this part of the Fundy shoreline was quite different than that in our neck of the woods. The water was calm, warm, the beach soft and sandy, and the twinkling town lights were pretty and fun from the land just across the inlet. Funny how a change of scenery can refresh.
After we admired the view, we re-joined Gerry's family and friends around the fire ring and out came the guitars and harmonica and Crown Royal. Gerry played, we all sang, the bottle was passed around. Early on the songs were lively, loud, the camaraderie around the fire grew as the moon rose. No one had a care in the world. Except for me.
I'd forgotten to take a low-dose allergy pill before I'd left, and being outdoors on a summer night I began to feel my nasal passages constrict and eyes water. It was also getting pretty late, so I went inside the camp cottage to wash my face, and blow out my nose, and when I returned saw that the six remaining around the fire ring had all drawn their chairs and benches up close and the music had mellowed. Gerry played some quiet instrumental riffs and then a few French tunes known to his family and they quietly shared a few songs among themselves. It was quite touching; a special memory.
But my histamines were really taking hold, and my nose was dripping and I couldn't ignore it anymore. I didn't want to break the mood with a loud honking snort, so I silently slid back in my chair and extended my legs out in front of me so I could reach deep down into the pocket of my blue jeans.
The music abruptly stopped and everyone looked at me.
As I dug deeper down into my pocket someone in the circle loudly exclaimed:
"You got WEED??!!"
and everyone watched me hopefully, anticipating the withdrawal of a small baggie. Apparently, I had just demonstrated the universal late-night bodily gesture for retrieving weed from the depths of one's pocket.
Instead, I sat up and burst out laughing. What a night! A perfect getaway; a carefree, moonlit night, filled with music and surrounded by friends. But it wasn't that kind of night.
As I withdrew my hand from my pocket, I presented a white linen handkerchief with dainty yellow-lace tatting all around the edge. No, dear friends, I'm just that square. I don't have weed; I have a hankie, freshly starched and pressed. I waved it delicately, laughing harder as they all joined me -- Gerry strumming a fanfare.
But now I have a memory. A time I frequently recall, that includes music, friendship, and laughter.
That, I can share.