Thursday, August 5, 2010

Places and thermometers

About six weeks ago, the Boyfriend and I were in Tennessee. Although the occasion was a sad one, it was also, as the Boyfriend has said, a celebration of a great man's life. It was a time to embrace family and watch the world go by in one of the most beautiful settings I've ever seen. This is one of the Boyfriend's "places"--a place that holds so many memories that my mind struggled to keep up with the beautiful pictures he painted for me with the enthusiasm of the 10-year-old who explored this place so many years ago. I couldn't tell if it felt like a lifetime ago or a year ago, but he showed me this place like he had just been there in his childhood the week before.

The house we stayed in was a newer addition, an addition his grandfather built with his own hands just to give his grandchildren the type of wonderful memories the Boyfriend was describing to me. Behind the house was now a sloped field of green grass, but as we walked through it I could almost taste the homegrown vegetables the Boyfriend described to me. Knowing that he walked through rows of his grandmother's home garden made me understand his tendency to wander into our tiny garden each evening to see how everything can change in a single day. He comes from a family that knows what it's like to put down roots and get to know a place.

The Boyfriend's memories were vivid and detailed--the morning glories, the lightning bugs, and his grandmother's decorative peacock feathers brought his stories to life. This was where he spent some of his favorite summers as a child, and it made me think of Ogallala and my own family. Especially when we went into the kitchen one day and noticed the thermometers.

It might seem like a silly thing, but those thermometers--there were at least three hanging in the kitchen--rushed me back to my summers in Ogallala with my own grandparents. I loved to pull the bedroom curtains back and look outside at that thermometer. This was the BWC era: the before-weather-channel era. I don't remember why I looked at that thermometer so much, but I imagine it was to check the temperature before we went golfing, or cutting flowers in the back yard, or out on the patio for beer thirty. Beer thirty was my favorite part of the day because everyone sat outside and just talked--much like our evenings in Tennessee. I played in the grass and drank pop and we ate Cracker Barrel cheese. Good friends showed up unannounced and pulled up a chair. Life was slow, friendly, and in the moment. No one wanted to be, or thought about being, anywhere else. No one was watching reality TV, or any TV for that matter.

I realized these thermometers symbolized a different era for me. A time when people were at least connected enough to their place that they looked outside to see what the temperature was, rather than firing up the laptop or turning on the TV. I liked that. When we got back from Tennessee, we went on a mission to find a thermometer. I wanted one like those that I saw in the house in Tennessee--one that had the phone number for a local business on it or one that had blue jays and cardinals on it--but I settled for one of the few we found and it's just fine. Plain, low-tech, cheap, and easy to read.

I had one request--that I be able to see it from my office. So the Boyfriend mounted it on the east side of the house knowing full well that it would receive sunlight 8 hours of the day. Even though it's approximately 120 degrees from 9:30 to 4:00, I still love it. I look at it every morning and every night before I open up the house. I might mount it in a different spot to make it more usable other hours of the day, but it has been one of my favorite additions to our place this year.

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