Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Flags of Summer

Beautiful summer time!  I am enjoying it so much. Having the children here is such a joy to me.  Allie is heading back to school this week, without Ryan.  I know that is going to be hard on her.  He’s always been there for her.  I’m happy to have him here close to us but I know how much they want to be together, so I’m sure we’ll see her often.

Let me warn you this is a nice mild post telling you some things about our summer – not much on ‘topic’.  That post is coming to be sure, but this post is about a silly idea Tom had this summer.

Ryan has begun his lawn/landscaping business.  Small scale to be sure.  He will only take a small amount of help from us.  He acquired a small business loan.  That boy can truly stretch a dollar.  He stays busy, busy, busy, but he seems happy and I’m enjoying watching him grow his own business from the ground up.

This summer has made me really stop and think of how much my life has changed over the past few years.  During the first few years we were married we lived close to Annie and Sue and some other close friends.  But as the men grew in their careers headhunters came after them and we were all pulled apart, physically if not emotionally. Since they were all in the same line of work we always had meeting and conventions to bring us back in contact and, of course, we often vacationed together.  But twenty year ago, when Tom and I moved back east there were long stretches when I didn’t see the girls that often.  As much as I loved Tom, it was a lonely time for me.

I didn’t do well during that time.  I know I was drinking too much, it was also when I ran into a little problem with prescription drugs, you can imagine how that went over with Tom.  I always had ‘functions’ to attend.  I was friendly with the wives of Tom’s co-workers and the ladies at the church, but no one really close.  We lived in that big old rambling house with few close neighbors.  Tom was really my world and when he wasn’t with me I was lonely. That was one of the reasons blogging was such a joy to me from the beginning!  I had friends to talk to all the time – and they like me for myself, not just because I was Tom’s wife.

It wasn’t long after I began blogging that we moved to the River and life changed completely.  Ryan came often back then, though he didn’t live here.  Next door to us were Kate and Andrew and their wonderful children.  Allie became one of us – as dear to me as Sue and Annie.  Her brother Drew is special too. That adorable 12 year old we met that first day here, that pudgy, little fellow with the shy smile is now sixteen and six foot, four.  Taller than Ryan!  He and Willow are the best of friends and he is her favorite playmate.

About three years ago Sue and Steve, to finally put an end to my nagging, move four houses from us and near that time Ryan moved into their guesthouse, where he still lives. All of these wonderful people have enriched our lives and completely changed mine.

One thing has not changed – I would still rather spend time with Tom than anyone else on the planet. If he would stop working and wanted the two of us to go live in a cave by ourselves – I’d go!  But I don’t see that happening.  And deep down I know it wouldn’t be good for Tom.  Tom needs his work.  He loves it, he loves the contact with his peers, and he loves the intellectual stimulation.  As much as he loves me, he wouldn’t be as happy not working.  He only goes in three days a week so I get him and his attention most of the time.  He needs work like I need my extended friends and family.

Our lives are full! There have been times this summer, however, when Tom feels our lives are a little too full.  Over the years I’ve had to compete with Tom’s career for his attention – but Tom has never had to compete with anything for my attention.  And he still doesn’t, but he occasionally feels that way.  During the day Sue and I are often together at one house or the other with Allie joining us when ever possible. We enjoy spending time at the club where we have made more friends. 

The beautiful weather this summer finds us grilling out more often than not, since our back yards adjoin, we often combine our dinner resources with Kate and Andrew for large meals.  Drew has a new girlfriend and with other neighbor’s stopping by on there evening walks it’s not unusual to have more than a dozen people scattered through the back yard enjoying the weather and the good company.

It hasn’t been unusual this summer for Tom to make his way through the crowd to my side and whisper, “Come watch the sunset with me.”  And we’ll sneak away to the boat and go out alone. Such a peace steals over me at those times.  Tom will anchor the boat in a quiet cove and we sip wine as I lay back against him and watch the sun sink.  Sometimes we talk sometimes we’re just together in the quiet.  It’s as close to heaven as I expect to be in this world.

But one night early this summer Tom wanted to invite everyone over.  He not only invited our ‘family’, he included the whole neighborhood.  After dinner, Tom stood and told everyone he wished to make a toast. 

He began, “I first want to toast to all our guests.  When we first moved here this entire neighborhood came to us and made us feel completely welcomed.  You have given us your time, your help, your support, often your food, and most importantly your friendship. I hope we have given back a small measure of all you have given. I toast you all.”

As I drank, I was looking at Tom curiously. Something was up, he wasn’t just welcoming our guests he was making a speech. But I was in the dark as much as anyone. He went on, “I’d like to make a second toast to the most special person I know.” Tom turned to me, “To my lovely bride.”

He continued, “I have had the privilege of spending the past forty years and more with this extraordinary woman.  I’d take another forty any day, but it seems lately that I need to make an appointment when I want to see her. It seems my girl has turned into the bell of the ball and I can never find her alone.”

Our guest began laughing, but I could tell where he was going and I was quite upset that he was going to insult our guest and chase my friends away.  Unfortunately, no way of stopping him came to mind.  I tried to give him a ‘look’ to convey my message, but he wasn’t taking the hint.

“Therefore, with the help of my son, and my neighbor Andrew here, we have arrived at a workable solution.” With that Tom reached into a tall box near him and pulled out one of those decorative flags.  I have a few holiday ones I put up occasionally on the deck. This one was bright red with a large sailboat in the center – it looked a bit gaudy to me.

“This is my signal flag – this flag flying on our deck means we are perfectly content alone and we need no company.  If you see it, assume that we are otherwise occupied and will not be receiving guest, or even phone calls.” The group was laughing freely by this time, but I was mortified. To me Tom seemed to be announcing that we were getting ready to have mad passionate sex the minute we could get these people out of our yard!  Later that evening Sue helped me realize that in that crowd, with the acceptation of her and Steve and Allie and Ryan, no one would imagine more than a spirited game of scramble or a power nap. Perhaps she was right, unless I gave it away with my blushing.  I suppose looking the part of a sweet, little old southern lady does have its advantages.

But Tom wasn’t finished.  “Cassie and I do love entertaining and we love company.  Anytime the flag is absent we hope you’ll drop by.  I also know that we are not the only ones around here with the same problem.  Therefore, I have a flag for each family here.”  Reaching back in the box Tom pulled out perhaps 20 more flags.  I couldn’t help laughing along with everyone else as all the men surged forward to get one.  Tom finished with, “You’ll notice ours is not flying tonight, so please plan on staying late and enjoying yourselves.”  Walking over to me he gave me a delightful kiss to the cheers of our guests.  As everyone began to mingle again I just shook my head at Tom.  Old devil, he has to control everything – even the neighbors.

Soon Sue and Allie joined me.  “That was embarrassing!” I confided in them.  “He’s going to chase all my friends away.  You two better not stop coming over.”

Allie piped up, “I love it!  You know I’d spend every day over here if I could.  Mom used to fuss all the time when you guys first moved in.  She’d say ‘Leave those poor people alone.  They moved here for peace and quite and they don’t want teenagers around all the time.’  I used to have to fight the urge to come over every time you stepped out into your yard.”

“Even now sometimes I want to come over, but if Tom home I’m always worried I’m interrupting something. Now I’ll know and I’ll pester you all the time the flag’s down.”

“You have never been, and could never be, a pest.” I insisted, although I did remember a time or two that her ‘YOU-HOO’ had come at a less than opportune time.

Sue piped up, “Oh, he doesn’t want it for the wild sex! He just wants to make sure no one walks in on him beating his wife and call the cops on him.”

I just shook my head at her; honestly her word choice often leaves something to be desired.  But then again, I realized her basic sentiment might just be true.  I took a stab at defending my desire ability “Just because that’s the only reason your husband wants to be alone with you doesn’t mean that’s all Tom wants.” I pointed out with a haughty smile.

I must say, giving Tom credit, the flag has worked well this summer. It has not inhibited folks from dropping by when it’s not up and that was my fear.  Tom loves to point out flags up all over the neighborhood as we take our walks.  For the summer he has been treated as the man of the hour.

As for my personal activities this summer, as usual, I’ve been an angel.  Most of my trips over Tom’s knee have been for our mutual enjoyment.  But of course he has been too bossy about a few things – he and Ryan both.  And this unnecessary meddling in my affairs did end up being a problem for both Allie and me.  I’ll tell you about it as soon as I can.