This piece also ran in the Gray Matters section of The Houston Chronicle on 2 December 2014
For David E. Wilson and James Meredith
Today it is the first of December, the month that seems to outshine all previous months through lights, cameras, action. There is so much to be done. We have Christmas and its hopes; New Year’s Eve, the promise of a clean slate. Still, it is a lot to juggle. We shop a lot, looking for things. Things for others, maybe for ourselves. Sometimes, a lot goes into being merry and bright.
But November was a heavy month. Some months are harder to let go. Maybe we need to think about them a few more days, hold off on the next big thing. Although it is December, ready or not. I know that, but still.
I. Angels Above Us
The first weekend in November I take my son Christopher and his friend Matthew to the Wings Over Houston Air Show. I don’t really want to go–my father, who retired as a full colonel from the Air Force Reserves, has taken him in the past. But he is out of town, and Christopher is obsessed. Space City Parent Magazine tells me that if I donate a gift card to a needy teen I can get tickets. Who can say no to that? We are going. It is a good thing, as it turns out it is the most amazing thing I have seen in years, and I am no recluse. My resistance is just one of those times when I have no idea what I am talking about. Luckily, my guardian angel intervenes, sets me straight, gets me to where I need to go, which is the Air Show, at Ellington Air Force base, in Webster, minutes from my home. They have it every year–don’t ask me where I have been. I have been prejudging things, dismissing miracles, missing out.
When we arrive, the first thing we see is a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. It is the memorial that lists the names of the fallen in the order of their deaths. There are so many names, I can’t even wrap my mind around it. We stay there awhile, donate money to its upkeep. It seems so paltry, but it’s so sad to see those names you want to do something–anything. Most of those men and women listed were just kids. But then we get our tickets scanned, see so many in military uniforms at the air show. Some are in uniform, some are in fatigues. Some of them are in wheelchairs, back from Iraq, Afghanistan. Some have lost limbs, maybe part of their minds, maybe more–more than we will ever know. So many of them look so young to me. Just kids.
We see replicas of the planes that dropped the bombs on Pearl Harbor–the planes were used by Hollywood in the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” Later, those planes will ascend into the sky–reenact that fateful day. They have something to remind you of almost every war–the pyrotechnics are amazing. They are real–just done at a different time. Like now. You can’t really picture any of this from pictures–you have to see it in action. My eyes go up to the sunny Houston sky over and over–it does not matter if it is the woman from La Porte, Texas who has won more military championships flying her plane than anyone, or the huge plane known as “Fat Albert” that soars through the air as graceful as the smallest fighter jets–you are amazed, and you cannot look away. Continue reading