Available August 27
My earliest memory was of a merry-go-round. I was perhaps three or four years old, and I had no way of knowing the circumstance that placed me on it. It was a part of a county fair perhaps, or a travelling carnival. No doubt the contraption was very small, not a grand, glittering European carousel, but just a dusty thing trucked in and parked by the side of a two-lane southern highway. That ride was as clear in my mind as if it happened this morning.
The horse was alive. I could close my eyes and smell his warm horsey smell, hear the creak of leather, feel the thump of his hooves as he stirred and danced beneath me. I looked down and saw my small hands twined in his mane. I held on for dear life as he bolted and carried me away across dirt tracks and green, green grass. The wind in my face forced tears from my eyes.
Most of all, I remembered my father. The world rushed past, and he was standing beneath some trees, holding a camera and waving to me. He was a young man, slim and dark-haired, and he was all by himself. It was perhaps my greatest sadness that I couldn’t wave back at him. I was too small, and the horse was too big. I was afraid to take my hand from the great neck, terrified that the air currents would pluck me off and I would fall.
I wished that I had waved to him, even now. I wished that I was braver.
Though I had stood with a cold wind blowing grit into the first of my gray hairs and watched a silver hearse carry him off, I was still that tiny boy, and my father was still looking at me from under the trees, holding his camera, waving and waving.