Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Grandfather Battles Hello Kitty

A balloon measuring just over 4 feet tall and shaped like Hello Kitty stood in the lobby like a sentinel keeping watch. A little tyke toddled right up to it with his grandfather in tow.

No one could have predicted the scene that was about to unfold outside the gift shop of this Dallas institution.

Although Hello Kitty’s feet were weighted down to keep her from floating away, an employee in the shop had taped the balloon to the wall so it would stay in place.
A helium-filled object billowing like an airbag usually doesn’t blend in very well with its surroundings. Swaying like a miniature blimp in a Thanksgiving Day parade, the white cat with the pink bow seemed to wave even though her arms were stationary. To a toddler standing less than 3 feet tall, this oversize kitty was just too much of a temptation to pass up.

At first, I hadn’t noticed the grandfather with the tiny boy as I stood beside the information desk nearby. Heavy foot traffic had held my attention until I heard the child’s blood-curdling scream.

There is nothing like the sight of a man wearing a suit coat trying to wrestle away a big Hello Kitty from a two year old.

Hello Kitty had become detached from the glass wall and was spinning as the duo ran circles around her. The child’s orange shirt and Hello Kitty’s pink dress blended with the man’s coattails in a whirlwind of chaos. Other people in the lobby stared as the struggle raged on.

Holding onto Hello Kitty’s ribbon leash, the toddler made sure the enormous feline remained between his grandfather and him. As their battle of wills continued, the gentleman spoke quietly to his grandson in a language I would later learn was his native African tongue. However, his coaxing was no match for the gargantuan eye candy enticing the little fellow. 

For a foreigner whose ancestors more than likely encountered man-eating predators on the African plain, this Ethiopian tried to control his grandson's obsession with the cartoon cat as best as he knew how. He probably never knew Hello Kitty existed before arriving in Dallas. However, he experienced what every American parent has dealt with for decades—clashing with their children over things they don’t need. 

Eventually, the assistant manager of the gift shop walked into the lobby and gently removed the balloon's ribbon from the youngster’s grasp. With big brown eyes, the child watched as Hello Kitty disappeared inside the shop, out of sight.

I’d sure like to be a fly on the wall in that man’s home once he returns to Ethiopia. I can just hear him weaving a humorous tale about prying his grandson from the grip of a big old ferocious feline in the United States.

Isn’t that how family folklore is spun at times? By embellishing a story?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Orange Koi and Albino Turtle

Have your legs ever turned cold from sitting too long? Even in the middle of summer?

That’s what happened to me earlier today. And although the temperature outside is in the mid 90s, the Dallas heat does nothing to ward off the chill. That’s because since early this morning, I’ve been sitting inside my apartment doing stuff online. Granted, I haven’t moved around in the last hour, but having the thermostat set at 68 degrees doesn’t help my chilled extremities.

So, I do what any writer who sits too long does. I go for a walk.

As I make my way to White Rock Lake, my skin soaks up the warmth of the sun, helping my legs to thaw.

I live near the spillway on the south side, so in five minutes I’m on the path that circles around the lake. I head up another sidewalk sandwiched between the spillway and an old fish hatchery—most Dallasites don’t even know it exists.

Finally, I arrive at the top of the dam and take in the view across the lake. I pick up my pace and veer left toward the Old Filter House on the far side of the levee.

Turtle heads the size a human thumbs stick-up out of the water. Looking down from my vantage point, I see their Frisbee-size shells beneath the water’s surface and surmise they only like sunning their skulls. Not far from where their heads bob up and down, grayish-color fish feed on the algae at the base of the dam.

An orange movement beside them catches my eye. A kind of translucent, tangerine hue. The only place I’ve ever seen fish that color, size and shape are in garden ponds. You know the kind of pond you linger by outside a Japanese restaurant?
As I continue my walk, I wonder if someone released their aquarium pet into this reservoir. My mind imagines that over time, an ugly gray fish “mated” with a beauty just like the one I saw. Could it be the offspring of such a spawn? Hmm.

Twenty minutes into my exercise, I reach the end of the levee and pivot to retrace my steps. A cyclist is stopped 50 yards ahead peering into the lake. I know he’s looking at the orange fish. He resumes his bike trek toward me. As we meet, I ask if he saw them. He tells me they are Koi, a species of carp. The man isn’t sure how they ended up in the lake either. We say our farewells and I continue on my way.

Another unusual sight stops me in my tracks. One of the bobbing turtle heads is a milky color. Unless this is part of the reptile molting his skin, I believe I’ve just encountered an albino turtle. I stare, amazed. Where is my smart phone when I need it? Quickly, the little guy dives deep, out of sight.

I never see such things when riding my bike around the path. Pedaling at a faster pace leaves no chance of catching those rare flashes of orange. Or albino white. Today God blessed me with nature’s oddities.

But then, maybe those aquatic creatures think I’m the oddball. Walking on a hot Texas day at three o’clock in the afternoon. In 95-degree weather no less. With a toddler-size, pink backpack strapped across my shoulders.

I sure do wish I had a picture of that turtle, but at least my legs aren’t cold anymore.

Don’t ask if my smart phone was in the backpack.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Volunteer Donates 10,000 Hours

In my humble opinion, this article should be entitled Octogenarian’s Funny Bone as posted on this site on June 12.

Update 7/15/2012: Click here to view the July 13 article finally published in the White Rock Lake Weekly, an insert in The Dallas Morning News.
Hal Davenport honored for 10,000 hours of volunteer service

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Son's Farewell

There’s nothing like the feeling in a mother’s heart as she hugs her grown child good-bye. My son, Zak, finally graduated from college in May and accepted a job fifteen-hundred miles away in northeastern Pennsylvania.

We met this morning for breakfast at a diner in Dallas before his long drive to Scranton. While I forked my eggs smothered in some sort of cream sauce, he talked about his recent vacation boating around the Florida Keys with his dad.

Zak saw the excitement in my eyes as I relayed how I love interviewing people and writing their stories. I laughed a lot, enjoyed his company, and tried to avoid the inevitable—saying good-bye.

Since his high school graduation several years ago, he'd been living in Lubbock and attending Texas Tech University. And although I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked, it was comforting to know he was only six hours away in the same state.

Mary Gallagher Williams with her son, Zak, in December 2010

Now he’s leaving. Not exactly leaving the nest, but leaving no doubt. In that moment as he got into his car, I had to remind myself he’s a man now. The world is his oyster.

Moisture brimmed from my eyes as I watched him drive away in his Ford Mustang. He didn’t look back. If he had, he would have seen my chin quivering as I swiped the tears away.

I prayed what probably every parent in every generation prior to mine has prayed as they stood in my same shoes: Lord, protect my son and guide him.