My younger brother, Cudberth and I have always shared a firm bond. Godfrey, in the early days of our friendship helped Cudberth, a “Noctiphobe”, deal with his fear of the night sky.
It was ridiculous..our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat sewed Cudberth a night hat with an umbrella on top, so he could not see up. Cudberth tripped in the pansies, chipping two teeth, and it was awkward in the car. Shades were drawn early, he boarded up his window, we missed any event after dark. “It is too wide and large ,the sky,” Cudberth sobbed.
At harvest time, Fillipendula, Inkerman and I rode with our dad on tractor or combine. Often he worked all night, the only time he and I ever talked, the stars touched the horizon at dawn, there was often distant lightning, the aurora danced in her green veils, my brother missed out.
It was meeting Godfrey helped, the three of us sunk our canoe, and had to camp overnight in a farmer’s field. We dragged ourselves from the slough, built a fire and cooked “Spam”. We were having great fun, until Cudberth realized it was dark, we left him crawl under the canoe- but he was outside- a start.
That summer with Godfrey, he learned slowly not to fear owls, bats, yip of coyote, stars, shooting stars, nights black of stars, burnt dinner, cleaning fish, smoke in his eyes, spiders, damp jeans, skunk odors, drowning and bulls.
Cudberth was a late bloomer, only leaving home the day our house was torn down. He pursued teaching as a career, married Miss Edith Carp, and fathered twins Cynthia and Maud. It was their youngest, Jack Thomas who grappled my heart. The children were read “Godfrey” stories at bedtime, the twins kept in line by threat of sending them to sister Alice in Wales. To Jack Thomas, Godfrey was a folk hero, ” I want to go to sister Alice in Wales”, he stated, chin out.
Being educators, Cudberth and Edith with summers off, piled the family out adventuring, every two years visiting us. The girls were oddly shy- not Jack Thomas, and secretly I called him “Icarus”.
He was ever looking upward, always asking- “Whats beyond the trees, Auntie?, whats above how far I can see?. He disliked beets, loved riding on the #50 bus. I’d treat the little chap to cream buns at the bakery, as had Godfrey. He was fearless in the face of Mrs Feerce, our rude landlady.
At our lakeside cabin, Jack Thomas climbed the highest, dove the deepest, caught his first trout. He found chasing his mother with fish guts hilarious, stuck raven feathers in the cap he never took off, my nephew “Icarus”.
In school, Jack Thomas went full on Godfrey. His stories and reports, though not composed in rhyme, were “Glib beyond his years, and never pertaining to the subject matter being taught”. He wrote a poem in Welsh, used naughty idioms and was caught. Translated crankily by custodian Mr Hughes , He had to write one thousand times- “My Poem Failed To Amuse’.
Ever looking upward, “Jack Thomas Edelpilz, his next teacher would nag, “do not bring frozen dead things found by the road to class in your book bag”. His mother, Edith suggested music as an outlet for his creative energies. Eager, willing to go along, he asked for a brass gong to play. Well…thought Cudberth, what can possibly go wrong with his choice of a bright, shiny gong?.
Edith scolded Cudberth, “All we dreamed of was a normal family, he asked for Haggis on his birthday, his friends are found deep in books and poetry. Very bad influence, your Vagabond Godfrey”.
At twelve, Jack Thomas spent the entire summer with us. He wrote-
Nine old Men- Nine old men sat in a row discussing beets. Nine old men sat in a row. I wonder if ever there were ten old men?, Godfrey pondered with a frown, his voice polite and low.
The tenth old man sat on his own. For he grew beets, he knew beets, did not disbarge or eschew beets.
Nine old men sit watching out the cafe’ window. A boy totes heavy gong home from school through the snow, his boots squeak in it, and pelted with ice-balls, form tears on his chin frozen rime. He recalls raven’s feathers, dreams of summertime, the back roads west, the horse he will ride, sun on bareback, sea life in the tide pools ocean side.
Even when it poured, the lad was never bored, and though had never met Godfrey, read through tattered journals and faded old letters with me. He never tired of it, like Godfrey, I ‘d tip him from the comforts of my old turquoise chair, curled deep in that old chair he’d sit.
“When I an grown, said he, “I wish to be a poet and professional fig picker like Godfrey” My brother, Cudberth called, “Jack Thomas wrote a cheeky essay, was supposed to be about “Mussolini”. Yet he wrote of “The Blight Of Beets in Wartime Italy”. He was graded a double minus “D”. “I drew the line at the monk’s tonsure hair cut, kilt to be worn only on a Sunday, not to tease his sisters with Haggis, is his visit away helping Jack Thomas look at life more serious?”.
Not important, I replied, these are mere and minor things. Just promise you will keep him from the lure of high flight on waxen wings.
My ranch raised husband Garnet, never “Sold His Saddle”, in the cluttered corner of our flat, among our many books, it still sat. And the bridle he made at Jack Thomas age hung on our wall, I also often liked to feel the reins he wove of soft, braided leather. The city boy reckoned that “to ride a fine horse, must be close enough to wings of wax and feather”.
We have good friends with horses. Next family visit, Jack Thomas chose “Paddlefoot” the bold, blue roan for his own. I sat high on a dune, my arthritis paining me, with Edith complaining about her family.
Content to watch them gallop in the surf from bridge to bay, Cudberth rode like a sack of spuds, the twins on matching chestnuts racing past, and bounding in the surf last, the roan leaped, rode my nephew face to the sun, arms out swept..prepared to take flight as the boy of myth had done. Only to myself I call him “Icarus”.
Grown handsome and tall now, off to study in a big American city. Camera taped to helmet, on bicycle he races, reckless escaping from the maze of downtown hill and narrow alley. He takes flight with joy down the coast highway, raven feathers tied behind, he writes- “Do not ever worry over me, dear old Auntie. (old Auntie indeed)
Nine Things I Wish For when an old Man- wrote my nephew “Icarus’.
To swim with the stream, to Morris dance in purple socks with bells, to see “The Collected wisdom of Godfrey” in print, Hear my gong sound out one year of world peace, that my legs still pedal and thumb point, roast wieners on a Olympic Flame, smell every day cinnamon and demerara sugar, have crossed every page in my school atlas, to still not fear flying, that tad too close to the sun….