Monday, May 29, 2006

Jets & Guns

It’s funny how things can connect, if you look at them in a certain way.

Working our way through our pancakes a couple of days ago, we hear something fast and low roar down the river right outside our building. The boy turns to look out the window, mouth open and fork hanging, but whatever it is is gone before we can catch a glimpse. Helicopters are routine, and passenger jets on approach to Laguardia Airport usually go upriver at a few thousand feet, barely audible. But this sound reaches down deep, making me (and quite a few others) nervous for obvious 9/11 reasons.

The dread doesn't last, though; I remember that just Wednesday Q, The Boy, and I watched a line of warships glide up the Hudson for Fleet Week (a week of shore leave for sailors). And it’s Memorial Day this weekend, which means the military always makes a point to be visible and showy in the City around this time.

We hear the roar again and since we're watching, we see six blue jets in tight formation zip by, and then a large prop plane. We declare breakfast finished and head up to the roofdeck for a better view. We're not disappointed.

I grew up around guns. My father taught me how to shoot, how to respect a rifle and a pistol, to squeeze and not jerk a trigger to keep your shot true. Though we shot (or at least shot at) the occasional prairie dog, we were shooters and not hunters. The act of shooting was what we were trying to perfect, not the object.

Which means that though I'm for a reasonable amount of gun control, I don't mind guns in principle. This turns out to be good. Wednesday, The Boy and Q and I were working our way around the Penny Park, and a boy came in with two squirt guns. He even came up to The Boy and handed him one for just a moment before taking it back. We were soon off to a local drugstore to buy one of our own.

We come back to the park to "Squirt the grass so that it can grow taller," and the marines on leave have just filed off the ferry for some calisthenics. We fill the gun from the drinking fountain as the marines count loudly off. The Boy is kind (and smart) enough not to soak his sister. Later, in the elevator up to lunches and to naps, a stranger from our building will see The Boy's gun and hold up his hands, mock-robbery style, and say "Don't shoot!" The Boy will just smile, not yet sure how to play along.

The holiday being what it is, the papers mainly front stories about soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the families dealing with the losses. Oddly, the most difficult one for me is a New York Times piece about soldiers who do come home to their kids. I can't seem to locate the article on their website, but (as I remember it) it includes this photograph of a man in fatigues down on one knee drawing his young son, probably not more than two, close. Neither of their faces are visible. They are both so, so still--not so much with relief but with what comes just before that, before the thinking. I have family who fought and flew in the military. I can't imagine holding my son like that.

As we wait on the roofdeck for the jets to come by again, Q sifts through the rocks and The Boy pokes just about everything with a long stick he's turned up by a vent. They do come by again, gliding slowly toward the Statue of Liberty at about 200 feet above the Hudson. I know this because our roofdeck is on the 19th floor, and I can practically look straight into the cockpits of the F-18s. It's the Blue Angels. Their precision is amazing as they bank hard together over the harbor to circle Manhattan. The boy even stops with the poking to watch. Q points, as always.

Will they fly jets? Will they witness them fly into buildings? Will they take up guns for war? Who and what will they be silent for at the end of their Mays?

The Blue Angels finish their runs, and we head back down from the roof for Q's nap. She sleeps and forgets; The Boy and I talk so that we will remember. I pretend for the rest of the day that they--and I--will be just like this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! It's J. I really love to read stories about Q&the Boy. I just read "Jets and Guns". I was on the UWS while the F16 pilots were training before the Memorial Day show above the river. I was scared to death just looking at them, because the first thing you think about is The September Events. The artilce touched my heart. I guess we should pretend that everything will stay the same. I just want to enjoy watching Q and the Boy grow. I love you Q & the Boy.