Averyell A. Kessler
After the tragic events of January 6, I considered not posting this week. Yesterday was not a sunshine day. On second thought, I decided to go ahead because it might give someone a smile. AAK
Thankfully, a tough year is over. An abundance of useless chatter, anxiety, and old-fashioned fear have dominated our lives. To say nothing of an imagined cure-all, whether it was an unpronounceable drug, a 3000-calorie cheese laden snack, or vodka. No one talks about joy anymore, as if happiness does not exist. So, I will. Because I am a word person, I’ve given it a name.
I call them sunshine days. They burst upon us without warning and often remain in our memories for a lifetime. Although they might not be named, everybody has them. On a sunshine day, something extraordinary happens. Birthdays don’t qualify because we know they’re coming. Neither do graduations, weddings or any occasion requiring planning and expectation. Sunshine days are lagniappe. They are a sudden explosion of delight, a double rainbow that is tattooed onto our brains in bright red ink. On a sunshine day, we may get up early and dress for a ho-hum day, then a surprise. Sometimes, it’s appears likes a comet whizzing across the sky. Sometimes it’s as simple as cardinal tapping at my kitchen window or a brave little daffodil peeking through the soil on the cold January day.
I realized what a sunshine day was when I was 10. Power School was on wintertime lockdown because of an icy wind attack that blessed us with blue lips and frostbitten fingers. As a result, we squared danced in the auditorium. I dreaded it. Girls were seated on one side of the auditorium, boys on the other. The boys picked first. I was a head taller than most of my classmates and rail thin, add in a dose of shy, a quiet nature, and an unfamiliar name. I was always picked last. Then, a miracle. On the last Friday in January, a last pick boy decided it was our time to shine. He chose me first. Even though the weather was blustery and grey, it was a sunshine day as we led the way to the stage. I hope he remembers also.
A sunshine day can happen at night too, especially when the fair came to town and a double Ferris wheel smiled and beckoned me aboard. I’d watched it for years, just as I stepped carefully around the bullet and its terrifying partner, the Cyclone, a diabolical scream machine using centrifugal force to pin riders against a revolving wall as they tried not to vomit. I was an official teenager now, and ready for something big. The Ferris Wheel seemed kinder, gentler, and slower. Much slower. After an intense discussion with my friend, Martha, we purchased tickets and waited for our first adventure on a grown-up ride. At go time, we were loaded into a basket seat and buckled in tight. Whoosh! We were off. In a scant 10 seconds, our basket made a quick revolution, once, twice then stopped. I froze. We were dangling at the tip top supported only by thin metal arms no bigger than a discarded coat hanger. My hands squeezed the safety bar tighter than the tentacles of an angry octopus. Other than the sound of a faraway calliope, there was no noise. If we called for help, no one would hear. Martha and I sat as still as intoxicated rabbits so our basket would not move. Surely, we would not spend the rest of our lives trapped on top of a Ferris Wheel.
“You think we’ll be ok?” I asked.
“Sure,” she answered. I believed her.
Slowly, my fear faded and I began to look around. The fairground below was a wonderland of twinkling lights and filled with more people than I’d ever seen before. In the distance, I saw the hulking shadows of the old Capitol and downtown Jackson, spread out like an open map. Farther on, tall buildings rose from the streets and church steeples stretched to the sky. We were high enough to see the illuminated clock on the Lamar Life Building as well as a blanket of trees covering Belhaven. Above me, the stars seemed brighter and the moon had grown to twice its size. I’d never been up so high or seen so far in the distance. In an instant, boring old Jackson had become extraordinary. I felt as if I could touch the stars. Maybe I could fly.
Suddenly, my basket seat lurched and the Ferris Wheel sprang to life, whirling for a good five minutes before it finally slowed and stopped. A moment later, my feet were on the ground. Back to earth, but no return to the usual way of looking at things. There’s more to see, a lot more. My ordinary hometown wasn’t ordinary at all. When your eyes are open, there’s no going back. It was a sunshine day.