by Hank Phillipi Ryan
Okay, do this: Say NeeeeOWM. Again: NeeeeeeOWWWWM. Neeeowm. Neeeowm Neeooowm.
Now you know what it sounds like to watch the Indianapolis 500. (Next time we see each other, ask me. I’ll demonstrate.) Thirty-three high-performance cars, going 150 miles an hour, or whatever, for 500 miles, turning left and left and left around a two and a half mile oval track.,
Of course on this Memorial Day weekend, we are remembering our troops, now and in the past. Please come visit Jungle Red today, http://www.JungleRedWriters.com for some very special memories of our families, and their war experiences. Not to be missed.
But growing up in Indianapolis, as I did, Memorial Day also meant the Indianapolis 500. The run-up and preparation for the race lasted the entire month of May, with everyone in Indianapolis caught up in the excitement of time trials and carburetion tests and Goodyear versus Firestone tires, even if you have no idea what any of it meant or didn’t know an Andretti from an android, you couldn’t help but be swept away by 500 fever.
It was always was on the radio, not on TV, so we’d sit out in the back yards with our radio hooked p to triple extension cords, and listen to the whole thing. You had to. I bet if you stood in the middle of the street, you could hear Jim Nabors singing Back Home Again in Indiana, then the race blaring from every neighbors back yard.
NeeeOWM. Neeeeowm. NeeeeeeOWM.
I was thinking two big things happened to me at the race. Love and death.
The first big thing, the first time I ever went to the race, I was a junior in college, I think, I went with a date, a guy I was head over heels for. Older. Like, a senior. It was glorious day, truly, I can’t remember a more beautiful day, with perfect blue skies and no humidity, and even though there ware about 50 billion people at the race, we found parking, and got to our seats easily, and he lemonade guy was right here, and –oh, I’m making this up now, but it was terrific. The race—who cared—but there I was with this fabulous guy, sitting in the sun, and oh, I had a white dress, and a floppy hat, and it was—so romantic. And about halfway through the race, the guy turned to me and said—this is so wonderful. We should get married.
Oh, I said. Yes. Of course. And we watched the rest of the race if a haze of delight and happiness.
Then it was over-- no idea who won--and we floated to our car. Got in. Closed the doors. Ah, he said. Yeah, I said. We’re not really going to… No, I agreed. We aren’t.
We drove home in silence. You wanna go to a movie? He said. I shrugged. I mean, where did we go from there? And that was the end of that.
Several years, later, on another beautiful day, I went to the race with..gosh, I can’t remember. But we were sitting in the stands with a family, the father was a provost, or something, at a local college, and the mother was a professor, and they had two little boys. Part way through the race, there was a HUGE crash. HUGE. There was fire and debris and explosions and flying metal and obvious horrible disaster. I grabbed the nine year-old boy sitting next to me and hugged him to my chest, trying to prevent him from seeing the devastation. I thought—I don’t want this imprinted in his head.
The kid went bananas. He writhed and squirmed and twisted away—I WANNNA SEEEEE! he yelled.
Love and death. NeeeOWM. NeeeoWMMMM. NeeeeOWWWWm.
Do you have a Memorial Day childhood ritual? And because today we remember, I have a copy of Ace Atkins’ New York Times bestseller LULLABY, the first in his new “writing as Robert B Parker” series—for one lucky commenter!