Volume XI, Issue 18 ~ May 1-7, 2003

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Bay Reflections

The Oracle
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

I brought her home one autumn day, quite on impulse: a sweet-faced scarecrow the size of a seven-year-old child. She was clad in baggy burlap knickers and a blue plaid shirt the same shade as her big painted eyes, and she wore a dainty straw hat. I gently secured her to the light-post in my front yard where she would gaze past a border of sprawling chrysanthemums to a blue cove across the lane where swans coasted among rafts of colored leaves. I tied a pumpkin to her arm and readied her for Halloween.

I expected she would disintegrate in the blustery weather, but she is amazingly sturdy. In December I traded the pumpkin for a jaunty red-peaked Santa hat and gave her a sheaf of frosted pine boughs for the Christmas season. She wore a valentine in February and a bouquet of daffodils on the first day of spring. She is my harbinger of seasons and special events.

Summer passed, hot and dry, and there came the horror of 9/11. She proudly accepted a new American flag like all the others on our lane, and it remains a constant. We bonded — life is pretty dull here in the sticks — and she has become a sounding board for one who is accustomed to talking to herself here in this wilderness of apathy where I reside.

War was imminent, and during the months of negotiations that ensued she became a sly effigy in a mask and cowboy hat. A series of placards pinned to her shirt expressed our views (hers and mine) of opposition. The messages changed quickly from: No War to God Bless Our Troops and finally, in capitulation, simply a plea for Peace.

But no one heard. Thus she stands now, shed of the grim disguise and wearing red, white and blue ribbons on her dilapidated straw hat. Stress has aged her moon-face, but her flag flies bright and fresh as ever. She is cast as a grieving mother presiding over a small headstone at her feet, which reads: Rest in Peace. So she will remain at her post through Mothers’ Day and Memorial Day. She will don a gold star soon to symbolize loss, a sacrifice faced by parents since time began. Politicians make wars. Our kids do battle.

I am grateful my kids returned safely from their wars. Many years — and wars — have passed since my son fought fiercely in the A Shau Valley with the 101st Airborne troops in the spring of his 21st birthday. In that same period — 1968-’69 — his father, a bomber pilot and combat veteran of World War II and a professional warrior, came safely home as well from combat in Vietnam.

I have taken the liberty of quoting from The Washington Post — and the works of Shakespeare — these appropriate lines:

He that outlives this day and sees old age

Shall stand on tiptoe when this day is named.

Growing up as I have, surrounded by professional warriors, I have noted that our veterans often are overlooked when the smoke of battle has cleared and the parades have passed by — even when they stand on tiptoe.

Audrey Y. Scharmen, who lives on Mill Creek above Solomons, is a Bay Weekly veteran: with us in all 10 of our years. Her first reflection, “Bermuda High,” appeared July 29 in Vol. I, No. 8. She has won two first prizes from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for columns in this space.


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Last updated May 1, 2003 @ 2:57am