The summer turned hot, very hot even for an Oklahoma summer. Jeremy, like many who didn’t have to be out in the heat stayed indoors under the air conditioning as much as possible. His horseback riding was limited to early morning, and then only for short periods. Annie even surrendered to the heat and turned on her air conditioner.
Jeremy usually found her sitting under her favorite shade tree on hot summer days, but during the extreme heat she retreated to her air conditioned house. Jeremy vowed to himself that he would help Annie in any way he could to help keep her out of the intense summer heat. There was little mowing to be done since the hot and dry weather had dried the grass. Annie’s garden was kept alive by copious amounts of water administered by Jeremy. The effort was next to worthless since the heat was wilting some of the plants. In spite of the heat, Annie wasn’t willing to give up on her garden and Jeremy was prepared to help.
Watering the garden every day became a necessity to keep the remaining plants alive. Jeremy tried to arrive at Annie’s in the early morning before the really intense heat began. He knew this was necessary because it was impossible to keep Annie out of the garden helping.
“How much longer will this heat last?” Jeremy asked more as a statement than a question.
“About two weeks,” Annie stated as a matter of fact.
“How do you know that for sure?”
“I don’t know that for sure, but the signs tell me that. The leaves on the trees, the insects, the animals, and the birds all tell us things if we know what to look for.”
“Maybe it will rain before then. Look at that big clouds building in the west.”
“There might be some rain from that, but not enough to break the drought and heat. Those are just heat source clouds.”
“Annie you’re one of the smartest persons that I know.”
“No Jeremy, I’m just observant and I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge. Even as a little girl I would follow my mother and grandmother around asking questions about everything. You are like I was. You want to know about things too.”
“I suppose you’re right, I do want to know about things. Mom said that’s why I was always in trouble when I was a little boy.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard a song, ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. You remind me of that song.”
“Of course I have. It’s one of my favorite songs.” Jeremy then began singing the song and Annie quickly joined in.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
After they sang the entire song, they were both silent. It was as if speaking would break a magical spell the song had created. Words were not necessary for the moment. Finally, when the time seemed appropriate Annie said, “That song says a lot. When I hear it I will always think of you and ‘I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.’ Yet, I know you’ll always be the Jeremy that you are.”
“The song is also about not being afraid to take chances. I’ll bet you have taken a lot of chances in your life.”
“I certainly have. It was hard leaving these hills in Oklahoma and going to the big city of Houston with my husband. But, the hardest thing I ever did was to decide to get my college degree.”
“Why was deciding to go to college a hard decision to make. I though you always wanted to learn.”
“Oh I did, but somehow my mind was telling me that going to College would mean I was moving more into the white man’s world. It seemed to me that I might have to give up my Cherokee culture.”
“Didn’t you, at least to some extent?”
“Of course I did, but I came to realize that the two cultures were blending. It was blending with the Caucasian culture becoming more the dominate one. It was bound to happen regardless if I had a college degree or not.”
By mid morning the storm clouds were moving closer and Jeremy said, “Look at those clouds, maybe it will rain after all.”
“No they will miss us; it looks like Park Hill might get some rain.”
“But, Park Hill is just south of town on the other side of the river.”
“Right, but look at the direction the clouds are moving, directly toward Park Hill.”
“It will be about two weeks when we get rain.”
Early one morning Jeremy arrive to help Annie water, but she said, “No need, it will rain today.”
“How do you know? It isn’t forecasted.”
“The signs tell me. The signs also indicate a cold snowy winter.” True to Annie’s prediction the heat and drought broke, which was exactly two weeks from her prediction. It began with a loud crack of thunder. First the rain came in a downpour, and then a more slow steady rain, with the temperature dropping about twenty degrees. Jeremy and Annie went to sit on her porch to enjoy the freshness of the rain.
“I can smell the rain,” Jeremy remarked. Funny, but he had never noticed this before.
“Of course you can, rain is nature’s way of washing itself.”
“Look, the grass is already recovering.”
“Yes, it doesn’t take long when it gets a good drink of water.”
As Jeremy’s sixteenth birthday approached, the weather had settled in to a more seasonable pattern. The grass had once again turned green, and he took on the responsibility of keeping Annie’s lawn mowed as well as his family’s lawn. Annie always tried to pay Jeremy for mowing and he always refused payment. He knew she appreciated what he did for her and that was payment enough for him.
“Who would you like to invite to your birthday party?” Nancy asked her son, given that his birthday was just a week away.
“Let’s keep it small,” Jeremy replied. “I have a lot of friends here, but not a lot of close friends. Of course it’s a given that we’ll invite Annie. Let’s invite the Downings. Cody and Scott are good friends. I doubt that their dad will come, he seems to be getting stranger every day.”
“Mitch is different,” Allen said. “What have you noticed about him?”
“I don’t know,” Jeremy admitted. “It’s more of a feeling than anything else. I guess he is just a religious zealot. He seems to want total control of his family. Scott said that his dad told his own brother that he was no longer welcome at their house because he was divorced and remarried.”
“It’s your birthday, and you can invite whomever you want,” Nancy said.
“I want to invite Cody and Scott, and I don’t mind if their dad comes too,” Jeremy said. “You two are the adults and would have to be the ones that have to put up with him.”
“We’ve put up with you for sixteen years, I imagine that we can put up with Mitch for one evening,” Allen teased.
“You know you’ll miss me when I go off to college,” Jeremy said.
“Oh my God, that won’t be long when one thinks about it,” Nancy said in a sadden voice. “You could just go to college here at Northeastern State.”
“It’s still too early for me decide what college,” Jeremy said. “I haven’t even decided what I want to major in.”
The day arrived when Jeremy took his driving test to become a licensed driver. “This will be a graduated driver’s license,” The driving examiner said. “After a year of safe driving you can then get an unrestricted license. Until then you may only drive 5am to 11pm, unless for activities related to school, church, or work. You may only have one passenger unless they live in the same home as you. Are you ready to take your driving test?”
“Yes sir,” Jeremy nervously answered.
“I’m sure you will do just fine,” the examiner said. His smile calmed Jeremy somewhat.
Nancy and Allen knew that Jeremy had passed the driving test when after about twenty minutes he returned with a huge smile. They then took the test results to the Department of Motor Vehicle to get Jeremy’s “graduated” driver’s license. Jeremy then drove them home to prepare for his birthday party.
“I wonder why Annie is late,” Jeremy said that evening. The Downing family had arrived, including Mitch.
“She called and said she was running late and would be here shortly,” Nancy said. “We’re going to start cooking the burgers and she should be here by the time they’re ready.”
“Hamburgers are ready,” Allen announced just as Annie came walking into the back yard carrying a beautifully wrapped gift.
“I didn’t hear you drive up,” Jeremy said. “I can usually hear your old truck a mile away.”
“I didn’t drive the truck tonight,” Annie said. “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you Annie,” Jeremy said. “What would you like on your burger?”
“Mustard, and whatever else you have there,” Annie said.
“Could I get you something to drink?” Cody offered.
“Iced tea would be great,” Annie said.
“How about some baked beans and potato salad too?” Scott asked.
“Thank you Scott, you young people are going to spoil me,” Annie laughed while enjoying the attention she was getting.
“You forgot her napkin and silverware,” Molly said, not wanting to be left, out as she placed the items by Annie’s plate of food.
Jeremy noticed that Allen and Mitch were in a discussion, but he wasn’t curious enough to eavesdrop. He was sure it was a discussion about religion. “When is Jeremy going to open his presents?” Molly asked, interrupting Jeremy’s thoughts.
“I think now is as good as anytime,” Nancy said.
“Let him open mine first,” Molly said. “I made it myself.”
“I’d be pleased to open yours first,” Jeremy smiled.
“Molly, this is beautiful,” Jeremy said when he saw the dream catcher. “I have a perfect place in my room to hang it. Thank you very much.”
“I wasn’t sure if you would like it,” Molly said as she beamed with pride.
“I lovHLe it,” Jeremy said. “I will always treasure it.”
The next gift was a new saddle blanket from the Downing family.
Annie’s gift was next. It was a beautiful handmade Cherokee flute. “Annie, this is beautiful,” Jeremy remarked. “Did you make this?”
“Oh no, I’m not that talented,” Annie confessed. “I had Sam Wildcat make it. He makes better ones than anyone in the tribe.”
Next Allen stood and said, “Son, I couldn’t figure out how to wrap you next gift.”
‘Wow, a car,’ Jeremy thought.
“Actually it’s a gift for the entire family,” Allen continued. “Next week we’re flying out to Davis for you to see your friends.”
“Wow, that’s great, Dad,” Jeremy said trying to cover his disappointment of not getting a car.
“Kay and Mitch have agreed to let your friends go along too,” Allen said.
Cody and Scott had a look of surprise that quickly turned to huge smiles. Molly however was obviously disappointed.
“That includes you too, Molly,” Nancy said.
“Mom, do I really get to go?” Molly questioned, still not believing what she had heard.
“Yes Honey,” Kay confirmed. “Nancy and Allen have generously agreed to pay for everything. You get to go too.”
Thank you, thank you,” Molly said as she kissed Nancy and Allen on the cheek. “This is the best birthday present I ever got and it isn’t even my birthday.”
After the extra food was put away and the area cleaned up Annie asked, “Jeremy, would you mind driving me home?
“I don’t mind, but I thought you drove your Lincoln,” Jeremy said.
“No, I got another ride here,” Annie said.
“Dad, may I borrow your keys?” Jeremy asked.
“Here, I think you need your own set of keys since you’re going to be driving,” Allen said as he gave Jeremy his set of keys.
To Jeremy’s surprise there was a new blue Honda Civic in the driveway. “Happy birthday, Son,” Nancy and Allen both said.
“How did you pull this off without me finding out?” Jeremy asked.
“We had some help from Annie,” Allen said. “She hid the car at her place for us and then drove it here tonight.”
“There are some rules,” Nancy said. “If you ever drink and drive, the care belongs to us again. The same goes for drugs.”
“Mom, you know I don’t use drugs,” Jeremy protested.
“We know, but we’re just reiterating the rules,” Nancy said. “We trust you, but it’s something that needed to be said.”
The next day Jeremy asked his parents, “Mom, Dad, would it be okay if I drove Scott and me into town to see a Movie?”
“I don’t know why not, but Mitch or Kay will need to call and tell us that it’s okay with them,” Allen said. “Isn’t Cody going too?”
“No, he’s going with Allison and her parents to the water park,” Jeremy said.
“Drive carefully,” Allen said. “Your insurance verification is attached to the sun visor. Remember, no speeding and only one passenger.”
“Dad, I know,” Jeremy moaned.
“Do you have enough money?” Nancy asked.
“Yes Mom,” Jeremy said. “I’m paying for Scott too since he doesn’t have much money.
“Are you going anywhere else?” Nancy asked.
“I thought we would also going to Taco Bell to get something to eat,” Jeremy said.
“I love this car,” Scott said as he buckled his seat belt. “Aren’t you glad your parents got you the two door and not the four door. It looks sportier.”
“I am, but I would have been happy with just about any set of wheels.”
“What time is the movie?”
“Why are we going so early?”
“I thought we would go by Taco Bell to eat first.”
“I only brought enough money for the movie.”
“It’s my treat. I’m the one that asked you to go.”
“Oh is this like a date then?” Scott grinned and then lightly punched Jeremy on the arm.
“Yeah, and you’d better put out too.”
“It was kind of your parent’s paying for us to go with you on vacation to California,” Scott said as they two sat eating.
“Don’t tell anyone else, but I found out it was Annie’s idea and that she paid half.”
“Why would Annie do that? She is a nice lady, but I don’t understand her doing this.”
“The other day when we were talking about vacations, you mentioned that the only vacation you ever had was going to church camp. Annie apparently talked to my parents about it and they decided that all three of you should have a real vacation.”
“I’m surprised that Dad is letting us go.”
“At first he didn’t agree, but Annie talked to him. I don’t know what she said to him, but it worked.”
“I’ll have to thank her for this.”
“No, she wanted to do this anonymously. I found out when I overheard Annie talking to my parents. When you get back just mention how much you enjoyed the trip.”
“I hope this isn’t too much of a strain on her budget.”
“Annie can afford it, her husband retired from a big oil company and I’m sure he left her taken care of.”
“Why does she drive that old truck around if she has money?”
“She has a Lincoln parked in her garage, but I think she drives the old truck because it reminds her of her younger days. Hey, look at the time. We’d better get to the theater or we’ll miss the start.”
On the way home after the movie Jeremy suggested that they stop by Sonic for something to drink. It was still early and Scott who was in no hurry to get home readily agreed. There were several kids from school that Jeremy knew stopped by to admire his new car.
The day of the California vacation arrived. The flight was a 6:10 am flight; despite the predawn departure to the airport in Tulsa the Downing brood was all wide awake and excited. The plan was to fly to Sacramento, and rent a SUV and drive to Davis. They would spend three days in Davis and then take the train from Oakland to Los Angeles. After visiting Disneyland and other sites in Los Angles, they would fly from Los Angeles back to Tulsa.
Carla and Mike had insisted that they had plenty of room and that there was no need for hotel rooms. Molly was somewhat left out when the boys hung out with Jeremy’s old California friends. However, Carla took her under her wing and kept her entertained. She introduced her to Carrie, a neighbor about Molly’s age. Carrie ended up with an invitation to accompany the group to Los Angeles.
None of the youngsters had ever been on a train, including Jeremy. They were all excited about the train ride, regardless of the twelve hour ride. The trip was indeed a lot of fun and they were almost sad to see it end when they arrived in Los Angeles. A van large enough to transport the entire troupe was rented and they drove to their hotel in Anaheim.
After checking into the four rooms at the hotel, it was decided that a Chinese buffet would be best for their evening meal. They would get an early start in the morning and spend the day at Disneyland.
The Downing siblings had never been to Disneyland, and were in awe. Jeremy had been several times, but he still enjoyed it. At day’s end, all were exhausted and ready for a quiet evening back at the hotel. It was decided that another buffet dinner would be best and save time as well as money.
After seeing other sites in the Los Angeles area, it was time to depart for home. As they were boarding the plane to fly back home Molly almost whispered, “I wish we didn’t have to go back home.”