The seasons of our lives

I was in Oklahoma a few weeks back. I couldn’t spot corn as high as an elephant’s eye, but the temperature peaked at about 103 degrees.

Like any place in the great Southwest, the locals tell you that it is a “dry heat” and not so bad.

My response is that if I stick my head in a furnace and come out with my hair smoking, I’m not going to smile about dry heat. It’s hot, wet or dry.

Last February, I was looking out my window at 19 inches of Pittsburgh snow. It seems like only a wink and a nod later that they could fry an egg on my bald spot in Lawton, Okla.

Such is our collective amnesia when it comes to the changes in weather and the changes in our lives. A kid forgets yesterday because he’s so excited about today. Adults forget because we’re placing all our bets on tomorrow to forgive yesterday.

I got back from Oklahoma just in time for Pennsylvania’s warm-up to the mid-90s.The carnival had arrived in my little town, the annual fundraiser for the volunteer fire department. They wouldn’t know how to do it without steamy weather.

The ball field by the elementary school came to life with a Ferris wheel, a whirligig and four or five other rides, as well as booths featuring sausage and peppers, cotton candy and funnel cakes.

The summer carnivals when I was a kid had a smell about them of stale popcorn and unsavory characters. The cops patrolled for pickpockets and rigged card games. It’s where the Old Man smiled and told me that a “sucker is born every minute” after I lost my allowance trying to toss a softball through a hole just a tad smaller than it looked.

Those days are long gone, and a geek is a computer whiz rather than a guy who did things at the carnival that amazed men, disgusted women, and that little kids weren’t allowed to see. The acts are tame now, and the wallets are safe. The carnival is a place where sixth-grade girls look for seventh-grade boys; and sixth-grade boys have the time of their lives doing whatever it is they do.

There’s always a parade at some point. Half the town is in the parade, and the other half waves to them. The fire trucks blow their sirens, and the cops throw candy from their cars.

On the carnival’s last night, everybody takes a final ride on the Ferris wheel to see if they can spot the roof of their house. Then it all ends with fireworks. The next day, the field is clear, and every kid realizes that this was the last big show of the summer.

I was visiting Oklahoma in the dog days of summer with my wife and daughter. We were there to welcome my son back home. He was returning from a year of duty overseas in the Army, where he has served two hitches now. We waited in a gym at Fort Sill, along with the other families.

The soldiers had been flying for over a day and were being bused in for the final leg of the pilgrimage from Oklahoma City. Some cheered and some cried when they finally arrived. I did a little of both.

I drove by the field that held the carnival just a few days after the big finale. It was packed with little kids having their first run-through for the upcoming football season. The parents had pulled out the folding chairs to watch from the sidelines. It seems like only a wink and a nod since I was doing the same thing.

Summer heat, winter snow, the sounds of a small-town carnival, little guys in oversized shoulder pads. Small moments that make up God’s tender mercies.

Then he brings a son and brother home safe, and a fellow has to marvel at the Divine Love that we can see every moment of our lives.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.