High Hopes and Brass Rings

Rob and His Grandpa Buck. June, 2011.
Going Places
“At the carousel? Or organ pavilion?” I texted to my son-in-law, confirming the location of his reenlistment ceremony. “Carousel,” he replied. 
The carousel in Balboa Park seemed like a funny place for a military ceremony. I stood with other family and friends and watched as Rob laid his hand on the bible, swore to devote the next six years to serving his country–our country. Calliope music and children shrieking could not drown out his strong, sure voice.
After the ceremony, my daughter passed out tickets and we all clambered aboard the merry-go-round, mounting ostriches, ponies, and zebras. 
“Why here?” I asked. Rob looked at me, grave. “My grandfather used to help paint the animals here,” he explained. “This was my grandmother’s favorite place.”
I’ve told you before about Rob’s tender place for his grandmother. Today it brought me up short. 
I wiped my eyes and suddenly my daughter was five again, with missing teeth and shining hair, racing to claim her favorite animal on the carousel. She climbed onto a giraffe on the outer row of the ride. As we twirled around, faster and faster, she fearlessly leaned far, far over, grabbing for the brass ring. 
She was braver than I had been. I’d always clung tightly to the pole as a girl, too unsure of my balance to lean over and reach for the prize.
Returning to real time, the calliope wheezed, the animals began to circle, I clung to my pole. I looked back at my daughter, riding a tiger around and around, laughing and reaching for the brass ring. 
I looked at my son-in-law, tall and assured, who dares to travel beneath the sea, submerged for months, to serve us. 
And I was grateful for my daughter’s reach, that she had leaned out into life, trusting her balance to help her grab onto something good. In marrying Rob, she certainly had claimed a prize. 
Elaine, Relaxing on her Tiger.
116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope. 
Psalm 119:116 (NASB)


  1. This post is such a beautiful blend of happy and sad. I love Balboa Park. A distant relative used to play the organ there during weekly concerts. God bless your son-in-law. I am so grateful to those who serve, and God bless your daughter who waits for him while he's at sea. There's a sub base in CT, and I know a number of submariners and wives. They are special people. Thanks for honoring them with your words.

  2. Aw, thanks, Nancy. They certainly are special people.

    San Diego is home, though I now live in Orange County.

  3. Larry Grimshaw

    Blessings Sheila, I grew up with Rob's Mother, this was a very nice and touching moment, thanks for sharing. Larry Grimshaw

  4. A Joyful Noise

    Loving his granddad so, I can see why he chose the Carousel for his re-enlistment ceremony. So touching and a ride afterwards brought back memories for all.

  5. Hi Shelia! Lovely story. My husband's brother retired as a career submariner in the USN. Please tell your son-in-law and your daughter "thank you for sacrificing in service to our country" from the Hunter family on Pollywog Creek.

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Such a lovely sweet piece of memory brought right into the present. Thank you, Sheila. I was born in San Diego – at an old Hospital called Mercy, in the center of Balboa Park. Left at age 2, but have always been glad to call that lovely city 'home.'

  7. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. I will pass them on to Rob and Elaine.

    Oh…and for the record, I do believe that Rob grabbed hold of a prize when he married my daughter, too 🙂

  8. Sheila..as always, so beautiful. San Diego is home to me as well so this story brings back memories of Balboa Park that I so cherish. Your story just made that carousel so much more special!

    side note..I am seriously considering on making SD my home again in the next few months. 🙂

  9. Lyla Lindquist

    Sounds like they both did alright. 😉

    I'm with you, tight grip on the horse's neck. Loved the sights and sounds of the carousel, but I liked it better from the perimeter.

  10. Robyn, Lyla, thanks for your comments. San Diego and submariners….