I have a distinct memory of standing on the front lawn of our house on Washington road with my father around the time I was fifteen or so. He was watering the lawn with a hose and smoking a cigarette. I came out to tell him it was time for dinner.
"Take a look over there," he said point at the vivid scarlet sky. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”
"Huh?" I answered.
"It's an expression meaning if we see the red sky tonight it will be a beautiful day tomorrow."
"And red sky in the morning means?"
"Danger. Storm is coming." Dad tightened the nozzle on the hose to shut the flow of water and let it dangle in his hands as we stood watching the sky over the tops of the houses on the other side of our busy four lane road that was the lifeline into town and out to the mall.
I was tired of my father by then. Sick of his drinking, his rage and the impact his moods had on our lives. I thought of my time with him as riding out the last years of a prison sentence. Every day that passed put me closer to freedom. I was full of plans and hungry for dinner and for my future.
What I hadn't planned was that brilliant red sky and on communing with him in those final moments when day turns to night. Years later, after I had gotten out of Pittsburgh and made a life in New York City, I learned that time of the day is referred to as magic hour, as the light has a unique clarity and brilliance. Magic indeed.
My father finished his cigarette and took me in his arms before I could resist. He held me tight and just long enough to remind me of what it was like to be his little girl. He kissed me on the forehead and we walked back to the house with his arm around me.
Today, I drove to Orient State Park and took a long walk on the beach just as the sun was setting. And like I always do on nights when the sky is scarlet red, I remembered that moment on the lawn when dad and I stood together and shared the promise of a beautiful day.