ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Driving down a busy street, Joshua passes a yard sale. He spots a vintage radio among the clutter. I don’t need an old radio, he tells himself as he continues on, but the radio calls out to him. He parks on a side street and walks back to the sale.

The radio is bakelite from the fifties, big and masculine. He walks up to its owner, a man in his seventies, the collector of all these goods. “How much?” he asks, pointing to the radio.

“Thirty-five dollars,” the man says.

Joshua looks around a little more, spots a wooden crate that once held bottles of root beer, and picks it up. “How about if I give you thirty dollars for the radio and this crate?”

“I like you,” the man says. “Okay, it’s a deal.”

Joshua calls to tell me of all this, excitement in his voice. I catch his excitement. “I’ve given away a TV and a record player,” I say, “and I won’t replace them. If I had an FM radio, I’d feel free to get rid of all my old record albums.”

“First thing tomorrow I’ll go back to the sale, little mama. There’s a small wooden radio you might like.”

“This is like Christmas,” I say.

This morning Joshua rings my doorbell hoisting a big, dark, cathedral-style radio with ugly brown knobs and frayed wiring. “The small wooden radio didn’t work,” he says. “This one does.”

I clear the top of a chest to make space for it. I plug it in. No decent volume. And no FM — only AM, shortwave, and police. And it’s missing a back cover so its tubes catch dust. How do I tell Joshua I don’t want it? Just tell him.

“I really wanted FM, Joshua, but now that I think about it, I don’t really want to hear music. It gets in my head and goes round and round. I don’t want to hear Mozart or even jazz. I much prefer the sound of cicadas and crickets and birdsong. Can you take it back?”

“I don’t want to. It’s worth more than I paid for it. The Gypsy was with me when I went back to get it last night, and she loves it. She’ll buy it.”

The Gypsy can have it. She doesn’t yet know what I’m beginning to know — that acquisition doesn’t give me peace or joy. All it does is keep me looking for something else to give me peace and joy. And I won’t find it, not if I’m looking for something no item I can buy can give me.

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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.

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Ernestina

Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.