It’s strange, the odd little gizmos that can strike a chord in your memories. Last Christmas, my daughter gave me, among other things, an old fashion barometer. It was nothing special, just a glass orb with a curved spout running up one side of it. The directions said to use food coloring on the water you put in it. That presented a problem. My wife and I went to the grocery store. It didn’t have any! They had food coloring gel, but not the old fashion liquid.
It took a while, but we finally found some. I filled the barometer.
Doing so reminded me of the barometer my dad had in the kitchen, of our house in Arlington, Massachusetts. When he put it up, I couldn’t have been more than five or six. He explained how it worked.
His barometer was a sort of U-shaped tube filled with water. The right-hand side was open at the top. When the air pressure went up, the water went up in the left-hand tube. When the pressure went down, the water level went down. He said that was where the saying, “The glass is falling,” came from. It meant that a storm was coming.
I was very confused by this. How could the air pressure change? It felt the same to me. Besides, air was only air; it wasn’t like there was anything in it.
I had a lot to learn
My dad explained that the pressure change was very, very tiny and we humans couldn’t feel it, but the water could. After that, each morning, as I ate my Cream of Wheat, I’d check the barometer to see what the weather was going to be like. Would there be rain. Would the skies be clear?
That barometer was just about always right.
Over time, I began to realize that there had to be something in the air. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there. Even though it was too tiny to see, I had deduced that air made of something that appeared to be invisible.
Years later, I learned that a Greek philosopher had used a similar means of coming to the same conclusion. It made me proud. I followed in such noble footsteps.
Now, today, I look upon my own barometer, and I told my goddaughter about it. She’s only seven, and I’ll have to wait and see if she figures out how it works. If nothing else, it feels good to have one again – it takes me back to warm mornings in my boyhood home.
A simple memory, but still one I cherish.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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