This is Parker Hoffmann, our second oldest, enjoying the Strawberry Fields Memorial in New York’s Central Park. What you can’t see in the photo are the fifty people seated on benches behind me paying tribute to the late, great John Lennon. What you can’t hear is a man softly strumming Beatles songs on his guitar and the reverent whispers of the crowd. What you can’t smell is marijuana. You can see, though, the roses by Parker’s feet. It was a serene setting, like a funeral wake for a man long passed.
As I photographed the Imagine mosaic, Parker jumped in front of the camera and insisted I get one of him. Here it is. Immediately following this snapshot – within two seconds – Parker became enthralled with the guitar music, turned to his left, and drifted in that direction.
He mumbled something about the guitar player, pointing at him, but before I could process his words the crowd let out an audible gasp. I looked around and everyone was scowling at us. Confused, I looked at Parker, who was now making his preoccupied expression, (eyes fixed upward and to the side, mouth crooked and open; one of the few outward signs he has autism).
I happened to look down at the ground and tried to not gasp myself. Parker was standing on John Lennon’s roses! At a Beatles funeral in New York City of all places!
I told Parker to get his foot off the friggin’ roses as the horrible gasp replayed in my head. It was a loud and unified gasp, and not one of pleasant surprise like on an infomercial. No, this gasp was filled with the umbrage of a thousand mourning locals, as if Parker had dumped John Lennon’s casket and slapped his ill-flopped corpse with “I heart NY” stickers.
The reality was Parker stood on a three-dollar rose. Still, I felt immense pressure to right this unforgiveable wrong. Frantically I struggled to remove his foot from the flowers that he mindlessly mashed into the pavement.
Was he standing on one foot? “Parker, move your foot!” He had no idea what was going on – when he makes the preoccupied face his processing can take up to twenty seconds. I didn’t dare look up as I wrestled with his leg. The disgust of the crowd was palpable, and I could feel my blood pressure rising.
After prying his foot off the petals, I hastily arranged the flower remains and hurried to Monica. She was mortified, of course, for we had done the unthinkable – we trampled the strawberry fields. The lyrics say the fields are forever, but the Fab Four never met the Hoffmanns. We were the undisputed champion, belt-unifying, worst tourists in the world. Without a word we hung our shameful faces and scurried into the trees.
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