that, creeping slow
Yesterday morning, Wednesday our walking day, while waiting for Robert I walked from where my car was parked on Linda Avenue north to 2nd Court, saw a mom and son get out of their car and walk across the stone drive toward the lower elementary school entrance. John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “In School-days” came to mind. The little boy’s mother walked spritely ahead, he, as I would have done at his age, trailing slowly behind, head down. We never change: boys are boys from age to age, and I am glad to have been one of them with summer vacation about to start and three months to play in the dense woods around our house on Massalina Bayou. The most wonderful thing that could happen in any boy’s life is to have been an American boy growing up.
And in an American father’s life, the most wonderful thing that could have happened is to have had ten little girls like mine.
We’re walking this morning because Robert mixed days and plans yesterday and we didn’t walk. Well, I walked around the school while pacing sidewalks waiting for. But the serious walk didn’t come off, instead I filled the car tank with gasoline because the low fuel warning light came on to stay, its alarm tone sounding ominously. Stopped at dermatology for a walk-in zap: one spot he said, “that has to be gone, if it’s still there in six weeks, call and tell them I said let you in.” Is that scary? At this bus stop in life nothing about self is scary, everything is about others. Came home for a cucumber sandwich breakfast, a favorite.
Less is better: with three rooms instead of seventeen, eighteen counting the huge attic, there’s no room for clutter, so instead of one, I now have three places to sit and love life. By the living room window looking across my Bay, the blue velvet chair mama had reupholstered forty, fifty, sixty years ago and gifted to me twenty or thirty ago. Asa McNeil’s wife had the upholstery shop. Asa was a fisherman early; for a while in the late 40s or early 50s he worked in my father’s seafood business before becoming a PCPD policeman. Now and then he’d swing by in uniform on his motorcycle.
We’ve arranged the Bay bedroom with a sitting area. Facing the TV, Linda’s chair is the platform rocker mama reupholstered when Nicholas was little. Mine faces the Bay, the blue lift chair we gave mama on her 98th birthday. She never managed the controls. My third spot is one of those wedge shaped bed lounge cushions. It has a light but in the move the light cord disappeared. Anyway, all three have good lower back support and a pillow, are good for reading, blogging, dozing off.
Still sits the school-house by the road,
A ragged beggar sleeping;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
And blackberry-vines are creeping.
Within, the master’s desk is seen,
Deep scarred by raps official;
The warping floor, the battered seats,
The jack-knife’s carved initial;
The charcoal frescos on its wall;
Its door’s worn sill, betraying
The feet that, creeping slow to school,
Went storming out to playing!
Long years ago a winter sun
Shone over it at setting;
Lit up its western window-panes,
And low eaves’ icy fretting.
It touched the tangled golden curls,
And brown eyes full of grieving,
Of one who still her steps delayed
When all the school were leaving.
For near her stood the little boy
Her childish favor singled:
His cap pulled low upon a face
Where pride and shame were mingled.
Pushing with restless feet the snow
To right and left, he lingered;—
As restlessly her tiny hands
The blue-checked apron fingered.
He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
The soft hand’s light caressing,
And heard the tremble of her voice,
As if a fault confessing.
“I’m sorry that I spelt the word:
I hate to go above you,
Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—
“Because, you see, I love you!”
Still memory to a gray-haired man
That sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
Have forty years been growing!
He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss,
Like her,—because they love him.