Rusty Swings and TV Dinners
There’s a million reasons why I haven’t been blogging….and soon I will tell you most of them….it’s all good, in the end, really….all good….really good, really......
….but mostly I just keep praying for my words to come back, to flow from my mind through my heart to my fingers to the screen….and sometimes, they just won’t come….they just won’t. Sometimes they are not my own words…well, most of the time…the best words that come aren’t really mine, I don’t think, I mean…I don’t know where they come from when they are flowing so freely and with such smooth precision and clarity…I will come back later and wonder where it all came from………..and then it goes away without any warning or announcement….the next time I try to type the words are dried up, and I have to wait for as long as it takes….and I remember that we must always be thankful for what we have…because there are so many things that are little joys and presents and pleasures and fun…and writing is one for me……always has been…..but sometimes I can’t find my words.
But I have been waking up with these pictures and thoughts in my mind from so many years ago…..and a story has been haunting me…begging to be told…and I keep pushing it away, but then….it comes back…and maybe this old memory is an answer to my prayers that my words will come back soon…….I keep seeing these 2 pictures in my mind and when I went to find something to show you what I am talking about…and I saw these images….the tears filled that part of your eyes that tries to hold on to them…and my throat choked up….and I just still don’t get why this affects me still so much….but maybe it’s for one of you out there….who knows…I never know where the words will end up or who they are meant for…I just know that it feels like they just might be coming back….
I don’t know how many years it’s been…maybe 10, or 12 or 15? I don’t know when I first really noticed the rusty swingset in the front yard of the neighbors who lived across the street from Marq and I and our 3 little children. It was a narrow street, well…still is…and an old street….it’s even called Main Street, for what it’s worth….so narrow, though, that living across the street is like living right next door….and for all of the years that we lived in that house, I never did what I should have done whenever that rusty swingset jerked at my heartstrings.
I was just too busy to regularly stop and talk to the old old old man and woman who lived in that house, who still held hands and who seemed to live for each other…even though we’d had conversations before where I found out that their picket-fenced garden beside their house supplied them with most of the food they ate all year, fresh in the summer and fall and canned for the winter and spring, combined with the cow and the chickens out in the field and just a few things that the old man would walk to the store to buy a few times a week, and that they had lived that way for 50 or 60 or 70 years together. I thought that was amazing…the way they lived….but I couldn’t understand how they could be so happy, with so little. They were quiet and private but oh, how their life intrigued me.
He was so old and small and when he would leave the house, he would put on his gray hooded sweatshirt, always with the hood on…and he would either, hunch-backed, get into his old old old truck with a camper forever attached to the top of it, or he would just rather nimbly, and even with a spring in his step despite the hunch in his back, walk to the store, and so many times I would see that he would bring something back to his wife….and she would greet him at the door, and it seemed to bring both of them so much joy every time. I don’t know what was ever in the bag, but I know it wasn’t about that…they were so happy to see each other again when he would return from the store…I would just see him take her hand and lead her to the garden or back into the house or around their little yard, past that rusty swingset, and I would wonder how on earth they could be so happy when their whole life had been lived in that tiny little house with hardly a possession to their name. And why why why did they have a swingset in their yard if their were never ever ever any children there, ever?
But I never asked, I just watched. I watched over the years as he would stick to the predictable routine, I would hear his old loud truck start up from my kitchen and know that he would be back in 15 minutes or less. I would watch him through my window as he came home…and he still kept going, and still kept bringing things…. she would come to greet him at the door less and less…and even in the summer and spring and fall, she would appear less and less to help him with the gardening and the cow and the chickens. And then when I would see him walk, still hunched…his head started to hang down, and he walked more and more slowly…and he would finally pick up speed once he got back to his house, and rush into the door without being greeted. And then, after a while, I never saw her at all.
You know what is sad? I can’t even tell you their names. I think I could guess what their last name was….but I don’t even know their names.
The winter after that summer when the old old man’s old old wife stopped appearing, I started to see a new predictable occurance. Every Thursday on trash day, when I would drive by or walk by or take my own trash out, I started noticing a neatly stacked pile of tv dinner trays. Every Thursday….7 of them, one for every day, but just one.
And then I finally asked, but I didn’t ask him. I asked another neighbor. “Have you seen his wife lately?” ….followed by their surprised answer, after all, I WAS their closest neighbor…”Oh, she died months ago.”
And I don’t know if I took some bread or a cake or a casserole to ease my guilt, but then we moved away, a growing family, a new business….life moving on.
But I wonder still what joy we could have brought to their lives if I’d taken one or three of my own little children across the street to swing on their swings….if I’d taken a plate of dinner over when I first started noticing the tv dinner trays? Why didn’t I? I was young and busy and not a great cook, and have always been reluctant to get into other people’s business….there’s a million excuses….but it still haunts me.
….and the swingset is still there. Maybe one of these days when I’m traveling through that little town, I’ll stop and see if he is still alive, still there. Maybe he never even knew we were there….who knows?
I just know that it’s changed the way that I look at details around me…what the story might be behind the empty old rusty swingset, and the longing that must have been a part of life enough to not take the swingset down…..or what it means when homecooked meals turn to cheap frozen stuff served in a tin tray….
….and how easy it would be to ease a burden or bring a smile or offer a friendship or ask for a story or advice or give a story or advice….to just notice…to just be alive together….to just show that we’re all here on this earth basically with the same struggles and desires wrapped in different packaging….and we need each other.
…..hope you’ll be on the lookout with me this Christmas season for rusty swings and tv dinner trays…..small things really are the biggest things.
…….hopefully hopefully hopefully this week I’ll be able to explain my hiatus…..a super wonderful and fun announcement.
Hope your holiday preparations are being met with the joy that is meant for them!
Lots of Love