Cold to the bone.
The trough of green at Baker Park
was white on that frozen day
In the winter of ’55 or ’56.
Sliding like lightning down the slope.
Wishing like thunder it was summer.
I’ve searched the net to find out where this little poem came from. I know it’s not original with me. It came, if I recall, from a long-play recording of poetry by Carl Sandburg, although I don’t believe it is his. I think, rather, it was attributed to his mother — still, I wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t bet on the accuracy of my recollection of it, either. So, call it a paraphrase of a poem that I once heard and committed to imperfect memory.
I think of it now because my sister’s life is evaporating before our eyes like a puddle in the sun.
We keep a sober vigil, waiting for Maxeen’s inevitable transport from this world to the next. And in the waiting, I sit with my sister and remember the ‘who,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of her life and mine. We remember the all important ‘how’ it happened.
Passing the time with photographs of people and places that we both remember, I realize that it is not just one person that is dying, it is a community. Those people and places known to no one but she and I will soon be known only by me. They will be treasured in only one heart, and eventually, the remembering will cease. Who? What? When? Where? How? Will swirl away like fallen leaves.
In Kewanee, our home town, on the street where I spent my first seven years and Maxeen her first 17, autumn was a mystical time. I remember it as a kind of festival. The men would rake leaves that drifted from the brooding maples that lined McKinley Avenue. The children would push them into long ridges — imaginary walls of make-believe houses in which unfolded pretend lives — until a grown-up, with his rake, would pull the leaves over the curb into the street and set them afire. The smoke would rise silently and touch the branches where the leaves had grown and lived, and then, like a fragrant memory, drift skyward and be gone.
~~~[Photo taken from http://edweathers.blogspot.com]
They were farmers while they lived.
Uncounted sunrises and spring plantings.
Uncounted sunsets and harvests.
Lifetimes now frozen in stone,
Set neatly in silent rows.
Like furrows in a new plowed field
Seed waiting for early summer sun.
I was coming home from the gym this morning and I had an odd thought. It was triggered when I passed a couple of delivery trucks going down Sandy Blvd. apparently traveling together to pick up and transport something or other.
My dad was the owner of Mayhew Transfer & Storage in Kewanee, Ill. He had inherited the business from his father, Jake, and run the business until…oh, probably 1956 when he had to sell out due to the economic downturn in our little town. To add insult to injury, the Teamsters moved in and started agitating to unionize his shop. The numbers didn’t work out. No way he could stay in business and meet union demands. He had to sell.
Shortly after, he moved us all to Portland, to start over. The rest, as they say, is history.
But, what would have happened if he’d been able to ride out the storm back in our little town? — “back home” he and mom would always call it.
It’s conceivable that I would be a business owner today, having inherited Mayhew Transfer & Storage from my father, as he had inherited it from his. I may have married a small town girl and raised a family of small town kids. Would I have joined the Elks Club like my father and grandfather?
Questions without answers. One thing is certain, though. My life would have been so different.