Friday, April 26, 2013
Before & After #4
Before & After #4: Story in Words
My commute each day, one hour each way, covers a few neighborhood streets by my house and 5 main roads. Each of the main roads is a major thoroughfare through distinct areas. Each right or Left turn places me in a totally different type of neighbor hood.
I have written dozens of essays (posts) in my head as I cruise along. The words are deep and pondering, witty and strung together like poetry. But, by the time I arrive back home at night they've escaped my sieve of a brain, until I'm back in the car once again.
I am planning on writing some of these stories down, eventually. I have an idea list.
The story I'm starting with today is an image that has stayed with me for almost two weeks now. I take a lot of pictures, but this particular corner does not lend itself to a Safe - click without really looking through the camera shot.
So, I will attempt to paint the picture with my words.
After I leave my little semi-rural-residential neighborhood, I merge onto the first main road, traveling south(ish). Then it is a right onto a fairly busy main street, which runs the length of my valley. I turn right onto the road that faintly twists through a mountain pass, major freeway, running parallel to my left. This road is usually empty, except for maybe one or two cars. I only zip along for a few minutes before I land at the intersection near the overpass for another major freeway (remember this is SoCal...the land of freeways! Ha!) I make a left onto the next main road. This is the one that wraps around the mountain and ejects me into the next valley. This is 'The Valley', if you're from around here. It's been depicted in movies, television shows, popular songs and even birthed it's own language/accent! I'm sure you heard of Valley Girls before! I briefly continue along this road until I get to my next turn...a right, which points me down the length of the Valley. I remain on this street the longest and it gives me the most to ponder. 11 miles or so later, a right turn onto the last main road of the route. This street marks a big difference in the look of my drive and inspires completely different ponderings.
This last turn is where the Before & After took place.
Each morning I turn right and my eyes, after checking for traffic, fall to the road ahead of me. But each evening as I sit in the left turn lane (why do I always miss this light!?)...waiting to turn, I'm able to glance to all sides. The corner just to my right holds a single family home. In this spot, the homes are fading from tri-plexes or 4-plexes into single family homes and this one on the corner is pretty and nicely kept. There are big trees. Really big. Taller than the ones I had out back. Maybe 40 feet high. I don't know...I'm not too good at guessing this. But, suffice it to say, they are big...and old. Nice and straight with full trunks. Two trees sit on the parkway (that belt of grass between the street and the sidewalk/lawn of the home). One sits on the front lawn of this home.
That's the one I notice, for it is that one that the man and boy stand under to throw a football or hit a pitched baseball. That's the tree that they tie a rope around so the boy can practice jump-roping. These warm spring nights, strung together like pearls on the strand of childhood's memories...these are the nights I notice the tree and the family. And for these three nights, sitting closely together, I reflect on the magic of twilight when it's warm and you're young, or you are with someone young...playing. I feel blessed to watch their evening fun while remembering my own play at dusk. There was tag and tree climbing and hide & seek and well, just hanging out. All of it was perfection because I was young and did not have to go in until it was dark and the street lights came on. And I was trusted to do just that. No one called to me or my sister. We were respected to be mature enough to follow the rule...and we did (at least until we were a bit older!) So I watch these individuals feeling a happiness for their moment in the night air and fondness for the memories of my own.
The night they jump rope was the night this really hit me, the specialness of it all.
The very next morning, as I hung that right turn, the jump rope memory came to me as my eyes fell on space. Big...Open...Space.
And in the split second it takes to make a right hand turn, it registers that there is Space because the jump rope - baseball - football tree is gone!
I mean gone-gone. There is not a branch or some leaf scraps...there is not even a stump. Gone. The only thing to show for that childhood magic twilight is a misshapen circle of brown earth in the middle of the green lawn. A flat brown space where once a limitless empire stood.
In that split second of turning right, a world changed and I am forever marked by the witnessing and the noticing of it.