Finally! We’ve settled into Florida living and have somehow acclimated to finding things in all the boxes still packed and distributed in various strategic places about the house. If you’ve ever moved after 50 years of marriage you have already experienced this kind of stress! Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the stressors and I’m back to my morning walks.
The downside is that I no longer have the old landmarks that used to jog my memory; however, I’ve learned that, wherever you are, there are sufficient little things to push the right buttons to activate the hard drive between your ears which then sends forth a plethora of stuff long stored. Then you have to say, “Where in the world did that one come from?!”
This morning, for instance, it was about 0615 when I walked past a short Palm tree on Sea Street. Someone had strung a piece of silver garland on it in an attempt to develop a little Christmas ambiance. Well, it was a weak attempt, but it was an attempt! And, it was a memory jogger!
That little piece of garland took me back 70 years, maybe more, maybe less, to our old farm. We were dirt poor. (I thought everybody was dirt poor in those days!) None of the three of us kids expected to get anything for Christmas except a pencil, an apple, our annual orange and a few raisins wound up in a piece of waxed paper with a piece of thread around the top.
It was all there was to be had!
I was four years old.
I stood about as tall as a yard-stick and when I walked to the barn that day the sides of the path where my Father had shoveled the snow away were way above my head. It must have been twenty feet deep! Well, maybe less.
It was still dark. The white of the snow, however, lent itself to the ambiance of a freaky light that mitigated my innate fear of the dark.
I finished my “chores” of feeding calves and chickens. I laid down in the hay in the horses’ manger for a short time. The horse’s velvet nose was always inquiring and welcome. The horses’ manger was my favorite place in the barn. I slept for a few minutes.
Dad was done and we trudged back through the cavernous crevasse of the path to the house. It seemed like nearly a mile! In later years, when my legs were a little longer, it was only about 100 feet.
We entered the kitchen and the old screen door slammed behind us. Dad took off his jacket and black hat and hung them on a nail in the door casing between the kitchen and dining room. He always hung them there. Mom had breakfast ready.
Pancakes on an iron griddle on an old wood range. Scrambled eggs, homemade bread toasted to golden brown with butter and strawberry jam that she had made.
There was a knock on the door!
Paul was a neighbor from about a mile west. He was old, – about 16 or 17. He was the son of a prosperous farmer. He was at the door asking if he could bring a Christmas gift in for me. – Well, I never…! Someone not in the family? Giving me a gift?
Mom and Dad said yes!
He came in the door with a sled! This sled stood about four feet tall when standing and towered over me by a foot. Paul explained that it was his old sled and that he had cleaned up the runners and painted it red and that he hoped I would like it and get some good use out of it.
I heard my Mother saying, “Can you tell Paul, ‘Thank you?’”
I somehow managed a smile and a thank you. There was some small talk and Paul left.
I used the sled that winter; it was all I had and I appreciated it – kind of! But it was heavy, with all that red paint, and hard to pull up the hill. It wasn’t as fast as my brother’s either, nor was it as pretty.
In later years, and now, I think of that sled and I wish I had it.
You might say, “Why? You didn’t even like it?”
That’s true! But now I can look back and, in my mind’s eye, I can see a young Paul, working after school, nights after his chores on his Dad’s farm. I see him in his Dad’s shop sanding on the runners and the strut braces. Then I see him working on the slats and the steering bar and replacing rivets. Then there was that paint! This was 1944! There wasn’t much paint around. Any kid should have been elated to have a red sled! Stories were written about red sleds!
I think now about the kindness of Paul. I think of the effort he went through – for me!
And, I wish I had been more grateful then when he could appreciate it.
Paul has since gone the way of all flesh and fallen asleep. I hope I’ll see him again someday in that land of new beginnings; the land where we’ll never die. I hope I’ll have the chance to tell him how much I really appreciated his kindness to the little four year-old kid the day he brought the Red Christmas Sled to his neighbor’s farm.
Paul was a good man. I just might get the chance!