Today I didn’t expect to see anything of interest from my little house at the end of the street but when you are not expecting to see anything is often when you end up you kicking yourself for not having a camera. But how could I possibly expect to see something so sweet and tender when my whole day was spent inside scrubbing stubborn paint splatter off things I thought were protected by tape, plastic or a large white canvas drop cloth.
After spending the last four years living out of backpacks, bicycle bags and an old Honda CRV speckled with pine sap we are finally back in a home of our own. Once again we are cobbling together kitchen necessities and basic furniture needs. Our living room set consists of two Ikea chairs bought at the neighbor’s yard sale and soon we will upgrade from Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads to a proper bed and mattress. In fact the mattress will be the first Sue and I have bought in our twenty-nine years together. Even at the peak of our gainful employment we never progressed beyond the Futon bed-stage and would have bought another but futons seem more difficult to come by now.
It’s hard not to feel like a newly minted college grad when you spend your days wandering through resale shops and your evenings chasing spaghetti across plastic plates with forks recycled from last night’s take-out. Currently our possessions are back down to the level they were at when we became “professionals” but our attitude is very different. Back then we felt an urgency to establish “our home” and as a result we went out and bought dining and living room sets along with kitchen gadgets, towels, linens, etc. Today we have no feeling of urgency and no interest in buying “new” furniture and gadgets, pre-owned is fine. Older furniture and kitchen gadgets are often made of higher grade steel and wood or come in easy to clean glass instead of wimpy plastic. Also I find slowly acquiring what we need via the consignment or resale shops far more interesting and satisfying than a trip to the Dollar Store or Wal-Mart for a bunch of poorly made Chinese junk.
Last night as Sue and I watched the sun set from our yard-sale chairs she commented, “I don’t feel like we need much more than these two chairs… maybe a dining room table but that’s about it.” I feel the same way. Stepping off the hamster wheel for a while, living with only what you can carry on your back and taking a close look at how people in other cities, states and countries live wakes you up to how few things are necessary for daily life.
The above thoughts ran through my head as I scrubbed the windows of our little home. As I lowered my rag to give the window another squirt of cleaner I noticed a man walking slowly up the street. He was in his thirties with brown hair and was wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans. As he walked toward the intersection with his eyes focused on the ground he repeatedly tilted his head to the right and left as if he was perplexed by a difficult problem and was working out the solution as he walked. The high-pitched squeal of brakes to my far left shook me from my daydreaming. The man was also startled by the squeal and looked up quickly; his head stopped bobbing and his eyes widened as he stared intensely at the intersection.
What his widened eyes were fixated on was out of my field of view but I could hear the brakes fighting the mass of the vehicle and steep grade of the hill. Finally the high-pitched squeal halted and all was silent at the end of the street. I stopped cleaning the window, pressed my right cheek against the glass and did my best to look to my far left and see why this man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.
It took a minute or two for the object to come into view and it was moving at top speed. As the object zoomed by my window the man’s solemn expression melted away and his face broke into a broad and joyous smile. The little blond haired object with curls bouncing and arms waving ended her sprint by jumping up into her father’s arms. As he squeezed her tightly, closed his eyes and kissed her on top of her curls she spoke nonstop about all that happened on the first day of school. Moments later her big sister appeared proudly waving a picture she had created with the help of a bright purple crayon.
After giving a hug and kiss to the older one dad turned 180 degrees and headed away from our corner escorted by two happy little girls. The problem he was mulling over before the school bus arrived was long gone now and replaced by descriptions of new friends, teachers and what happened at recess but he didn’t seem to mind. As they faded into the distance my regret of not capturing the moment with film or pixels also faded, I could never have captured the thrill and heartfelt emotion of that reunion with a camera.