I know almost nothing. The nothing I almost know is, being alive is like the dial tone on the old kind of phones that hung on the wall. The house phone. If the lights went off in a thunder storm, Mom would hurry to the phone, lift the handset to her ear, and be happy to hear that sound. Life is a small, tenuous hum, that needs a close watch to protect.
I remember Mom giving me something when I was six years old. I was trying to clean up a bunch of loose kite string I found in the front yard. The string was everywhere, around the shrubs, and trees, even whispering around to the driveway that lead down the side of the house, into our back yard and the locked garage door. I ran to the kitchen, to tell Mom about the string I had found and cleaned up, and that I was almost done, but I needed her to unlock the garage door. She just laughed. “It’s a treasure hunt. I made a treasure hunt for you, you just follow the string and find the treasure.”
She unlocked the garage door for me, and there the string crossed the concrete floor to a paper grocery sack with “Surprise” written in bright red marker. The bag had some new Matchbox metal race cars, and a balsa wood glider with a wind up rubber band propeller. I had a great day, because Mom knew how to transform a walk around our yard into something special.
How do you know what strings are lost strings and which ones might lead to treasure?
I can’t answer, but still love feeling the kite string in my hand.
Walking is like that string. The start of a walk; I’m on the way, but don’t know what on the way means. The middle part of the walk; not waiting for anything, the good stride, your feet in rhythm, all you want is to enjoy the motion and breathe. The great last turn before you see home again; you know it’s there, even before you see it. The last block; each tree along the street, and then final pass, the pear trees at the corner, turn and see our yard, and the roses Leslie planted in front of our house.
The being happy makes me feel nervous, and sometimes I feel like it’s best to keep quiet about happiness, you don’t want to disrespect the pain of the ones who didn’t find their way home. I remember being a young firefighter, in the trucks and engines and ambulances. My favorite part was always on the way back to the station. I was proud that we had gone somewhere and done whatever we were asked to do, again, and again. And then we go somewhere new.
The middle of the walk is the part that feels strong. The I don’t know part, right before each walk starts, can still make me flinch. It’s time to walk.