Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Red Bench

As most of you know school has begun.  The older kids are taking advanced literature classes and I must confess -- I am envious.  You should hear them complain as they shlump their shoulders and drag their feet, "We haaaave to read and write."  Boo hoo!  Me?  I'd be hooting and hollering I GET TO READ AND WRITE!

But the jealousy doesn't end there. This week I had a client who happens to be a surgeon.  He has been practicing for 20-years and is about to give up his practice.  His plan?  Go into semi-retirement and pursue an MFA in writing.  What?  I wanted to shove him like Elaine from Seinfield.  Get out!  So green with envy.  

Well I can't quit my job and it's unlikely I'll go back to school anytime soon.  However that doesn't prevent me from writing.  

My daughter has an assignment; write a essay about a place or vacation that has personal meaning for you. She's at a loss and doesn't know where to begin.  I thought, to provide inspiration and show solidarity that I, too, would tackle this project.  

As I have no professor to report to I am turning my completed assignment in to you.  Enjoy!

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The Red Bench

On my piano, along with music, rests a photograph.  Actually two photographs back-to-back.  The first is of an old man asleep on a bench.  On the day this photograph was taken this sweet man, whom I didn’t know in the least, was wearing khaki pants, a turquoise shirt that fit snugly over his rotund belly and navy sport coat. On his feet were sensible shoes for touring about town.  A cane rested on his thigh and his chin rested on his chest.  The heel of his right foot touched the ground and his toes pointed to the sky; I imagined him as a marionette, if his head lifted his toes would go down and vice versa, the connecting string a tendon along his back.  

The bench was a perfect pop of red.  And he, so sound asleep, was simply precious.  I couldn’t help but snap a photo. 

“Wouldn’t it be funny”  I said after taking my first shot, “wouldn’t it be cute, if the kids sat next to him on the bench?”    

“Could we?  Should we?” the kids wondered out loud.  It seemed somehow criminal; an invasion of privacy.  And yet.  What fun! 

We stood there a few moments, giggling nervously, debating the pros and cons of our voyeurism. What if he woke up?  Finally the older kids took the bait. They posed on the far side of the bench in joyful mischievousness.  And my second photograph captured what I can only call their "shit eating grins".  

The kids were so young; braces on the boy, a sun hat on the girl, flowers on her shirt and a fleece jacket tied around his waist.  Oh how they’ve grown and changed! Today, looking at that photograph, I feel as old as the nameless man. Before long I’ll be a geriatric woman, nonchalantly snoring and probably drooling, taking my afternoon siesta in a public square.  

Holding this photo I'm filled with a syrupy sweet nostalgia; that life, the one before now, has a gaussian blur. Times were simpler. Beauty was lizards crossing your path, dandelions ripe for the picking and posing on a bench next to a sleeping old man.

The kids got such a thrill sitting next to him; an action hardly worth noting. And yet that moment became the pinnacle of our trip. Not the Golden Gate Bridge nor the Japanese Tea Gardens or Pier 39.  Not clam chowder in a bread bowl, guffawing sea lions or Alcatraz.  No. 

The moment we still talk about from our trip to San Francisco was the simple act of sitting.  And because of this moment, the place that means the most to me, the thing I most adore, is a magnificent red bench smack dab in the middle of Ghirardelli Square.   

This bench reminds me to take time to love the little things in life.  For these little things are what make life worth living.    



lily boot said...

That is absolutely gorgeous! I waited until I had finished reading to scroll down and see the kids - the look on their faces is priceless - especially your boy - he looks beside himself with glee that he has done something so DARING! Oh if only we all painted our benches red - wouldn't our cities be so much happier! And as an English teacher of old, I'd definitely award you an A+ - you painted a beautiful picture.

Tammie said...

this is hilarious and adorable. what a memory!!!