My Street

I live on a humble street.

Many years ago, a man bought some acreage in the middle of nowhere. I would come to know him as a man with a beautiful, dark-haired daughter who initially wanted nothing to do with me. But with persistence, I wore her down and the man became my father-in-law.

True story: I remember driving back to civilization after a date one late night thinking there had to be a girl who lived closer. There were no restaurants, gas stations, or stores anywhere nearby. My only companions on the trips home were cows, horses, and the occasional bear. But I kept coming back. She was worth the drive.

After a few years of marriage, we moved out here to the middle of nowhere – it had changed only slightly. There had been some road improvement and you could actually get groceries without driving 15 miles. It was still a quiet retreat from the noisy city – our little secret with an abundance of trees, dirt, and a creek winding through the side yard.

No one could have foreseen the changes soon to come. Metro Atlanta found our little secret and our county became one of the fastest growing in the country. But our little street stayed quiet and quant. Development threatened on every side – neighborhoods, shopping centers, fast food – but thankfully, only one house at the very top of the street sold out.

My street is still a quiet little retreat although if you drive to the top and need to turn left, you realize quickly that you are in a highly-developed area. We don’t get many solicitors because it would be a significant investment of time and energy for very little return. There are only about eighteen houses and the hill is steep. There is a stray Jehovah’s Witness who won’t give up on us, though. He comes every seven years, but the rest ignore my street.

My kids loved growing up here. It was like a nature study all the time. Deer, fox, owls, and hawks are common – as are turtles, frogs, lizards, and unfortunately, snakes. They played outside with plenty of room to roam and felt safe. They loved waking up on frosty mornings to see the horses frolicking on the neighboring farm.

Kylie loved living on our street. She lived here her entire life. Being the baby of our little clan, she always had a sister or cousin to play with and enjoy. We built play forts with sticks, sledded, and walked up the hill to the store together. She wondered about other houses and who was inside – we’d make up stories as we walked past. I remember taking her up to the top of the street to watch the sun rise and I will never forget her awe and wonder at God’s colorful display.

 

I watched the hearse take her up the same street on that cold, February morn and I wondered if my street would ever be the same. Could a history of good memories outweigh that one sight?

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and CURE has been selling gold bows to be put on mailboxes to raise awareness. Kylie’s aunt became a selling force and she contacted the people on our little street and told them about Kylie, about childhood cancer, and about a way to honor her.

And now I drive up and down my street and see gold bows on mailboxes. Gold bows for Kylie… resting on mailboxes of neighbors who knew her and some who didn’t; a few who didn’t even live here at the time.

And I feel safe, and warm, loved, and honored. And I remember. I remember how much she loved living on this street.

And I love my street even more.

 

 

 

I Don’t Want to Share This

Dear sir,

I saw you there. I know we didn’t talk much because we were both wrapped up in our own nightmares, but I wanted to tell you about a vague memory I have — probably one of the earliest burned in my brain. It must have been around 1973 because I was at prime lesson-learning age for a boy. My friend Tommy was over, and we decided to play marbles. You looked a lot younger than me. So in case you don’t know, those are spherical objects you must manipulate with your hands for entertainment because they have no electronics embedded inside. I know, sounds primitive.

The problem was that I’d been given a taw (big marble) by my grandfather and Tommy wanted to use it. Back off, pal! My little self had no intention of sharing that new marble — it was way too special for me to be touched by someone else’s grubby mitts. This didn’t set well with Tommy, and a fight ensued that spilled over into the hall and eventually into the kitchen where my mother was cooking. My mother did not appreciate my selfishness.

Knowing I was in trouble, I closed my hand over the marble and shoved my fist in my pocket. An inquisition began during which Tommy truthfully laid out everything. For my part, wrong or not, I was stubborn enough to keep my clenched fist in my pocket and the two of them weren’t strong enough to wrangle it out. Frustrated, Tommy left and my mother gave me one more chance to give her the marble. I refused. My course was set. I had not yet been convinced of the propriety of sharing. When my father came home, I was enlightened — not only about sharing, but about respecting my mother. I am fairly certain I ate my dinner standing up that evening.

I have been married long enough that I share pretty well now. I do grimace if anyone wants to use one of my tools or even set foot in my shop. But most of the time I get over it. I also have an issue with the console of my truck. I really don’t want to share that space even with my wife’s little lipstick tube. I don’t know why.

This may sound rude, especially coming from a stranger, but I have something I don’t want to share with you. I will hold this tightly in my closed palm and do everything I can to keep you from seeing or touching it. I don’t want to share it with you. In fact, I would lock it in a vault, hire security and do nearly anything to keep you from it — because it is simply unbearable.

I don’t want to share this with you.

I don’t want you to know what it is to yearn for the return of something you can’t have.

I don’t want you to live in the past because the present only brings pain and regret.

I don’t want you to lie hour after hour staring at a dark ceiling because you can’t turn off your mind long enough to sleep.

I don’t want you to look into the tear-stained eyes of your wife wondering if she will ever smile again.

I would do anything to keep this from you.

I don’t want you to have to tell your precious child that they are going to die and watch as they process the information.

I don’t want you to say goodbye, that you will see them again someday in another place. Likewise, I don’t want you to yearn for the hastening of that day because this life without them is too hard.

I don’t want you to smell the dirt of your child’s freshly dug grave.

I don’t want to share this burden of guilt as a father and husband — guilt like a thick winter coat buttoned and zipped so tightly you cannot remove it whether it is justified or not.

I don’t want to share this with you.

I will buy you a thousand marbles and even give you the special taw I withheld. I don’t even know you, and I would do anything in my power to keep this away from you — to not share this thing…

 

 

But if we must share it, we will shoulder it together and do everything within our power to keep our fists in our pockets so that no one else gets to see… Deal?

 

Artwork: “Game of Marbles” by Karl Witkowski –