My aunt told me a story once. She was young. A little girl. They may have been living on Sherman Avenue, but definitely somewhere, in the houses on the east side of Dayton.
One day, a neighbor,( or friend of the family) stopped by. A chatty sort. A little loud an overbearing. My grandmother welcomed her into their home. The visitor was very unlike my grandmother, who always seemed quiet, and gentle, and reserved. Grandma’s name was Jeanette. I have very little memory of her. At all. I remember the last night I saw her though. I was three years old, and there was a birthday party, for me. Grandma got sick that night. She needed to go to the hospital. My sisters and I hid on the landing and watched, as my Dad and aunts and uncles ushered her out the front door of our house, draping her coat across her shoulders. I remember the screen door shutting, but no one had bothered to pull the main door shut. And that was it.
I remember her too from old photographs. Grandma Jeanette always had a look on her face, like she knew the inside joke. It was not a grimace, nor was it a smile. The expression landed somewhere in between. Right in the middle of the scale of Knowing. Knowing.
But back to the story that my aunt had relayed. (Or a version close to it.) Grandma sat the three of them down at the modest wooden kitchen table. She put out some coffee and biscuits. They sat and snacked and conversed. Most of the speaking came from the mouth of the visitor. Non-stop. And as she sat there, yammering at will, she made a very big effort of sweeping up all the biscuit crumbs into one neat little pile. She picked, and plucked at those crumbs. She lined them up. Moved them around. And swept and gathered. Finally, she had retrieved every little last one, this chatty guest. And when they rested in a perfect little pile, she drew back her hand and briskly swept them from the kitchen table, right onto the floor. Scattered. Away.
My young aunt and my grandmother were aghast. They couldn’t believe she brushed those crumbs onto the floor. Nonetheless. That is how it went.
But aside from all of that. Seeing this over in my mind, I’ve come to a thought.
We are the crumbs. And the way life unfolds, is that big hand at the end of the chatty guest’s arm.
Life happens. It moves us around, and positions us this way and that. The circumstances of our surroundings, are out of our control. Sometimes we are picked up, piece by piece. Or maybe things seem to be in a perfect row. Then we get pushed, and pulled. Sometimes we are guided into one big perfect-pile of together. And then there are moments, when the big hand comes along and scatters us all about. Things are never as they seemed before and we are free-falling through the air and on to the ground. But we are still there. We are still the same little crumbs. But our “placement” changes. Our perspective has changed. Our position is altered.
I think we all seek a peace of mind. Yet sometimes, the big hand…. the movement of the universe, shifts the places where we once were settled. We can fight it, screaming as our crumby selves fall to the floor. Or we can accept it, and see newness. That we once were crumbs, but now we are soaring with newly sprouted wings. Flying somewhere.
Seneca, one time said, “One should count each day a separate life.”
And that is how it goes.
“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
“It isn’t by getting out of the world that we become enlightened, but by getting into the world…by getting so tuned in that we can ride the waves of our existence and never get tossed because we become the waves.”
― Ken Kesey, Kesey’s Garage Sale
“A Man Said to the Universe
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
― Stephen Crane, War Is Kind and Other Poems