Friday, November 30, 2007

The Old Couple And The Leaves

Last week, on a day that was exceptionally warm for November, I found myself observing people, as I often do. Bella and Grace, (the kids I'm a nanny for), and I, were outside on their front porch. The girls were painstakingly searching for the perfect leaves and sticks to use for their "taco stand", and I was enjoying the fact that I was sitting, and absentmindedly munching away on my "taco", when suddenly an old man and his wife emerged from the house across the street. I always love to watch old people. There is just something so interesting about them to me. I wonder about their lives, what joys and sorrows they have experienced, what parts of the world they have been to, what amazing stories they have to tell. There is something so beautiful about an older couple who have spent their lives loving each other, and are still holding onto each other lovingly after years of commitment. So, of course, I was riveted to the scene unfolding across the street.

They walked down the few steps to their driveway slowly, the woman's back hunched over, probably from osteoporosis, the man holding her to keep her steady. They didn't appear to talk much - they had a job to do. They each grabbed a rake and began to ever so slowly rake the huge amount of leaves all over their front yard towards the driveway. Every so often they would stop, and sit down awkwardly on the steps, breathing heavily, but still determined. The more they worked, and the longer I watched them, I found myself wanting to go over and help them. I even thought briefly about telling the girls we were going over to help, when I had an image of them running and screaming through the leaves, scattering piles that had already been raked, and thought better of it.

The couple worked for a long time, and I found myself looking at their house and the ones that surrounded it. I suddenly noticed that their yard did not have any trees in it! Not one. I wondered "Where did all those leaves come from?" Then, I saw the huge tree, two houses over from the one I was at. "How unfair!", I thought, "that they have to rake all the leaves from a tree that isn't even theirs!"

Suddenly another old man came out of the house with the huge tree. He walked over to the couple, and I could see they were exchanging pleasantries, chatting and laughing, and hitting each other on the back as old men often do. He pointed to his house, then left and went home. At this point, the old man, (I envision his name to be Stanley), started stretching a blue tarp out across the driveway. He raked the piles of leaves they had made into the middle of the tarp. Then, the old woman, (I envision her name to be Gladys) and Stanley started fiddling with the rope, and pulling and pushing at the tarp, trying to figure out how to wrap it around the leaves and tie it up. This is how the conversation my head, at least...

Stanley: "Grunt, grunt, groan".
Gladys: "Stanley, I don't think this is how it goes. What did the directions say?"
Stanley: "I don't know, Gladys. I threw them away. I know what I'm doing."
Gladys: "Of course you do, dear, but maybe next time you should keep the directions".
Stanley: "Yes, dear. You're right. I will".

Notice two things in my imaginary conversation. One, the wife remains calm, and tells her husband he of course knows what he is doing and lets him believe he is smart and all knowing, she is merely offering a helpful suggestion. Two, the husband, has the good sense to agree with her suggestion and tell her she is "right", regardless whether he will actually take her advice or not. This is why, I imagine, these old couples are still married and in love. They know what works.

Once they gathered the tarp around the leaves in a way that they deemed acceptable, Stanley started to carry the tarp haphazardly across the street, toward the huge tree guy's house. Why, I'm not sure. Meanwhile, Gladys kept up her slow and steady pace, continuing to rake what looked to be one of the last piles of leaves she would have to do. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind blew, and I watched, horrified, (as if in a movie's slow motion sequence), as all of the leaves that were left on the huge tree blew directly into Gladys and Stanley's freshly raked yard! I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. But then, I looked at Gladys. She stood in the middle of the driveway, looking up at the sky, shaking her head incredulously. She was saying something - her lips were moving. I laughed out loud, and she glanced across the road at me, and our eyes met. She laughed, waved, and shrugged her shoulders. Then, she picked up her rake and resumed her task.

And this, my friends, is the secret to a long and happy life, as I see it. When life throws another pile of leaves at you, you look up to the sky, say a prayer or curse God, (whichever works for you), shrug your shoulders, and then...get on with it.


Pam said...

thanks for the reminder! I had a bad day today- blogged about it so I could get over it and move on. I'm not good at that...working on it. This story was cute and hopefully I will think of it next time the "leaves are falling" on me.

Burgh Baby said...

Best. Post. Ever.


Pam said...

Sorry to stalk your blog! Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful comment. Knowing others have felt hopeless at teaching and unable to reach their students really helped me! That and the move to an island ;)

Kellan said...

Jen, this was a great story and written so elequently and I loved it. Thanks for sharing this lovely story. See you soon. Kellan

Hannah said...

What a precious story!! Thank you so much for sharing it and for reminding us all that sometimes life throws tihngs our way which may seem annoying (or upsetting) but we have a choice, we don't have to respond negatively. Great post!!

P.S. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind comments about my scrapbook pages :-)


Cecily R said...

What a great story and a great reminder!

I am often reminded by my kids that I need to slow down and enjoy things more often. I think if I just slowed down and watched more like you did that I might learn more too!

Unknown said...

What a really good post! I really love this story.

Aunt Becky said...

Aw. That's a cute one!

Anonymous said...

This post is priceless!! I love it so much. What a beautiful message to take and give. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Zoe said...

that was great!!! i too love to watch old people...well really all people for that matter!

Jen said...

Pam, This week I'm dreaming of that island! This is the time of year I start chanting "Why do we live here?" until my husband goes mad. How has this week been back at the zoo?, uh I mean school.

BBM, (looking down at my feet and blushing) Really? Seriously, you made my day. Thanks.

Kellan, Hannah, Cecily, Joan, Becky, Eileen, and Zoe,
Thank you all so much for reading, and for all the compliments. It means a lot.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Great post and great ending. You are such a talented writer! I really did enjoy this one! It was like a short story....I was kind of glued to it actually! It's so great to catch up on some of the posts I missed along the way...or were here before I was!

JCK said...

I love old people, too. They are special.