Thursday, November 14, 2019

Little Moments


This poem was in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago.


I've been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say "bless you"
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the bubonic Plague. "Don't die," we are saying.  
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up.  Mostly, we don't want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it.  to smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 
and for the driver of the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire.  Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, Here, 
have my seat," "Go ahead--you  first," "I like your hat."


This poem reminds me of my  collection of brief  moments.

Years ago Arthur and I had breakfast in a diner.  At the next table was a man with, I think, his daughter and grandson.  He finished his meal and said,
“That was very good.” 
The way he shared his enjoyment has stayed with me for thirty years.

Then, more recently, I saw a man with two little girls, about nine and six, crossing West 12th Street at Hudson.  The big girl ran ahead and the Dad said,
“Ashley, I’ve told you and told you, don’t run ahead of me across the street.”  But she saw the school bus ahead and ignored him, barely calling good bye over her shoulder.  The little one followed her sister but as she put her foot on the bottom step of the bus she turned around, ran back to Dad, gave him a kiss and said, 
“Bye, Daddy, I love you,” and ran to the bus.
I wonder if he remembers that moment as I do.

Then there was the young woman I overheard saying, 
“Well, it was a living Hell, but it could have been worse.”
What could be worse?  Maybe if it doesn’t end.  Maybe she was celebrating that she’d survived.
Again, a tiny moment I’ve held on to.  
I bring these stories out once in a while and they always give me a lift.  Do you have stories like that?





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