At least I walk most days in these “unprecedented times”—a phrase I am thoroughly weary of. I decide to head out about 3pm so I can walk before the sun starts its descent at four. It’s well-hidden today, in grey clouds that are threatening rain. It’s been a day of staring at faces in rectangles and my brain is tired. In the wake of news that someone in South Korea got the virus from twenty feet away in less than a five-minute crossover, I decide to wear a mask—it keeps my nose warm anyway. Just a normal day of walking around the world prepared to do surgery at any given moment.
I walk to the cemetery intending to walk through—it’s got a nice slope to give my heart an extra boost. I would normally give a little shout-out to my parents, and my childhood friend and her mother who are all buried here, as I pass through. Today though, the cemetery road is full of filming trucks. My little-ish town has become a film set practically 24/7/365. Many imaginary worlds threading through this little town that itself could be the setting for Sunshine Sketches from a Little Town, albeit maybe fallen on some hard times. This is at least the third time I’ve seen filming in the cemetery in the last two months. I see that the lighting and cameras are set up rather close to my childhood friend’s grave. She was 22 when she died in a car crash as she was coming home from a dress rehearsal. It has always gutted me that she never got her opening night. I hope that the camera might catch her gravemarker. It might be her big break! Is that macabre? Probably; but the thought my friend might get a little part in a movie still rather delights me. I heard she killed at the audition.
Because creating imaginary worlds creates quite a bit of real-world mess and obstacles and requires a great many people, I opt to keep my walking path along the suburban sidewalk instead. I check out people’s Christmas decorating. I always think the outdoor decorations can look a little sad when it’s still daylight so I mentally applaud those ones that look good while the sun is still out (while allowing some decorations are made for darkness). I giggle at the porch that boasts both a cheery Santa Claus and a collapsed Halloween skeleton—its torso and head lounging lazily in the porch chair; its legs separately lying underneath. The Ghost of Decorating Past. I wonder that they were able to make the effort to put up Christmas but not take down Halloween. Curious. And relatable. Especially this year. All our seasons feel a little mashed up.
I walk past another childhood friend’s home. She died—when was it? A year and a half ago. No a little more. A year and 3/4 I guess. It’s a story still too painful for now. There’s a new car in the driveway and there’s an ‘N’ on it. Wow. Really? Her oldest can drive now? It’s possible. She’s just a year older than my youngest. I haven’t even taken him for his ‘L’ yet. I resist my kids’ pull for drivers licenses. I worry. I fret. It’s a Mom thing. But I also know that you can die in a car crash two blocks from your home when you’re just coming home from a dress rehearsal. And right now, just walking around in the world feels dangerous. I’m irritating my family and I know it. “Do you have your mask? Is it clean? New filter? Hand sanitizer? Do you really need to go to school/work/grocery store today? Keep your distance. Layers of protection. Numbers are still bad.” I probably need some therapy.
We are all giving each other very wide berths on the sidewalk. An elderly man observes me from his driveway and offers his thoughts with a smile “You look like Santa’s helper!” I take it this is a reaction to my red coat, red sweater, and toque with the red pompom and brim. I do look rather Christmasy I suppose and so I agree with his observation and we laugh together momentarily. Old Men in Driveways should be an archetype. Like you could go to a Tarot reading and pull “Old Man in Driveway” and the reader would say “Ah, this is the moment, you must pause in your journey and look at yourself unfiltered, in the present moment through the eyes of one who has wisdom, perhaps mixed in with bias, and the certainty that your assessment is correct and your viewpoint necessary.”
I get home before the gloom has decided to turn from grey to midnight black which happens these days with a slam at around 4:30. Just a few more days until the solstice and then there will be more light—a few minutes at a time. A vaccine is here. Hope is on the horizon. My daughter has finished decorating the Christmas tree. She was all Mission Christmas today. I was able to let my work colleagues have little peeks of the progress through their rectangles. I missed handling the objets du Christmases Past—the decorations from childhood, my children’s childhoods: the angels, the birds, the stars. It looks and smells lovely. We opted for a Grand Fir this year instead of the usual Douglas. The smell alone is worth the extra $30. Sorry Douglas, it’s true.
And so Old Man in Driveway I’m looking with your eyes. I see imaginary worlds being brought to fruition through real-world chaos. I see my ghosts. I see decorations and ghost decorations. I help Santa and let others help Santa too. I walk with fear. I walk with hope. I see light amongst the darkness. I am here.