I saw my Beautiful Yesterdays in the passing strangers.
Perhaps I should refer to them as “The Unacquainted”, as they are far from strangers.
Now, at 57, and having raised five children, they are almost a flashback.
They are walking in the park, these four, this pack. Two in the prime of their youthful adulthood, the four-year-old toddles along behind him, and she is pushing the stroller with the littler one.
He (and toddler) string out ahead a bit, pause, wait for the other two. They catch up. He looks up from his phone to address her. (I cannot hear their words, if any, at this considerable distance.)
She is saying “Put up his hood, it looks like rain.” or “Do you have three dollars?”
He is saying “Do you want to get lunch?” or “What time will your mother be over?”.
Their clothes are ordinary. Not old or worn, nor necessarily new or fancy. Perhaps they’ve bought these things, perhaps some were gifts. A winter coat from Grandma. A new shirt from sister. Fuzzy lounge pants from a sweetheart.
They’re walking and pushing a stroller because they have no car. Maybe they are saving for one, hopeful for this summer. That he may reach out for that better job across the river, so she can bring groceries home in a trunk, not a stroller laden with bags and bundles. So that they may drive to the lake on a Sunday afternoon and have a picnic while the children play in the cool water.
Maybe they are city folks, and have no need for the expense and burden of a car. Buses take them to work, to the barber, to Cub Scouts. They will almost never use a taxi. Cab fare that could be spent elsewhere. Two suppers. Formula. Diapers.
The apartment is small, in Woodbine Square, known to be…affordable. Perhaps they dream of moving to the Gramercy Apartments. Tall windows, Victorian stairs. Maybe this year.
The challenges laid before them come at a steady and manageable pace. They appear not as mountains or even boulders in their path, but rises in the road ahead.
She wants to take up knitting. Has a few needles and things from Mom. She parts grudgingly with the six dollars for a skein of yarn. She knows she will have three warm and pretty scarves to give to her little family when her labors are through, but still feels a slight twinge of guilt spending this money which could be milk and eggs, apple juice, bus fare. Still, she must have this small comfort. The price of one small beauty in this world surely will not break the budget.
He is saving his money. He thought he was saving for a new pair of waders for himself, just in time for Trout Season.
But then, next month is Mother’s Day, and his savings are three-quarters the price of the Mother’s Day ring she admired in an advertisement. Perhaps waders will wait.
Each day they bring the energy and spirit gifted to the young and the young at heart. He rises with the sun and goes off to work, to return twelve hours later, a little richer, a little older, and a little tired.
She follows a different clock, independent of the sun and Earth and the world spinning around her. The slightest coo in the crib that shares the master bedroom, and her “mother alarm” sits her bolt upright.
“Hey little girl” in hushed tones, heard only by these tiny ears, quiet, so as not to disturb the others, “Is it time to get up?”. A beaming smile greets the child.
Life is far from care-free. Fortunate enough to have a decent job in the richest country in the world, they are taking care of themselves, independent, paying their own way. Some bills may need to be put off a week, and there are few extravagances. Yet there is comfort, and simple joys.
There will be a few arguments. There will be some heated debate about topics which are very important to those in this stage of life. Sometimes it’s about money. Their goals and desires, the someday place we want to be. Sometimes the money is a tyrant, lording over them mercilessly. Slaves to monetary society. Sometimes it feels like the money is so finite, we fear our little tribe will go under. We think this last thought in silence, in the darkness of night, the solitude of rational fear.
Sometimes the argument is centered on symbols. Behind the argument is a ponderous pile of memories and imaginings. Childhood dreams she feels are slipping away. A dream of the person he imagined for himself, before he vanishes into the “Mr” of “Mr & Mrs & Family”.
Underlying the sentiments are fear and uncertainties. health and success for ourselves and our children. The not-knowing of the future. How can we be sure we’ll “Be okay” as dad says? Will you really stick by me? Like the old song about old people, written by a man at the ripe old age of perhaps twenty-five, “Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?”
The little family walks on, down the path and turning left into the apartment complex.
And I see in them the beauties of untold tomorrows. It’s not necessary to make a morbid account of those (we pray few) Black Days which seem to visit most lives. I see in them all the beauty of my own beautiful yesterdays.
Lunch in the park over, I must return to work now.
You see, I’m saving my money…