People-watchers…That’s what writers are. We’re not nosy, of course. We just see life-stories unfolding about us, and then we have to try to make sense of it all.
Recently, I had several odd encounters…Three, to be exact.
The day began normally enough. I was driving past a Nursing Home when I saw an old lady in a bathrobe climbing over a locked gate. She almost fell. I jumped out of the car in time to catch her.
“Oh, thank God!” she cried. “The Lord has sent an angel to help me!” She clung to me tightly. “You are an Angel from heaven, aren’t you!?”
Her name was Evelyn. She smelled old and tired—but she was precious. I held her ‘til she stopped shaking. “Evelyn,” I said. “You have to go back inside.”
“Oh no!” she said. “It costs too much to stay here. I need to go home to my own house!” Evelyn was one determined old gal, but I finally got her back inside.
Our entrance caused a quite a ruckus. The Charge Nurse was a rompin’-stompin’ woman who disliked escapees-in-bathrobes. I felt like such a traitor—bringing the old lady back! But what could I do? I promised myself I‘d return to visit the old gal, soon.
Evelyn was an inspiration. 83 years old and still climbing over fences! What a lady!
My next encounter, that day, was on the opposite end of the scale….It was absurd. Absolutely ridiculous.
I saw a prissy young woman standing by her sports car, talking to herself. She was dressed in stylish sportswear with the word “PINK” emblazoned across her rear-end.
Ms. Pink was a drama queen if I ever saw one. I watched in stunned disbelief as she started shouting, waving her arms as she pranced about the parking lot.
I soon realized she wasn’t shouting at herself. She was giving the dickens to somebody on one of those ear-phones. She raged and bellowed. She thundered and swore.
It was amazing to watch.
Eventually, she climbed into her sports car and began grooming herself in the rear-view mirror. Tweezing her eyebrows. Putting on make-up—still talking insistently. Although she prettied up on the outside, her insides remained the same…Ugly as sin.
At last, Ms. Pink started her car and roared off down the road. Still pouting. Still shouting. I wasn’t unhappy to see her go, but I regretted not getting to see the rest of her story.
After that, I felt the need to relax and regroup. I went to the coast to do some beach-combing. There I had my third encounter of the day.
It was as if the Good Lord had saved the best for last.
I found a little girl running amongst the sand dunes. She appeared out of nowhere. A small angel… A pixie with braided pigtails, big brown eyes, and a sunbeam of a smile. ‘Though I’d never seen her before, she seemed to bond with me instantly.
“I’m Olivia,” she said, skipping down a sand dune. “What’s your name?”
Olivia lived in her own world where all strangers were nice…Where the plainest, ugliest rocks on the beach were the best!…Where jeep-tracks in the sand were really dog-tracks in disguise.
She weaved fantasies amongst the driftwood and seaweed. She prattled and scampered, tossing rocks and handfuls of sand. With big brown eyes, Olivia saw things I couldn’t see. She dreamed aloud: chattering to me…to herself…to the sky.
Her fantasies carried us to faraway lands. She was young, yet ancient in her wisdom. Old-Worldish. Whimsical. Magical. A willow-the-wisp that flitted from topic to topic—with butterfly agility. I followed her as best I could.
At last, I caught sight of Olivia’s parents sitting on a blanket, just beyond a big sand dune. So—this child wasn’t an Angel, after all. She had parents… People who were as relaxed as Olivia, herself. So trusting. Too trusting, really!
I wanted to warn them about the perils of “stranger-danger”… But they waved me aside with a chuckle. “We want Olivia to live unafraid,” they said. “Isn’t she great? Don’t you wish everybody’s kids could be like her?”
I had to agree.
All too soon they had to pack up and leave. The sun was starting to set.
With mixed feelings, I watched them go. Olivia carried her “plain, ugly rocks that-were-the-best.” She laughed and twirled her way across the sand dunes—following the path of jeep-tracks that were really big-dog-tracks in disguise.
As abruptly as she had come, Olivia disappeared from my life. I sighed. What memories I’d made today. What lessons in living!
Three strangers of different ages and temperaments. They spoke to me of what I was…what I could be… and what I shouldn’t ever become! Ms. Pink: tough-and-jaded. Dear old Evelyn: sweet-yet-determined. Little Olivia: young-and-innocent.
I sensed that I would never see them again…and it was so.
Olivia vanished forever into the misty sand dunes. Evelyn was transferred to another Nursing Home somewhere. And Ms. Pink…Well. I really didn’t care where she went. I was only glad that she was gone.
That evening, as I watched the sun sink into the ocean, I breathed a simple prayer:
Lord—let me always remember this day. Let these strangers and their stories remain forever in my heart. May I be as persevering as Evelyn… As joyful and imaginative as Olivia. And may I never be like Ms. Pink…in any way.