The Old Woman
No doubt she was a beautiful baby and an adorable little girl who I'm sure skipped merrily through her young tender life--splashing in puddles and collecting wild flowers in a tiny wicker basket lined with crisp colorful leaves and loaded with acorns and smooth pebbles and pretty soda-bottle caps and who knows what other little queer things which delighted her fresh young mind.
I'm sure she was the type of little girl who pulled at her mother's dress to veer her over to some cozy spot to watch a caterpillar make its way up a green stalk, or to kneel at the edge of a mossy pond to see how close she could get to a frog or a dragon-fly so she could sing a song or have an energetic conversation with those little animals which are always ready to listen to the soothing voice of an innocent child. I'm sure she played little girl games in narrow streets with lots of friends and neighbors running between newspaper peddlers and men with carts loaded with boxes of fruit. Maybe she flirted with little mischievous boys who teased and laughed and danced together in their early bubbling years of life without worry or care.
Those would have been in days long ago when the sun was just as bright as it is today whose warm vibrant rays toasted the tight rosy cheeks of her face alight with sparkling white teeth and long soft flowing hair which streamed along in the wake of her clear happy eyes as she ran along paths which all lead to and from the wise old sun.
Today I found her in Riverside Park slowly walking up a steep path which lead to a somewhat natural lawn alongside a short wrought iron fence next to the Westside Highway entrance. She meandered through some small trees and shrubs which appeared to be the only living things which presently cared to keep her company. There was something of a smile forever fixed on her weathered face, even if time and hardship left their wretched mark on her once tight rosy cheeks. I can only conjecture what unhappy events over the many painful years which steadily etched away the beauty of the young skipping girl to leave this forlorn old woman to scavenge her way through these final days of her life on this land which seem only bountiful for a chosen few.
There must have been something left of the happy little girl in her though, for the old woman still embraced the sun's rays and appeared to delight in the company of those noble trees. Regardless of the wear on her old weary bones she was still able to reach down amongst the scattered litter on the sloping lawn and seek out with her stiff calloused fingers, a sprig of wild blue flowers.
I wondered how long ago did the sprite of the happy little girl who skipped merrily along and splashed in puddles vanish from the old woman's body or was it pushed away so she could harden herself into a serious career-driven young woman to pursue a life turned away from the anxious little girl who just wanted, for the rest of her life, to play and sing and have conversations with attentive creatures which live in and around mossy ponds.
I felt compelled to go along with the hospitality of the trees and shrubs and even with the few rays of sunlight which broke through the cloudy afternoon, for they all appeared to look upon the old woman with just as much delight as they would had she been a little skipping girl with rosy cheeks. So inspired by the trees and shrubs and wholesome rays of sunlight, I walked up to the old woman in the chill of the lazy Sunday afternoon and offered her one of my photographs which I slipped out of my pocket. It was one taken of my beloved red squirrel friend who smiled out of a cozy hole in his Locust Grove tree, himself bathed with golden sunlight and bore a countenance which trees delight in.
The woman hesitated at first but soon reached forward slowly to take the photograph from my hand. It took a moment or two when that fixed smile on her face waned a bit and then a questioning glare as her weak eyes gazed and squinted. But soon enough her old eyes alighted and a smile broke through those tired cheeks like the very sun through a gap in the thick dark clouds which predominated the entire day. When she suddenly uttered some word which I didn't grasp and pressed the small glossy photograph to her bosom she looked at me and I am sure that I saw for one tiny moment the face of that happy little girl come alive skipping and running and dodging carts filled with boxes as the old woman’s heart seem to run through some far away narrow street laden with mischievous boys, and good puddles to splash into.