Friday, September 10, 2010

The Reverse Peeper

It is 7:30 a.m. A weekday. Imagine that you walk up the two-lane driveway that leads to the brown-sided, two-story home, accented by shaker shingles and maroon shutters. You gingerly approach the burgundy front door, the morning sun warmly glowing against the house's reflective, cross-hatched windows as it bathes comfort to your posterior neck. You deeply inhale the passing autumn breeze, saturated with the smells of change. Slowly, you open the front door, turning the gold-plated handle down while pushing inward. You step forward, off the brick-lined stairs, into a foyer entrance.

You step onto warm, beige tiles as you gently close the door behind you. Facing you, a winding staircase embraces a wall completely covered in a variety of frames, their contained pictures telling a story of past and present family, from grinning babies with sprouting hair to formally-dressed young couples in love during the depression era. You glance to your left, noticing the wide, oak-framed doorway that leads into the formal room. A mahogany piano with glittering white keys sits in the corner, sheet music scattered across its front.

To your right, you see a glass-paned door invitingly open, leading into a home office. You casually peer in, noticing the filled mahogany bookcase, the L-shaped desk with a pile of paperwork off to one side, and the cozy, hunter green leather chair, draped by a matching green afghan and ottoman, in the far corner. You notice shelves of collectibles, more frames of family, and hung diplomas and artwork on the coffee-colored walls. The room looks comfortable and lived-in, a room you can accomplish paper-work in.

Finally, you notice the two oversized, side-by-side windows that dominate one entire wall. They face the front yard, watchful of the path from you which you just arrived.

And watchful of the path that leads away.

In front of those windows, on most mornings, stands a father watching his children walk away from their protective, comfortable home to their bus stop. He stands there in his pajama bottoms and a white cotton t-shirt, holding a steaming cup of coffee. His forehead and nose press against the pane, hoping his children will turn around to give him one last wave, one last acknowledgement, before they will soon round the bend of their cul-de-sac and no longer be in view.

He watches his oldest child, as tall as her mother, walk beside his middle child, his only son. They walk alongside one another, occasionally stopping to shift the heavy backpacks they carry. They nudge each other frequently, bumping into one another with the familiarity that only family knows. Their faces turn frequently to one another, and the father can see clearly the smiles and laughter privately shared between his two children. It makes him proud. Soon after, though, they separate, she going with a friend who met up with her and he chasing after two friends waiting for him further down the road.

They round the bend and disappear from sight. They are growing up too fast, the father thinks, wishing to himself that he could rewind time and slow down the hectic pace of life. He exhales, turning to face his quiet office, wondering if today will be the day he finally attacks the pile of paperwork waiting for him. He sits in his office chair and pulls up to the desktop computer. He is reflective, sitting there thinking about the stillness of the house. It seems too quiet. Perhaps, he thinks, he will write about this moment.

Within five minutes, thankfully, the stillness of the house is interrupted. A young, sweet, girlish voice, the voice of his youngest child, greets him. "Good morning, Daddy." She walks down the winding stairs with her bed's comforter wrapped tightly around her. He pauses at his computer, returns her greeting with a hug, and lets her begin her day. Her mother waits for her in the kitchen.

By 8:30, she too is ready for the school day. She stands at the front door yelling her last goodbyes, hooking the straps of her backpack around her strong shoulders. As she pulls the door shut, the house's canyon of stillness that just an hour earlier had haunted the father reemerges.

He resumes his position at the office windows. He watches his little girl traipse across the front lawn, her foot steps temporarily etched in the morning dew. She marches directly across the street, her blond ponytail swaying with her enthusiastic steps, where her bus stop awaits the queen's arrival. There are nine kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to fourth grade, and four hovering parents each morning. The father sadly shakes his head, thinking back to the days when he stood in line waiting with this daughter, a proud hoverer himself. Since those days, however, he and his wife had been dismissed from the job. "I'm too old to have you walk me out anymore," their independent daughter had explained.

The parents greet his daughter and look to the window, waving to the father, knowing he stands there on his days off. He returns their wave. The youngest of the children rush his daughter, their small arms quickly jumbled around her waist. She drops her book bag and kneels down onto one knee to return the hugs. Smiles and giggles and endless circles of running fill the next five minutes, until the screeching bus rounds the corner and stops to pick them up.

Through the bus windows, the father sees shades of his daughter's body as she walks the bus's main aisle until the last seat. She plops down her book bag before sitting herself down. On some days, she remembers to wave to her parents from her window as the bus pulls away, but this was not to be one of those days. The father waves eagerly anyway.

As the bus rounds the bend and leaves his sight, the father, once again, turns to face his quiet office and the stillness of the house. He had grown accustomed to a summer of chatter, of laughter, of arguing, and of simple daily moments--moments now stolen back from the eight-hour school day.

The father sits at his computer and stares at the blank screen. He misses his kids already. He is, however, not that naive to think that his pain is isolated. Parents everyday walk this path he is on. How they cope, however, may not be the same way he does.

He writes.

And so he pulls himself up to his desktop and begins. It is 7:30 a.m. A weekday...

Big thanks, as always, for reading. I hope you have a great weekend. This piece was an interesting one to write. I hope you enjoyed the peek in and "the father's" unique perspective.
See you next week!


Have Myelin? said...

Thanks for reminding me of some special memories. Especially today, on the 15th month anniversary of my daughter's death. It brought me some much needed smiles. =) =) =)

chefmeghan said...

Jim, very easy for me to picture! You are an awesome dad! Keep it up!
Nice post!

Katie said...

Please let me loiter here speechless as I bask in your eloquence.

<>< Katie

WarmSocks said...

Masterful piece of writing!

merinz said...

Keep those memories like a photograph! And also your stories for the children to read one day.

911RN said...

Great post. Micmics and captures my morning nearly verbatim. One of my husband's friends just came by and commented, "it's sooo quiet in here!" My husband and I both replied- simultaneously, "the kids are back in school!"

Heather said...

beautiful post. simply beautiful. :)

Cal said...

Very beautifully written!

Karen said...

This is a lovely post. The years do fly by, don't they?

Winking Doll said...

You're a great dad!