Hoops In February

No, not that kind of hoops. Another kind.

Wednesday, February 4. I entered Walmart with the simple mission of buying hoola-hoops for a Homecoming pep rally game. So mundane. So check-it-off-the-list. A non-moment. It was cold; I was thinking ahead to the dessert I needed to make for our small group that evening and to the Julius Caesar Act II tests that needed grading. Do all of life’s big moments happen when we aren’t looking, when we are hair-in-our-face, rooting-for-the-keys, don’t-forget-crisco?

No one buys hoola-hoops in February. So the big sparkly rings in my buggy were invitations to fellow shoppers to smile, laugh, remember, demonstrate ‘hoop’ skills. It really was like a Coke commercial and I was handing out free Cokes. The hoops were irresistible!

I rode the wave of the brotherhood of man up to the checkout line and knew not that I was about to splat on life’s unforgiving beach. A woman and her daughter stood behind me in line. Like everyone else they were captivated and intrigued by the hoops. They smiled involuntarily and then the woman, off the cuff, happily, and with 5 words, redefined me.

Are those for your granddaughter?


Even now, sitting here, I have a bottle-neck of thoughts clumping up in the narrow channel of my writing hand, each vying for first consideration.

~I realize the ridiculous arrogance of my shock at her comment. What did I expect? Did I think I was exempt?
~Though I do not have a grandchild, of course I’m old enough to have one. I am at the extreme outer edge of my mid-40s and our oldest child is 22. That’s not what surprises me and stops me cold. It’s that I LOOK like I could have a grandchild. That one look at me pegs me for Memaw, Nana, Gigi, Gran-Gran.
~What exactly do I look like??  I know what I thought I looked like. And ‘grandmother’ wasn’t in the tag list.
~How can this have happened on a gray, February Walmart run? Can’t we be dressed up and ready for the biggies?
~We all know it’s coming, we are just never ready for the first person to actually say it out loud to us.
~This is worse than being asked if you are expecting a baby when you are not.  It might not seem like it, but an erroneous ‘When are you due?’ is an enormous compliment.  It says you are easily recognizable as one in her dewy, fertile, springy youth.  An erroneous ‘Are those for your granddaughter?’ says ‘You are a withered prune, a tumbleweed on the high plains, a bespectacled marm who conjugates verbs and nothing else.’

And then – perspective. Perspective came through the poet John Keats and from my seniors who are studying him. Keats gives us a beautiful urn with its pictured characters in the flush of a youth and beauty frozen in time, eternal.

And my brilliant students, young and beautiful, ponder and conclude: “Yes, but it’s a sterile beauty, one that never grows. It can never grow closer to the ones it loves. It can never achieve anything. It is a permanent beauty, but at the cost of growth and change. It is silent and barren.  And that’s too high a price. Beauty and eternal youth are not worth it.”

Lessons from my students and hoola-hoops in February.

Walmart In My Front Yard: Negotiations Begin


Dear City Commissioners:

Evidently you are proceeding with your plan to build a Walmart IN MY FRONT YARD despite my poignant story of what the cornfield means to the residents of Woodland Street.

So be it.

Here are our terms.  We, the Homeowners of Woodland Street and allied streets including Daisy, David, and Edgewood, hereafter referred to as HOWS, accept the commercial presence of Walmart and its satellites provided you gentlemen and gentlewomen broker the following privileges for us:

* Each HOWS will receive a personal grocery buggy that we can keep in our garages since we will not need to drive because we are closer to the coming Walmart than the mattress store is to the current Walmart.  HOWS buggies will be bright yellow to distinguish them from the gray general population ones.  Monogramming will be optional.

* HOWSes will have a small back access for ourselves and our yellow buggies on to the property through the thick wall of hemlock pines I am certain you intend to plant – a simple card-swipe gate for HOWSes only.

* HOWSes will have access to a walking/jogging path around the perimeter of the new facility with mile markers designated. No dogs allowed.  Really, this is the least Walmart can do.

* HOWSes will be provided light bars and sirens for our vehicles to allow ingress and egress from what will be a gridlocked St. Joseph Dr. onto Woodland Street and vice versa.

* Each HOWS will receive one jar of Nutella per month.  The 26 oz. jar, not the 13 oz. one.  Non-negotiable.

Believing these terms to be imminently reasonable, indeed generous, and awaiting your response, I remain,

Faithfully yours,

A Neighbor

Pardon Me, There’s a Walmart in My Front Yard

Dear City Commissioners,

By some oversight the new Walmart is even now being constructed IN MY FRONT YARD.  I realize that choice piece of acreage just cried out for concrete and retail and progress.  I can even appreciate the chop-licking revenue anticipated in the form of jobs, surrounding-county shoppers, and satellite development around the mother ship.IMG_0687

But gentlemen and gentlewomen, we have called that land “the cornfield” for 18 years, though I don’t know if corn per se ever actually grew there.  It contained mimosa trees, a four-wheeler track, an abandoned home with a deep well hunkered down in a copse of pines.  We think the creature that ate some of our cats had its lair there.  A blackberry bramble spread thick and prickery and hard to get to.  Occasionally we would find discarded clothing which conjured illicit trysts, also undoubtedly prickery, which we didn’t tell the kids about.

We did tell the kids to pedal fast when passing the cornfield at twilight when they were first old enough to ride the neighborhood as autonomous free agents.  Pedal fast, I would tell them, because who knew what interstate vagrant, headed to Iowa or something, might lurk in the tall shanks of hay, waiting, waiting to pounce and steal their pocket money to buy a scrambled egg and coffee at Waffle House??  Honesty forces me to admit that my kids never had pocket money, and our vagrants are gentle and harmless.  But still.  The cornfield held its mystery.

Most of all the cornfield was green, green in that breathing, elemental way.  It was a green wall to our north that held our homes in its limbs and muted the world and blew cool, benevolent air down our streets, streets less and less wooded, less and less deserving of the name Woodland.

A sign to the Ave Maria Grotto once hung nailed to a tall pine at the edge of the cornfield, right on the corner.  In all our ramblings, day trip or longer, that sign was a welcome, you-are-almost-home, unload the babies and tuck them warm in their beds.  The pine came down when the Texaco went up and we regret we didn’t get the Grotto sign as a memory.  So, I guess I blame you, City Commissioners, that my children grew up.  Fair enough. Unfair blame comes with public service.

Well, it’s too late now.  The exposure is irreversible.  The once-green benevolence is now white-glare and backhoes.  I can practically wave to the operators as they crawl mechanically over the hills and ruts of cornfield dirt.  I will probably, in the not-too-distant future, be able to wave to the Walmart managers as they park in the back of the new mega store to punch in for their shift.  They won’t be the mimosas of the cornfield.  They won’t carry memories of my children on bikes in summer, free of me, and cicada happy.  But I suppose I will end up loving them just because they are there, and they are people.

Just please leave the rest of the cornfield alone.  OK?


A Neighbor