Remembrances of Things Small

To avoid the people waiting to ask me to make decisions (I am not the decider), I snuck out the back door, down the hill and into the woods, even though with all this rain, it’s very soggy, but my boat boots take care of that.

The wind is strong – another reason to go woods-ish: the tops of the trees susurrate and lean together with squeaks like teenagers whispering to each other, but down on the woods floor it is silent, still – squidgy, though.  The cold is finally biting in – enough to feel raw, but not enough to freeze the woods floor for my feet or the horses’.

Across the log that spans the stream at the head of the pond, and up the hill, passing trees like warriors on a battlefield, grappling with their branches to pull my body past them, using my arms because my boots slip on the wet leaves.

Reaching the road behind the boatyard, I head for the school for a drink of water, having forgot to bring any along in my haste to leave.  I call it the school because it was my old school – two rooms on the first floor, Mrs. McClain and Mrs Thompson, and I was there through sixth grade, so ’61 or so’ but then they consolidated.  Now it’s the firehouse, with two trucks in the room where I learned arithmetic and Lucy Robinson was so emarrassed one day she peed on the floor.  And a bunch of equipment where David Rice had to read his essay at belt level because he had an erection and Thompie caught him and Cheryl behind the paper stand doing what everyone else but her knew they were doing several hours of the day.  How she chased him through that room, hitting him and yelling – but when she got to the verb, she didn’t know what to say, “David Rice, what were you doing, what were you…fighting with that girl for?”  Well, some of us didn’t know what petting was, but we sure as hell knew it wasn’t fighting.

I feel all this looking through the windows, after I taste the sweet water that’s been coming through that faucet since I was a kid.  I’ve done this before, it’s not a surprise.

But when I come ’round the corner to go home, I see the door to the upstairs is open – it’s usually locked.  The high wind must have done it, I guess, but I walk in and up the stairs to the large community room, home of our Halloween parties and graduations, and nativity plays.  How small the room looks now – how tiny the stage that yawned before me when I was playing a wise man or preparing to sing.  How large the audience looked in this one-horse room with long pew-like benches.  It’s all dusty, hollow-sounding, the heater in the back of the room, with the handmade railing around it to keep us from falling against the hot, brown metal.

I take a turn up the stairs to the town office, and remember Robert Woodward, for so many years the town treasurer, so small his feet seldom made it to the ground from these chairs, but maintaining his dignity and composure nonetheless.  Large men in red and black checked shirts always surrounded him, and though they joshed him, they kept his counsel.

In the attic I find the chairs we used in the school – small metal things I use often in my lectures: the image, I mean, of children niched into ill-fitting desks, learning their habits of slumping and neck hyperextension.

Outside I close the door, that others might not make the journey.  It’s mine; it’s private.  That unused room full of pipes and fire retardents has Francis Koch missing the hula hoop record because a wasp flew in his face and he freaked and stopped.  Bobbing for apples with Kathy Farrin was the nearest first thing to a kiss that happened in my 5th grade.  And shining forth on Adeste Fidelis with Doris Sproul may have been my finest moment.  The room was  gargantuan, the crowd was huge, it’s roar audible down the road.  i’m sure of it.


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