Nothing Gold

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. -Robert Frost

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Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

I am a white American middle class suburban housewife trying desperately to tell herself that that is not who she is. One time I was a glowing young ruffian. Oh my God it was a million years ago.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

a sad world

Warning: the following post contains references to me crying. If this makes you uncomfortable don't read it. Please do not assume that you understand more about the crying than I do, please do not lecture me and please do not tell me not to cry. If someone else leaves an unsensitive comment please do not feel the need to stand up for me. I can take care of myself. I am a big girl.

Note: I am not saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Please feel free to disagree with anything I say and to post accordingly. Please feel free to take me to task if I am rude. But, do not be a child about it and do not treat me like a child.

Note: Do not assume that you know exactly to whom I am referring. You may be wrong. Consider it general advice.

On to the post:

I walked to the grocery store today with Levi in the stroller because we just needed a few things - such as milk. While I was walking down one of the aisles an elderly black woman started mumbling to me as old people often will. She pointed to some graham crackers and said, "I better not get those since they're not on sale." I nodded, a little confused. She looked at me and said, "those nabisco crackers go on sale sometimes, I can get some them, I'd better not buy them now. We have to watch out for ourselves, don't we?" I nodded sympathetically, even though I am lucky enough not to have to 'watch out for myself' in that way. She than said, "prices have been getting so high lately, we have to watch out." I said, "yes" or some such thing and nodded some more. She started to walk away and mumbled, "It's getting hard just to make it." That comment broke my heart. I started crying right there in the grocery aisle. No one stopped, this is DC after all. But, to look at that hunched over old woman, to know how much she must of gone through already in her life, and to know that she is now just barely getting by is heartbreaking. If I assume that she is 86 (probably pretty close, she may have been older), then she was born in 1920. That means that Brown vs the Board of Education was not decided until she was 34. The civil rights act was not passed until she was 44, and the voting rights act was not passed until she was 45. It is hard to imagine what she's seen and put up with in her life. How is it fair that she can't even buy graham crackers in her old age. I wanted to help her so badly, but didn't want to belittle or embarrass her. I followed her a little, hoping to see an opportunity to slip her some cash or pay for her groceries without embarrassing her. I was in line behind her and she dropped something. I said, "I'll get it," and she forcefully said, "no, I can do it." Then she slowly bent down and picked it up. She wasn't the type to want help, so I really didn't know what to do. In the end, I did nothing to help her. She bought two cuts of meat and two bags of frozen vegetables and walked slowly with her one bag out to wait for the bus that goes to Anacostia. I don't know how far she rode that bus, but it's quite likely that she has no grocery store anywhere near her home. I really really wish that I could do something for her, other than cry and pray and know that there are many many like her.


Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

This is beautiful. I wonder if she was just glad that you acknowledged her and didn't dismiss her as a crazy mumbly old woman. I wonder if that was enough. But it sure would have been fun to figure out a way to sneak the graham crackers into her bag ;-)

But then ... I wonder. Last night when we were at the hospital, Jennifer and I were holding Ella and waiting for Mike & Stacy in the cafeteria. It was after the cafeteria was closed so the only food to be had was from vending machines. An African-American man dressed in a laborer's uniform (perhaps a plumber or mechanic) approached us and asked if we had change for a $20. He said he needed it to get food for his daughter who was at Childrens that night for a sleep study. Neither of us had change, but I had six one dollar bills. So I gave those to him, because I figured that was better than nothing and then he could get something for his daughter. About 20 minutes later he came back and returned my $6 to me, as a $5 and 4 quarters. He was not about to be beholden to anyone. You could just tell there was this sense of his pride about him. So ... maybe there is something cultural in the community that we are unaware of. I wonder ...

In any case, your story is very beautiful.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

crying and praying are underrated, I think

...and I found your preamble absolutely delightful!

9:25 PM  
Blogger Israel said...

DC is a harsh town. Harsher than any other I've lived in. And I lived there in 1996 and worked there and quit after 1 month this year. And the fact that you aren't as hardened as I became is a success. And maybe next time, you will find a way to drop an item or some money in her bag.... I have done the same thing... minus the crying. Well, in a different circumstance I did cry, actually... but for international suffering. That's a great story, Maggie. Don't lose compassion. And pray that you can see her again. We don't only have 1 shot at loving in life. :)

8:23 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Question: Was this the offensive post?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

yes, but not the post, only the notes and warnings. I wasn't worried about offending you.

3:09 PM  

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