I have caught a glimpse of her at different moments of my life. I think it began when I was about three or so; I would be walking and suddenly she would be there. I remember seeing her skipping down a sidewalk, arms waving in the air as she sang to a song in her head. On another day, when I was about five or so, she was sitting up in a tree with a little lunchbox balancing next to her and she was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I must have been about nine the first time I saw her with more than just that lunchbox. She was carrying a huge tote bag that seemed to be filled with lots of stuff and was much bigger than her little shoulders could hold. She still smiled and waved though.
A few years later, I came across her in the middle of a rainstorm. She didn’t have on a raincoat and stood on a street corner shivering. She was wearing a backpack and carrying that tote. Before I could ask her if she needed any help, she hopped on a bus and was off once again.
For a while, I kept looking for her, hoping she was fine and that maybe the bus had taken her someplace that felt like home. And one day my question was answered. There she was, standing on the shores of a lake, smiling. She was wearing the backpack still and carrying the tote bag. And she had a little suitcase next to her. But she looked happy and content.
About 10 years ago, I remember seeing her in the middle of an airport. She had a trunk, two suitcases, a backpack, and a basket on her head. She was carrying at least six of those tote bags and a huge purse. I just stood there watching her pull it all through the terminal. “How were they ever going to let her get on that plane?” ran through my head over and over for weeks after that. At the time, I didn’t even think about how odd it was that she didn’t use one of those carts or ask someone to help her.
A few years ago, she was sitting on the trunk with four suitcases, about eight tote bags, and two backpacks surrounding her, her face buried in her hands. The little lunchbox was tumbled over to one side. My heart ached for her, but I was too shy to comfort her. I wish I could have told her that it would be okay and that if she wanted, she could just get up and leave it all there, taking only what she needed. Taking only what she wanted to bring along to that next minute, day, year, lifetime. I wish I could have told her that she could just walk away from it all.
About a year later, I thought I saw her out of the corner of my eye getting ready to climb up on a merry-go-round. But by the time I turned my head, she was gone.
And last year, well, last year was different. I stumbled across her in the middle of a spring day. She was sitting on a rock along the sea. All she had with her was the little lunchbox and her backpack. She was clutching them both to her and sobbing. Not wanting to disturb her, even though I knew I might actually be able to talk to her this time, I tiptoed away quietly.
Well, lately, we have been running into each other quite a bit. Sometimes she just waves as she sits amidst wildflowers watching hummingbirds zoom over her head. Other days, over her shoulder she carries a curly willow branch with a bandana tied around the end. “Must be full of the important things,” I think to myself when I see that indigo blue bandana. There are some days when she has that backpack again and a suitcase or two at her side. And when I catch her eye, she just looks at me and shrugs her shoulders with a “doing the best I can” look on her face. Then she wheels the suitcases away.
It’s kind of nice knowing she is out there somewhere figuring it all out as she goes.
(to read about more baggage, click over to sunday scribblings)