I am a former teacher of English and for many years worked in social services addressing the needs of residents in affordable housing. There is pure joy for me in sharing my poetry, in relating the many wonders of life and human experiences as a mature observer of people and nature.
Don’t Call Me Late Anymore
Thunderheads stacked up over city buildings send bullets of rain pinging onto the windshields of cars as they screech to a stop on opposite sides of Washington Street. A quick check in the rearview mirror reassures me that the metallic green SUV which has been tailgating my vehicle through Providence made the red light without compromise to anyone’s fender. Despite the weather and traffic, I am feeling lucky today, and if directions to this morning’s Punctuality Training Session are accurate, I might be on time…. for once.
You see, there is this demon in me, a taunting and distracting force called Procrastination. It lurks in my subconscious ready to delay and deter me at the mere suggestion of a deadline. I admit it. For most of my life, Procrastination has caused me to be apologetic, even sorry, for my habitual tardiness. But nobody ever really scolded me about not being on time, probably because I had such great “stand-by” excuses: I didn’t feel well and woke up late worked okay when I was in school. Not to brag, but I was late for class nearly every day of my senior year, and I lived just across the street from the school. Later, inclement weather and traffic jams became the preferred reasons for showing up late. Then it was the dog or the kids…or my mother called from Idaho just as I was leaving.
Rain falls in soft drizzles as I arrive for my training. I am a little tardy. And all because Procrastination lured me into the drive-thru lane at Dunkin’ Donuts where I had to wait ages for the Grind-of-the-Day. I expect the trainer to read me the riot act. Instead, he gently allows me into the session, asking me about my lifestyle, sizing me up. He is confident that I can get rid of this devil of a problem. “It is not in your genes, afterall, he says. Procrastination is just putting off the inevitable.” Slowly at first, he begins a kind of exorcism. He rambles on in a lecture about punctuality, making me repeat key words like prompt and timely. Words move quickly into a volley of scolding phrases. He’s hurling them at me now, so fast all I can catch is- leave earlier, have goals, stay focused.
I am taking his advice immediately. My goal is to leave early so I can be home in time for dinner. With intentional lack of interest about everything except the road ahead, I stay focused until reaching the intersection at Washington Street. As amber turns to red on the overhead traffic light, I notice a flashing yellow arrow pointing left…. DETOUR, it warns. Wouldn’t you know it!
My sister-in-law insisted on rescuing me from my Saturday morning task of pulling weeds from an overburdened garden. She would introduce me to the fine art of yard sale-ing instead. “You’re never going to find the perfect vase (pronounced vaahz) for your foyer if you don’t get out and look for it.”
Jeanette’s mouth curled into an assuming, militant smile. Simultaneously, her left hand shoved the garden spade into the garage as her right arm marched me to the passenger seat of her 4-wheel jeep. At the turn of a key, we headed out on our mission, bumping over potholes, veering continuously from crooked mailboxes plunked on the sides of country roads, until we dead- ended somewhere past South County.
Even at mid-morning, flickering neon lights waved a multitude of yard-salers into one and a half acres of open market at Hollow Grove. As I trudged through damp grass in open-toed sandals, a quick glance at mile long tables wedged under lofty pines, which, by the way, kept spitting cones at us in sudden wind gusts, suggested a long day of exploration.
The smell of old furniture hung in the air as Jeanette maneuvered me from bargain to bargain. I felt a shiver of familiarity when we snaked our way around small appliance displays, noting that it was quite some time ago that I discarded the same blender and corn popping machines. Yet among a stalagmite of arts and crafts, tacky exhibits of household items, books, and vintage clothing, Jeanette found just the right knick-knack for her mantel, the prettiest welcome wreath for her door, and dozens of must have articles for immediate gratification.
Hours later, as I swung tired legs into the jeep, I revealed my find to Jeanette. When she asked, “What in hell is THAT?” I proudly replied, “It’s a tab lifter, a small plastic gadget for opening soda cans.”
“But you don’t drink soda,” she laughed.
Like a good soldier, though, I have a plan. I am never going to use this engineering marvel. It will be kept in a cool, dry place, undisturbed in its original packaging. Sometime into the future, if the Antiques Road Show visits Boston, I will bring my discovery to the plastic’s device expert. In front of a gasping audience, I hope to realize that this 25-cent item, manufactured circa 2022, is now worth 25,000 dollars. Then I will hire a gardener to weed my plants. If I have not already done so, I can use the free time to go yard sale-ing in search of the perfect vaahz.
November is bazaar month. I didn’t exactly make this up. Let’s face it. Most holiday shopping starts at an annual bazaar sometime during the shortened days of autumn. Bazaar shopping is not a yard sale, neither flea market nor craft fair. It is an invitation tacked on bulletin boards, sent by flyer, or posted on telephone poles promoting a seasonal shopping experience. If you think that bargaining for mismatched, possibly defective items donated to the “White Elephant Nook” or vying with a neighbor for the last tray of Congo Bars at the “Baked Goods Table” is a stressful yet rewarding activity, imagine the preparation involved in setting up such an event. Know that busy hands and creative minds equal success.
Church bazaars are one thing, though the Boy Scouts, Parent Teachers Association, Senior Centers, etc., have managed their own version of cottage industry, hoping to bring money into their organization. The local vocational school is a favorite of mine. Every year they run a theme for their “Homemade Items Booth”. Last year it was Gingerbread Houses, edible, sweet dwellings put together with TLC and a tweak of imperfection which means they are the genuine handmade article….no assembly in Sri Lanka, no imports from China. This year, it’s Bird Houses, snug little abodes painted green with glued-on pine cones and a tiny silver bell which jingles above the entrance. I suppose the sparrows will want to know when they have a visitor. Instead of answering the bazaar invitation, I might just put a few bucks into the Salvation Army kettle or make a drop off at Toys for Tots. But then, the local vocational students may not have their ski trip this winter, and I won’t have a new bird house.