I am a creature of habit. I generally maintain the same routine and take the same route to places I frequently visit. On my route to the grocery store, I fell in love with the adventures of a little girl whom I would never know. I fell in love with her because even passing by her in a moving car I could feel her energy and her spirit.
This charming little spirit lived in a small house in one of the older neighborhoods in my town. Her house was in need of a new coat of paint and the chain-link fence was wavy in appearance where I’m sure at one time it stood rigid and straight. At the front corner of the fence, there was a small tree – leggy from lack of pruning. At the height of its bloom, the leaf spread was still sparse. Between the small tree and the corner of the fence, there were two old chairs, worn from too much sun and not enough attention. As I describe it here, it sounds a little dismal, but this little girl made it anything but that!
If I had occasion to go to the grocery store in the late afternoon, I always saw her. Most days she had a friend and it was obvious the two chairs between the spindly tree and the wavering fence were transformed into a very special place. I could see their shoulders rise as they covered their giggling faces with their tiny hands. They whispered what I can only imagine were amazing secrets into each other’s ears. I caught them toasting each other with imaginary cups and bowing like the princesses they most obviously were.
Today I drove by and noticed the house was changed. The tree was gone and so was the delight of a special secret hideaway. No old chairs tucked away behind barren branches. Contractor’s trucks were parked there while they painted the exterior. The fence was still standing but I am sure it won’t be there long. I realized at that moment it had been some time since I had seen ‘my little girl’.
I’m sure many people will say how ‘wonderful’ the house looks. It will be transformed from something special to something more ordinary – more cookie cutter. I worry that the house with the special secret place has become the latest victim of gentrification. I hope not, but I suspect so. I want to believe that the little girl with the imagination capable of drawing passing strangers into its force field has found a new and better magical place. I miss her. I was her a long, long time ago….
As I drove home, I was affronted once again by the huge mega-house being built on the lot beside our house. The trees are gone – the places where the hawks stood watch. The house so large that it consumed a double-lot with little green space remaining. The house with the four car garage and cinderblock walls. I wonder what the runoff will be like when hurricane season arrives?
Where are you, little girl? Where did you go?
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
By Emily Dickinson
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!