The Little Things

September 20, 2011

Guests say sometimes, “It’s the little things.”

I get that.  It is the little things.

People also ask sometimes, “When do you go away?  Where do you go?”

I can read a book and “go away,” and I can do that whenever there’s time, and David does that, too.  Sometimes we go together, when we talk about the things that we’re reading.  But sometimes we scoot here and there as well, up to Middletown on a Thursday morning to be with dear friends, or like the day in August when we went to Brigantine at the Jersey shore to be with our daughters, grandson and son-in-law.  (It’s the little things that can be the big things.)

So today, at another beach on the Jersey shore, at Wildwood Crest, where we’ll be for one more night, I’ve just finished reading James McBride’s book, Miracle at St. Anna, a story about the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division during WWII, where I guess you could say I’ve been visiting 2 places at once.  And before I leave our room to go out for a long walk to the other end of the boardwalk and back, (to go to another place), I wanted to secure my get-away souvenir:  some quoted passages to remember, instead of one found in a gift shop.  Because just like a gift shop goodie,  if I don’t have my memory in my hands (or on a blog or fb post), I’ll just forget.  And I hate that.  Remembering is better.

Small “touches,” like a smile, a note, a card, a greeting, a tiny gift, a mint on a pillow, a sandwich-sized ziplock with homemade cookies–are all little things easily forgotten, perhaps, but hopefully assimilated into an experience.  McBride wrote about a different small touch, the literal kind, and another “little thing” that I wanted to remember–for the experience of it:

       Lying on the floor, the boy reached up and motioned for Train to come closer.  Train complied, thinking the boy wanted to whisper something to him.  Instead, the boy raised himself on his elbows and gently ran a hand across Train’s face, then through the rough texture of Train’s wooly hair.  ‘If I turn your head,’ the boy said softly, ‘it will be my birthday.’

      Train didn’t understand.  He felt the little hands pulling at his head, the innocent young eyes searching his face, and shame washed over him like water.  A white person had never touched his face before.  Never reached out and stroked him with love, and the force of it, the force of the child’s innocence, trust, and purity drew tears to his eyes.  He expected to feel nothing when the boy touched him, but instead he felt mercy, he felt humanity, he felt love, harmony, longing, thirst for kindness, yearnings for peace–qualities he’d never known existed in the white man.  The boy ran his hand over Train’s face and held the big man’s nose.  His innocent eyes searched Train’s, and as their eyes locked, Train could see inside him and saw not derision, or fear, or loathing, but hurt and searching and pain from a thousand indignities.  He saw light, darkness, flickering hope, but most of all he saw in the child’s face a reflection of himself.  He had never seen that in the face of any person before, white or colored, not even a child.  He stared at the boy, transfixed  (pp 73-4).

 

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