Day 9: The Park

As the trees shed the last vestiges of fall the leaves crumbled underneath their feet as they made their way into Central Park. Arms interlocking they strolled beneath the near naked canopy in search of an empty bench to sit on. The warm fall breeze belied the calendar as November continued to march to its own rhythm.
Out of the corner of my left eye about thirty feet away I noticed a woman in her early seventies sitting alone on a park bench. The glory of that bench had long since passed and I mourned the missing slats, chipping green paint and splintered wood. As this woman was slight in stature she seemed not to notice or care that this bench was in such a state of disrepair. Her hands were moving at lightning speed but at this distance I couldn’t tell what her hands were doing.
Trying not to be too obvious, I nudged my partner.
“Don’t look now, but when I give you the signal, check out that woman sitting on the bench. Can you see what she is doing?”
“Knitting, what did you think she’s doing?” Savannah asked.
“You know I can’t see that far! All I could see was the rapid motion of her hands and I couldn’t imagine what she was doing.”
As we ambled along the path, the sun continued to defy the season by shinning ever so brightly in the mid-morning sky. The woman on the bench began rummaging through her knitting bag in search of something, what was anybody’s guess. I became transfixed by this woman. What was it about her that captivated my attention? I gently nudged Savannah to occupy the vacant bench directly perpendicular to the knitting woman. Our park bench put us within striking distance but out of the woman’s line of sight.
My imagination began to take hold as I drank in this woman’s unique presence. Her face was an expressive roadmap of a life not without challenges. There was something oddly familiar about her but I could not figure out what that familiarity was. For some unknown and inexplicable reason tears welled up in my eyes and a sudden sadness came over me like a veil. What memory was being evoked by my subconscious? I didn’t have a clue. As I continued to peep over my shades in an attempt to be incognito, the click clack sound of her 10 inch knitting needles were in the hands of a confident, self-assured and experienced woman. Never missing a stitch she knitted row after row of crimson red wool with the precision of a machine.
“I wonder what she’s making?” Savannah whispered.
“Haven’t a clue.” I responded glancing sideways not to be noticed.
Savannah lost in her own thoughts saw an elderly woman sitting on a park bench on a sunny November morning. The woman that Savannah saw was all that Savannah hoped to be at her age. To Savannah the woman exuded an elegance and beauty often seen by women native to the countrysides of Italy or France. Women toiling in the fields often fall victim to the ravages of the sun as their leathered lined skin and calloused hands will attest. This woman on the bench with each knit and purl stitch exemplified the regal fortitude of those women that Savannah admired.
“I bet she is knitting something for her grandchild” Savannah mused.
“Nay, I think she is making a sweater for her husband, but wait I don’t see a wedding ring, so maybe not.”
As we continued to sit on that bench mesmerized by the click clacking of those knitting needles and lost in the musings of our own imaginations, we both heard the rustling of leaves underfoot. We simultaneously turned to see who was approaching. An elderly woman and her companion entered the north side of the park and were making their way towards the woman on the bench. I couldn’t decipher how old this second woman was but my educated guess was that she was somewhere in her eighth decade of life. The woman on the bench never looked up as she was intent on finishing her mission, whatever that was. The companion and her charge rounded the bend and although I thought they acknowledged the woman on the bench I could not hear what they were saying.
Savannah whose hearing was more acute than mine gave me a sideways pinch while her excited whisper was approaching a feverish pitch.
“You’ll never guess who that second woman is?” Savannah squealed hardly able to contain herself.
Who is she? I stammered as I tried to lower the decibel level.
“The woman on the bench is her daughter!!” Savannah stated in disbelief. “And guess what? She’s making her mother a sweater for her ninety fifth birthday!
The two of us continued to sit on that bench without saying a word. As the hour progressed, more and more people entered the park. The woman on the bench who engaged our imaginations so intently gently put her unfinished sweater back into her knitting bag with the aim of finishing it another day and time. As she reached for her mother’s hand I suddenly realized why I had such an emotional response and connection to that woman on the bench. Although her physical resemblance was not the same, she had so many qualities reminiscent of my grandmother who passed away when I was a child. Both women were about the same age and both women exuded confidence, determination and beauty by their very presence. They had qualities that were almost impossible to define but it was so ever present. As I watched the woman on the bench fade from sight I was suddenly overcome by joy. In my heart and mind, I knew that in some strange way, my grandmother and I reconnected on this sunny November afternoon.

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