I don't relish days like yesterday. The sorting and dividing and moving began, as I prepared to depart from Casa Barnyard, the little space of heart I made into a home. It was wrenching. At times I felt I was suffocating under a blanket of pain. And it isn't over.
Mid-afternoon, however, daughter Hope arrived. Not so much to help...this is a one woman task...but to receive. I handed her wall pictures, my set of water colors and my hand carved flying harpie from Mexico, ultimate muse. And some jewelry. This was where the energy took a turn. In the bottom of the jewelry box was a child's bracelet, fake gold links with tiny stamped Indian heads that hung and jiggled. Oh my, I said, that bracelet was a childhood gift from a man called Charlie Rounds.
Charlie was an old carnie. Santa Claus-like w/o the red suit or white beard. He ran the shuffleboard stand at the annual county fair where one paid a quarter and slid a heavy metal disk down a sawdust-slick alley. Three in a row like tic-tac-toe, into cut out holes, was a winner. Dressed in shorts and cowboy boots I'd make my way down the midway amidst the giant oak trees, past the lemonade stand, and hand my coveted quarter to Charlie, whereupon he positioned himself down by the holes. I was ten and stood on a little box. It took extra discs to get the first two in. Charlie would laugh and slide them my way. When I launched the final disc his chubby hand zipped out from his side and knocked the disc into the hole whereupon a siren went off announcing that I’d won. Every day I strutted home with a huge stuffed animal of my choice. A big white cat with a sequined collar. A fluffy pink dog.
Strange as I look back. Just what did mom and dad think, me befriending a strange old man? I remember the day when Charlie drove up to the house unannounced and talked to Mom and Dad. He probably came to introduce himself. Not only was I allowed to keep seeing Charlie but our relationship continued beyond the five-day small-town fair. Charlie and I wrote letters throughout the year and he sent me little trinkets now and then. And every year when the fair came to town I anxiously awaited his return. Until one year he didn’t appear. And the letters stopped.
I often wonder how today’s protective society would respond to the likes of Charlie. Perhaps police would be called to check out the man who befriended a little girl. In the shadow of Amber Alerts he would be thought a pervert or pedophile and children would be ordered to stay away.
Not so with Mom and Dad. In fact, on one trip on the way to Chicago Mom stopped in the little Illinois town that boasted his return address on his many envelopes. We pulled up to the curb, I ran up to his door and excitedly knocked. And knocked. I was finally met by a neighbor who came around the corner.
“I’m here to see Charlie,” I grinned.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “Charlie died year.”
Yesterday Hope took the bracelet and fastened it around my tiny wrist. Every child should be so lucky to find a 'Charlie angel,' someone willing to reach into their life and line up the spheres on their behalf. Someone to send them home with the greatest prize all … trust in a stranger.
I continue to sort, divide and move...a tinny little bracelet on my wrist.