The closer we get to moving, the more I have been trying to get outside every morning for a long walk. It’s a divine experience, like the closing of a powerful novel with a final chapter that nearly takes my breath away; the various shades of green and color amongst the scent of a newly blossomed springtime screams with intensity.
I haven't always looked at this scenery with gratitude.
There are things that I didn’t always like about our house, the neighborhood, our zoned schools, or, at times, even our neighbors. I have done my fair share of complaining.
Oftentimes, I was open and loud in sharing my thoughts, especially when it came to things like a neighbor getting upset when our giant mess of a golden retriever got out of a door carelessly left open several times a day; he would happily bulldoze through the lawns playfully while I would chase him from yard to yard, out of breath and full of anxiety.
“I am doing my best!” I would retort. “For crying out loud, the kids let him out. I have no control over these things!”
My outward frustration didn’t cool the situation much, but the neighbors stopped fussing after a while. I suppose they stopped listing to me.
During my walk this morning, the sun was alive and fully awake, the energy from its heat serving as a reminder of a summer quickly approaching. As I came down the street, I noticed Mr. Spectacles outside walking one of his dogs. It was the old, fat brown one who waddles with his sad eyes seemingly appearing to be slowly and mournfully counting down the days.
Mr. Spectacles lives on the street behind us and he is a peculiar man. He has a fence full of rescue mutts he comes outside to feed several times a day, waving his feet in their direction and cussing as he approaches their hunger with a large silver bowl; they grovel below him in anticipation of their feast.
Out of all of the characters down on this peninsula in this old part of town,
Mr. Spectacles is the one sprinkled with the strangest mix of seasonings.
Mr. Spectacles mows his lawn nearly every day, sometimes in the dark, and if the dander on the dirty window panes above the kitchen sink is raised, I can clearly see and hear him talking to himself and speaking in profanities.
“God dammit!” he would say as he trampled through the muddy parts of the drainage ditch that runs between the yards down the side of our adjoining properties.
Sometimes it concerned the kids.
“Mr. Spectacles is crazy,” they would say.
“No, sweetheart. He’s just different in his own sort of way,” I would respond.
For a while, I was a little unsure about him, too. However, eventually, I would strike up conversations to better understand his personality. Over the years, I have come to know him as an odd friend.
This morning, as his long and lanky frame of bones approached closer to me, I smiled and nodded in his direction.
“Good morning, Mr.Spectacles. How are you today?”
He slowed to a stop, that old dog lethargic and groaning a little at his side.
“I’m doing great. You’re moving, huh?”
“Yeah. We are headed down south a bit for the schools. I hate to leave, but we’re ready for a change.”
All of the neighbors know we homeschool and exactly why. I didn’t stay too quiet in the community regarding my frustrations with the school district and their tendency to not want the voice of concerned parents to echo too loudly.
That was a trying time for all of us, both within our household and with whomever I came to know. I carried the frustrations of those days upon my sleeves; I was adamant to find a plan that would help me to gain some kind of control over a situation that disagreed with me in an unfavorably pronounced sort of way.
By the grace of God,
I eventually learned that control is just a figment of the imagination anyway.
Mr. Spectacles looked around, holding the leash in one hand and placing the other on his narrow hip to hold his crooked frame in place.
“I sure hate it when the good ones leave,” he said.
Our conversation went per usual, and, as always, he had something interesting to say.
He looked off into the distance, waving his hand out in front of his fragile frame as he told me about the springs that run underground beneath the drainage ditch the Executive and I have aptly named ‘the Swamp’ because, after a good rain, the water stands in huge puddles down there for days; the mosquitos during the summertime are unrelenting.
I listened to Mr. Spectacles patiently, giving that old dog a nod every now and then, so as to say, “It’s all right. Hang in there, dude,” as his owner growled on for a few minutes about different neighbors over the years and how much he detested the rotating residents who rent the house next to us, the ones whose yard backs up directly to his.
He seems to butt heads with whomever moves into that house every couple of years. Their disagreements do little to help the situation when they end up making calls to animal control when Mr. Spectacles’s flea-ridden beasts, oftentimes in twos, escape the holes in his fence; a situation that typically upsets the children with the same reaction one would expect from an encounter with a savage pack of roaming wolves exiting a dark forest to wreak havoc in the sunshine.
And, it’s understandable.
His dogs are rough and scary looking, and the one with two different colored eyes looks like he could have been born from a litter straight out of Lucifer’s crawlspace.
As far as I know, none of his dogs have ever attacked anyone. They mean the world to him, though, and, even though they have fleas and are dusty from rolling around the bare patches of his back lawn, he treats them lovingly. They each seem to embrace a different flavor of his personality in their own unique way.
I looked into Mr. Spectacles’s deep-set blue eyes that seem to hold more stories than I could ever imagine. He is a man I have come to know who sometimes just needs someone to accept him for who he is, to nod with a genuine smile when passing by, and to stop every once in a while to exchange thoughts about all of the things.
“The springs underground,” he continued, “cause the water in the ditch not to drain very well. That’s why I mow it every day. It keeps the water from standing too much during the downpours throughout the seasons.”
“I’ll be sad to see you go,” he concluded.
I responded sincerely, “I will miss speaking with you.”
And, I will.
The curious tale of Mr. Spectacles will not easily be forgotten.
I walked down the street, deciding to cut my walk short as I stepped onto the grass from the worn out pavement and headed off through the lawns to our back doorway. I stepped into the house, taking in the smell of last night’s dinner still lingering from the kitchen.
My kindergartener came around the corner, peeking through the kitchen doorway at me in the mudroom as I removed my shoes. I brightened at the sight of her still in her pajamas, her messy hair framing her little face full of freckles with eyes still so full of wonder and admiration when she looks at me.
“Good morning, Mommy. I saw you talking to Mr. Spectacles,” she said.
“He was telling me about springs that run beneath the Swamp. Isn’t that cool?”
She rubbed her tired eyes that were still adjusting to being awake as she walked down the double stairs and onto the cold marble floor to stand in front of me.
“Mr. Spectacles is crazy, Mommy,” she said.
He’s just different in his own sort of way.”
I truly appreciate the time you spent reading this story.