Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where the Wild Goose Goes

wild goose
brother goose

When we moved into this house we have, it was the only house on this side of the neighborhood. Vacant lots surrounded us, and we soon discovered that the lot across the street was a meeting ground for large gatherings of Canada Geese, on their way to somewhere else.

We became bird watchers from our windows. But, eventually, construction came in and put houses down on the Geese's meeting ground, all the way down to the end of the street. After that, we never saw large numbers of Canada Geese again. Occasionally, two or three would come down and walk around, looking for the party. But after that, they were gone.

Until this year. In late May, we were visited by a Canada Goose family. Father, mother, and four goslings. Twice a day, they came through our little backyard, in single file, the goslings in between, with parents fore and aft. Virtually soundless, they took their time, grazing. They would continue on through everybody's backyard and then we would see them again on the way back. Over several weeks, we watched the babies grow up. And then we didn't see them any more.

. . . .

At work, I usually take my lunches alone. An old man's prerogative. For the past year or so, my habit has been to grab a fast sandwich somewhere and then go to the nearby Kroger, where I can purchase a cold bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, in the large size.

In the front of the store, several tables had been set up for weary shoppers and most of the time I had no problem finding a place to eat my sandwich and drink my coffee milk. Wednesday, however, was the day designated by Kroger for giving a 5% discount to senior citizens. Accordingly, as if by plan, a bus from a nearby home would haul a bunch of them to the store every Wednesday to buy their week's provisions and also return a few pennies to their mite.

On Wednesdays, I had to take my chances. When I arrived, the senior citizens, mostly female, had completed their shopping and were all gathered in the table area, socializing. But it was not a problem. In a few minutes, the bus would come and word would spread through the group until everyone was informed, and they'd start lining up to go out.

Then a few months ago, the store undertook a major renovation. It stayed open for business, but no part of the store was unaffected. Whole departments were displaced by construction crews. Outside, the entire facade of the store was destroyed and then rebuilt to look different. Heavy equipment was brought in. The managers stood outside and apologized to everyone for the inconvenience, short of offering an indemnity against mishap.

In this renovation, it happened that the table area was removed. All the furniture was packed up and hauled away. The senior citizens found that they had no place to gather. Their meeting ground had fallen prey to a modern kind of life that none of them had any use for. But they kept coming, on schedule, every Wednesday. Someone at the store put up a few folding chairs in a line along the wall across from the checkout counters. The senior citizens sat there, unhappy, waiting for the bus to come. They didn't talk, they didn't socialize. The bus would come, they would go out, and then they were gone.

. . . .

Last week, a good soaking rain came in, just before bedtime. We went out on the patio and listened to the sound of rain at night. My wife said, "I wonder where they go, when they're not here. I wonder where they are tonight."

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