The Kindness of Strangers

We St. Louisans have always been a little nuts about Tennessee Williams.  We all covet our own stories which relate to him.  For myself, it’s a double-whammy:  My father lived near to one of Williams’ boyhood apartments, though not at the same time; and I once directed a truncated version of The Glass Menagerie.  Put aside that he occupies a grave in the same cemetery as my parents and my father’s kin, including my great-grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes for whom I am named.

I chose The Glass Menagerie when I got a chance to direct in high school because I relate to Laura, the forlorn daughter of the missing father and desperate, scheming mother.  She comes across as frail and pretty; shy and welcoming.  Her legs do not work properly, due to some mysterious ailment which isn’t quite explained, probably polio.  She suffers from pleurisy, which also plagues me.  I think of her as a romantic version of my crabby self.

But I have been told that I’m more like Blanche Dubois in Streetcare Named Desire, depending on the kindness of strangers and a little pathetic at that.  Perhaps so, perhaps so.  I suppose her cloying, slightly demented nature combined with her shrewish whine  prompts the comparison.  Certainly I have no enviable beauty.  Most apt of all qualities, my proclivity to rely on the kindness of strangers validates the comparison to this least desirable of Mr. Williams’ women.

When I arrived at home yesterday, Davin came out of the kiosk at the gate to tender two packages.  I knew them to likely contain chair cushions that I ordered in my maniacal quest to improve the seating in my tiny house.  We talked for a few moments, mostly about his mother’s recent medical scare.  I have a special tenderness in my heart for only sons.  Then Davin loaded the boxes in my car and I drove away, cautiously, holding my speed to the demanded five miles per hour especially given the rising sound of children playing nearby.

I paused again adjacent to the swimming pool to wave to Christina, who tarried in a chair beneath an umbrella.  I called to her, Watcha doin’, girl? and saw the broad smile rise on her face.  Getting cool! came the answer.  I waggled my fingers and turned back to the road, to the crunch of gravel under the tires and the fluttering hummingbird which tarried near my windshield.  I waited for the tiny critter to pass before proceeding.

At the house, I studied the boxes, determining that I should open them where they sat.  I could have asked my neighbor to carry them into the house. I certainly might have lugged them myself.  They did not seem heavy.  But then I would have to haul the packaging back outside for transport to the recycle bin. I find it best not to needlessly accumulate belongings since I occupy 198 square feet (slightly more, when measured vertically).  I strive to limit my possessions to no more than bare necessities.

Indeed, the boxes contained cushions, one of which seemed different than the picture suggested.  I must be used to disappointments, because I hoisted the lot onto my shoulder and started toward the house.  Just before I reached the porch, I encountered the hummingbird again.  I had no doubt that it was the same creature.  I fancy that I’ve learned to distinguish the markings of the small beings which frequent the park, like the jays which feast on my peanuts and the starlings which chatter overhead.  I studied the bird as it hovered near the door, then watched it flit away, bound for my neighbors’ feeder — for sweeter pastures, and more tender ministrations than I provide.  I watched until I could not see it against the dazzle of the mid-day sun, and then went into the house with my burden.

It’s the first day of the fifty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *