“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow road, and I-
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
My dad loves Robert Frost. I grew up hearing this poem all the time. Little did I know how true it would be of my life one day. Two roads diverged, and I took the one less traveled by. I stood at that fork, and looked down a road that wandered into a dark wood, and another, familiar path. I agonized over it. I was following someone into that wood, while I held a smaller someone’s hand. I would have lost the first someone into a tangle of trees. I took a deep breath and pulled the smaller someone in with me. I knew there were shadows lurking in that forest, but hoped it would open into a field of flowers. I romanticized it. It hasn’t; not yet. We’re at mile marker 7, if you call a year a mile. Still hoping for a field of flowers.
The smaller someone has grown a lot. She has seen lots of things other children her age haven’t. The journey has wounded and shaped her. It is impossible not to contemplate how much easier that other, flatter, smoother path would have been for her. Some days, it seems she has a particularly suitable disposition for the path we took. But on rare days, she stumbles, and a small sorrow flies out, a bird released from her strong little ribcage.
We took a late afternoon walk this week, strolling past the casually strewn litter that dots our dirty landscape like stomped on confetti. Dog poop is as ubiquitous as the birds, and almost inoffensive, it bakes so quickly into dessicated mounds of earth, like liberally placed piles of homemade sidewalk chalk. The houses we pass are a box of crayons faded into exhausted pastels. Peeling paint and the tattered “mayas” used to provide economical shade over patios and courtyards are no improvement. Neither are the excess of peeling and fading promotional posters left over from political campaigns now 6 months forgotten, or circuses that left town a season ago. It is not a wonder that, against such an indifferent backdrop, teenagers regularly spray paint their love to each other, and misspell punk mottos about “skeyt”ing and “heyt”ing.
The last thing I expect on our routine walk is for my little traveler to brake to a complete stop in front of an unexpected space where one such wall previously stood, now absent as a pulled tooth. She is uncharacteristically still. Puzzled, I circle back to her and slide an arm around her shoulders. We have been passing evidence of new construction. This seems no different. She says in a tiny voice, “where is the wall?”
“Honey,” I assure her, “I am sure they are just doing a little improvement. They’ll put in a new, better wall.”
“But it was my FAVORITE wall,” she squeaks, the tears beginning to vibrate against her vocal chords.
“But Honey, what was on it?” I ask, trying to remember what could possibly have made it her favorite.
“Words,” she tells me, “and I didn’t even get to finish reading it. No one even TOLD me they were going to take it away.”
“Oh honey,” I empathize, realizing the symbolism of the wall. It was the wall that greeted her on the way to tennis. It was the wall that pointed the way to her favorite park. It was the wall that anchored the corner we turned to get home. It was so SOLID. It should have been there a long time. Everything else has changed. And changed again, and then again, again. But the WALL. It should have been reliable. She trusted it. She trusted she would eventually have time to read it all.
“Why does everything have to change?” she asks me, heart broken. She lists the things that have changed, and they are not the most important things on my list. But they are on hers. And the deal breaker, the straw that broke the camel’s back, is her wall. We stand in a parking lot for a long time, while I rub her back and let her cry. “It’s too much for a little girl like me,” she tells me. I don’t disagree. Two roads diverged in a yellow road, and I took the road less traveled, and dragged her after. It’s a lot for one little munchkin. Sorry munchkin. Someday, you will realize that you received some gifts along the way. Courage, heart, a brain. I hope, very soon, we get a pair of ruby slippers. Maybe we won’t. In which case, I hope you can find another wall to love. You appear to have a pair of ruby glasses, because all I ever saw was an ugly old wall. Don’t lose those glasses!
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
somewhere ages and ages from today:
You saw a wall differently than I-
you saw the world in a different way,
and that will make all the difference.