I grew up next door to my grandparents, our house perched above theirs on the hill at the quiet dead end of a busy street. I doubt there was a day in my life, other than vacations, when I didn't catch at least a glance of my grandparents' house outside our living room windows. A staple part of that view, for most of our lives, was the wheelbarrow.
|My parents with the wheelbarrow in the early 1970s.|
Within a couple of years, our beloved Granddad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of seventy-three. It's funny how as a sixteen year old, seventy-three seemed pretty old to me, and not that different than eighty-three or ninety-three. The older I get, the younger seventy-three seems. Parents and grandparents grow up too quickly, just like kids, I suppose. After his passing, every tangible item that stirred memories of Granddad became precious, and the loss of the wheelbarrow stung a little bit more for my sister.
Around the same time, one of us made an incredible discovery while riding the bus to university. The elevation of the bus made it possible to see over the hedges of yards just enough more than our car that we spotted the red and white wheelbarrow in a yard just a few minutes away from our house, where it had been all this time. Even though the wheelbarrow was not in the family anymore, at least we could take a peek at it now and then.
By this time, my sister had started dating a young man who loved poetry and good quality woodworking tools. He soon became a regular fixture around our house, and when he wasn't at our house, our phone line was inevitably tied up with their phone calls. This was during the infancy stage of the internet at our home, when the internet connection ran through the phone lines and was disconnected by anybody picking up the phone. There were some pretty epic battles between us three sisters for use of the phone line in those days. One successfully uninterrupted phone conversation led my older sister to tell her new suitor about the Disappointment of the Wheelbarrow, and the ensuing discovery of the proximity of the wheelbarrow to our house.
One night, they met as usual at the church's young adult's group, and he surprised my sister with a gift: a framed photograph of the wheelbarrow, and this William Carlos Williams poem:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
It was, she says, the moment she knew without a doubt that she loved him.
Fast forward about fourteen years to this Fall. On a drive in my parents' neighbourhood, I was a little crestfallen when I saw a "For Sale" sign with a "Sold" sticker on the house where the wheelbarrow lived. I wondered what would become of the wheelbarrow.
My uncle, who lives in a third house next door to my parents and grandparents, received a call late at night around that time from a woman whom he had never met. She explained that about fourteen years earlier, a young man had come to her door and asked if he could take pictures of her wheelbarrow, which must have seemed bizarre until he explained that it used to belong to his girlfriend's late grandfather, and had always been special to her. He asked the woman to please let him know if they ever decided to sell the wheelbarrow, and he would gladly buy it back for the family. She remembered after all these years how earnest he was, and wanted to return the wheelbarrow, free of charge, now that she was selling her house and moving. She described the young man to my uncle, and my uncle figured out whom she was talking about. My uncle was still puzzled, however, how this woman had found his phone number. Somehow, she remembered where she had bought the wheelbarrow, and drove back to my grandparents' house. Upon arriving there, however, she realized that at her age, she was not able to walk down the steep driveway to knock on the door. With incredible kindness and impressive disregard for the human gag reflex, she took the admirable and socially risky step of poking through the garbage bag at the end of the driveway, which was actually from my Uncle and Aunt's house, long enough to find a name and phone number. My brother-in-law was thrilled to be able to call and thank this woman, and tell her that he's now been married to that sweet girl for twelve years and they have two little girls of their own. A day later, the wheelbarrow was loaded up and brought back to their home and my sister has her wheelbarrow full of memories and love.