Things You Can Count On In a Changing World
'The world changes fast these days,'' my father said. It was 1946, and the trolley tracks in our town were going to be torn up, and buses put in. My father was right, I thought. Without a streetcar taking us to the city park to see the ball game and hear the band concert, things wouldn't be the same.
''Come on,'' he said, and took my hand. I felt the roughness of his skin and saw the printer's ink that never quite came out from under his fingernails. We walked to a little grassy area. It was dusk, and people were mostly home. Only the light in the pharmacy was burning.
At our feet were the last of the yellow wildflowers. We had been careful to step over them. Now, my father picked one, smelled it, and gave it to me. Its fragrance was the same as the ones in my grandmother's yard next door.
Quietness hovered over the town. The boy carrying evening Sentinels in the cloth bag over his shoulder waved to us as he started up toward Juliana Street. Dad waved back.
The streetcar weaved across the center tracks. The motorman clanged and threw up his hand as he rounded the corner. He knew my father. ''I walk in the morning and ride home at night,'' Dad always said. He left before I got up, but he was home for an early supper with the family. I didn't know then that he only had the money for one way.
My father pointed abruptly to the darkening sky. ''They're leaving, but they'll be back.'' I saw the jagged formation of Canada geese that was almost a V, but not good enough for Mr. Kress's writing class. They were quiet, but when they passed over our heads, their loud calls made me cover my ears.
My father pulled me to my feet. We walked along the concrete sidewalk past the lighted houses. Folks were eating supper and getting ready to do homework or play.
''What about the streetcars, Dad?'' I asked, looking up at a face I couldn't really see in the dark. ''I don't want to ride a bus to the park.'' I remembered how I liked to sit on the double track, hoping we'd have to wait for the other car, so I'd get dizzy trying to figure out which one was moving when it passed.
''We'll ride the bus. Oh, it may be smelly, and we'll need to hold the wicker picnic basket on our laps, and maybe Mom will have to juggle the lemonade jug between her feet. But we'll go, and after a bit, we might like it better,'' Dad said.
We did go. The bus was smelly. The driver wore khaki instead of blue serge, and I didn't like it at first. But when we pulled the wooden bench up to the band shell, and Mom handed me a chicken sandwich, I guessed it wasn't all that important.
Today I came from down by the river. I didn't see the streetcar or the Sentinel boy, but I passed the home-owned stores and saw lights in the police station and cars moving along the streets. People passed and said hello. It was too late for flowers, but I knew they'd be up again. Dad was right. Some things you can count on: spring, geese, the goodness of people.
Whenever doubt sets in, I go to some special place in the town where I live. And the walk home past the lighted houses always makes me know my father was right. He had a word for it: faith.