Friday, April 11, 2008

The life and times of Gerdie

Gerdie is never late. She wakes with the sun, she sleeps with the moon. She always arrives on time.

Her birth name is Gertrude, a family heirloom that never quite fit. It was like a pair of shoes handed down three generations. By the time Gerdie got it, the sole was gone.

That's how she's always felt about her name. In fact, it was how she felt about everything, like she arrived a few generations too late. Born 60 years earlier, deep in the era of Dinah Shore and T.S. Eliot, her life would have been different, if not, at least, her CD collection.
Instead, she is encapsulated in the age of media overload and American Idol winners.

You could say that is Gerdie's obsession with punctuality. And you might be right. Then again, no one - least of all Gerdie - knows why she is always on time.

I met her on a Tuesday. She was humming a tune that sounded very much like "A Tree in the Meadow," a 1948 hit by Margaret Whiting. It was so faint, like a lark on a wind drifting from one gust to another. I wondered later if it had only been a harmonic ringing in my ears.

We didn't say anything. She was arriving at work. I was doing the same. She nodded and I nodded back. It was a greeting I've grown accustomed to over the weeks, like she is saying, "I already know everything you are going to say. Let's just get our work done."

I didn't take it as a slant. In fact, it felt more like a sisterhood. We were the only members of this society. Just her. Just me. Just our unspoken agreement to remain silent.

Without words, I've learned to read her movements, her moods, her tweets of frustration and her silent sighs in the afternoon. She has a sway to her movements like the offbeat rhythm of a jazz melody. Yet the job always gets done.

I'm a big fan of Gerdie. Or maybe it's her work ethic. I've faithfully greeted her every morning, nodding our understand as she soars to her task and I walk to mine. Piece by measured piece, she snaps together the puzzle of her work, the reason for her being. It's an instinctual craving, I think. I feel it, too.

Gerdie doesn't understand her purpose in life. At least not all of it. Yet she labors without a hitch, not knowing where it will lead, only that movement won't happen without action.

I admire Gerdie. She's a little small for her age and wears too much black. But she's building her future one small twig at a time. In the end, it could be a nest, or it could be a castle.

In honor of my little black bird who greets me each day. Thanks for the working companionship - you outside the window, me always beyond. I don't know your real name or your real history, but if we ever find a way to cross the communication barrier, this is what I imagined you'd tell me.
Just so you know, you are building a nest that will eventually destroy my porch roof. And I just refuse to stop you.
So build on Gerdie.


Chris Busch said...

Build on Tara...

Jason Michael Shuttlesworth said...

I had no idea what you we're talking about until exactly 3 minutes ago. . .pure genius post.