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Tired of pedaling air
Scripps Howard News Service


April 08, 2005

All the parking places were filled. Duh. After a half-century of doing business with the U.S. Postal Service, I should know better than to try to buy stamps on a Monday in good weather.

I rolled my eyes and joined a pack of other postal vultures all circling the block for a spot.

After four passes, I was ready to give up and try later. Maybe midnight. Then I noticed - yes! Elvis had left the building and was headed for the Caddy!

Quickly, I cut off two other vultures and double-parked to wait while the man - an elderly fellow leaning on a cane - worked his way to the curb.

First, he had to get down the steps. Then he paused to adjust his suspenders, peering around as if to ponder where he was.

I was getting nasty looks from the other vultures, who were all mad because they didn't think to double-park before I did.

"Come on, little buddy," I whispered, "stay with me. Where did you leave your car?"

He stopped flat-footed near the flagpole and stood grinning up at a pair of statues, as if he'd never seen children with wings.

The Butterfly Kids. I hadn't noticed them in months. Help me! Could I really be so blind? The sculptor was my friend. I loved Chris Bell's work almost as much as I'd loved him.

His sculpture - two life-size kindergartners wearing wings and antennae - is a tribute to the town's Butterfly Parade.

Every fall, the children of Pacific Grove, Calif., dress in costumes and take to the streets to welcome clouds of monarchs that spend the winter in a forest near the beach.

It's the perfect small-town celebration - hokey, but lovely. And Chris's sculpture is the perfect reminder of all that's good about small towns.

Around Christmas of 1997, two weeks before my husband died of cancer, Chris and his wife came by to see us. They knew my husband was not long for this world. Before leaving on a ski trip with their boys, they wanted to say goodbye.

A few days later, we were stunned to hear that Chris had died of a heart attack while skiing.

My grandmother used to say we should never shy away from hard things that we feel called to do, because life's hardest moments are often its best.

A car honked, reminding me I was still double-parked. My parking-spot buddy, God bless him, had made it to his car and was fumbling with the door. Several minutes later, he had managed to haul in his cane, buckle the seat belt, put the key in the ignition, start the engine, look in both directions and inch very slowly into traffic.

I zipped in behind him. But instead of running in to buy stamps, I stopped to say hey to the Butterfly Kids. They looked as if at any moment they might take off and fly across the bay.

Children are like that - even the bronze ones - always ready to bolt. My youngest was born running. Before he could walk, he looked like Wile E. Coyote, pedaling the air with his feet.

I used to think the difference in children and old people was a matter of age and infirmity. I used to believe that, if they could, old people would love to pedal air. Lately I'm rethinking that theory. Middle age does that, if you're lucky; it makes you rethink all sorts of things.

The real difference, I suspect, in the young and the old is not just physicality, though surely there is that. It's more a matter of wisdom and experience.

Children run to conquer the world; old people want to slow down and savor it.

Life is not a marathon. It's a walk in the park. I don't want to run it. I'm tired of pedaling air. I want to slow down and savor whatever time I have left.

I just hope I don't spend it circling the post office.


Sharon Randall is the author of "Birdbaths and Paper Cranes."
Contact her P.O. Box 931, Pacific Grove, CA. 93950,
or at randallbay(at)

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