i met a great old man yesterday. his name was lester. i was driving through maryland, going faster than i should have been, but there's just something about winding country roads on hot summer days that makes your right foot heavy and thus the wind on your face and all through your hair indeed all the more glorious.
in my speed, i passed an old white farmhouse that had a sign propped in the front yard next to a table full of glassware that said "FREE." so, i pulled into the nearest driveway and turned around to head back to the table full of glassware and the sign that said free. and that's where i met lester. i hope that some day i'm like lester, or that my husband, widowed or not, is in some way like him too.
he had beautiful, countless wrinkles all over his face like a map of the state of virginia. rivulets and winding roads, his face with elevated plains. he was suntanned like sweet caramel and wore a crown of bleached white hair. he moved slow but with strength. he had a crisp white undershirt on with suspenders by his side, chashew colored trousers and his work boots nice and worn like an old thatched roof.
he had lived there in that house about forty years and in that small town since the 1930's. he had two wives over the course of his life- both now deceased. they had each shared some time, living with him in that beautiful old white farmhouse.
his smile drew you in and his gentle voice was a near whisper. his daughter lived in another white house across the road from his. i glanced back as he told me this, thought maybe i'd see her on the porch, but had no such luck. he had a ball cap on with a large visor that stood tall atop his wispy white hair. lester. you just don't hear names like that these days.
i found some beautiful dishes on the long tables that his belongings were strewn across. when i first pulled into his drive he was "just setting up shop," peeling back tarp after tarp, going from one table to the next, uncovering all the dishes that had been hidden from the rain that was on-again off-again all week. he said that the large sign boasting "FREE" always got the people to stop- just like it did me. i told him he had a great collection of tools. some were new but mostly old. it's the old things that have such beauty and character. just like lester- old and full of stories.
while i walked along the tables, filling my plastic grocery bag, lester sat on a covered bench swing next to the table that held most of his tools. he told me that most of the items for sale he had acquired at auctions. he brought a crystal dish over to me still donning its old price tag; $25.00, it said. lester showed me the only blemish he could find, said his eyes were too weak to see it, but his fingers had come across it. gently caressing the rim of the bowl he came to the small chip of missing glass and had me feel its roughness. he probably would have asked a quarter for it. he seemed to be a very generous man.
i wondered how much stuff he had inside. if his whole house was full of nick knacks and trinkets from living life the past seventy years there- with his first wife and second, the scampering of children in and out, young and now grown. living on in that house and a bed once shared. i wondered how often his daughter, in the other white house, came for a visit or maybe to share some dinner. if i lived near those white houses, i'd like to think that i'd sit out there a lot with lester. we'd sit out on the bench swing and watch the sun set and hear the birds sing. and maybe i'd remind him of his former wife, or a daughter, or maybe just that there is still love to be held and life to be shared.
after i gave him five dollars, we exchanged goodbyes and waved a few times. and as i pulled back onto that winding country road, with the windows down and my hair all a mess, lester waved once more. glancing back, the sunlight became surreal and quite suddenly soothing. and picking up speed, the white house out of sight, i simply thanked God for this humble introduction.