Free Associating in Our Back Yard

Free Associating in Our Back Yard:

I realize I talk about my wife Linda quite a bit, but she’s the human I see and hear more than anyone I’ve ever known. For those of you who remember Gracie Allen, George Burns’ wife and long time comedy partner, Linda has just a touch of Gracie Allen in her. Burns used to say to his wife at the end of their act, “Say goodnight, Gracie.” And Gracie would smile at the audience and say, “Goodnight, Gracie.”

“Room” is the name of one of the movies up for an Academy Award this year. If you haven’t seen it or read about it, it features a mother and son, who’ve been kept captive for years by the father of the boy, who kidnapped the mother before the story begins. They’ve been in “Room” for somewhere around six years.

Linda and I haven’t been out of the house very much lately. A couple of days ago, she gazed around and said, “I feel like we live in ‘Room.’”

We’ll do something about that, but today, for example, after breakfast, I was going to go out front and walk to the park. Then I saw Linda in the back putting some potting soil into a flowerbed behind the sunroom. So, I decided to go out into the backyard. It’s not huge, but big enough to walk around in and do my exercises.

As I did that, I looked over at Linda and realized that instead of walking out into the world–seeing through my younger eyes, which I can’t help doing sometimes–I’d chosen to get my exercise by walking in circles on a small patch of earth behind my house, close to a woman whose entire concentration was fixed on planting baby tears, and who is, according to most the outside world anyway, an old lady.

She doesn’t look like an old lady, not even to someone more objective than I am. But knowing her age, if I were still young, I’d have to say, “That’s an old lady.”

Of course she’s not; she’s my wife Linda, who looks to me like the young woman I married, and I expect she always will.

One time, we went to see a friend of ours in a production of Chekov’s “The Seagull.” As we were talking to the actress after the show, Linda gifted the woman with her vocal impression of a seagull, which she does quite convincingly. If you didn’t see her doing it, you’d turn around and look for the seagull that must have just landed nearby.

Night before last, it was unusually warm for February. We were on our patio in the back, having a glass of wine before dinner. Linda looked up and, on the house next-door, saw something that caught her eye.

In a hushed voice, she said, “Look. A hawk.”

I said, “It looks more like a crow… Maybe it’s not a bird at all.”

“It’s a hawk,” she insisted.

I stood up and moved a little closer to it. Then I sat back down.

“It’s a dish,” I said. “You know, to get their television signal.”


I think she still thought it was a hawk. I’m sure I was seeing their TV dish. But I suppose it’s… possible I was wrong. It could have been a hawk. Maybe it flew away as I was getting up to go look at it, and by the time I got there, all I could see was the big object our neighbors have on their roof to get TV reception.

In my mind (I think), I hear Linda’s voice: “Say goodnight, Rick.”

Goodnight, Rick


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