November 17, 2010
I was walking out of Borders Bookstore with destination in mind when I was stopped short by a small mass impeding my path in the middle of the sidewalk. Glancing down to investigate the best strategy for overcoming this obstacle, I discovered it was a small child. Padded so thickly in fluffy winter clothing that it was difficult to imagine a person inside, he was struck still, head tilted upward and one arm raised with a woolen mitten dangling and spinning slowly from sleeve, the only sign of movement.
My eyes traced the invisible line stemming from small pointing finger to sky. It was late afternoon, and I could remember an ancient intrigue of first realizing that the moon is often visible in the sky while the sun still shines. Something that most people know but rarely gaze up to see. But now the sky was shrouded in half-clouds and I didn’t see a moon.
Sidewalk squares ahead, the child’s parents finally realized their offspring was a slowly-sprouting statue on the Borders sidewalk, and they hollered back an encouragement for him to catch up. “Moon.” The sole word uttered from the mitten-toting keystone’s mouth. So I squinted at the sky as hard as my eyelids had strength, examined the slim connect-the-dots space between clouds, and slowly a tiny sliver of moon, hardly visible to an unsearching eye, came into focus.
Later that day, freed from the stilting child’s wonder, a friend flippantly mentioned how the child she babysits obsesses over the moon. It struck a chord that sounded to me like an important memory. But she jumped erratically to the next topic and talked on.
This is the difference between the experience and the retelling. Between the story and the summary. Between the taste and the food critic’s review. Between the friend’s nostalgic stories and the weekend spent visiting their childhood home. Between the discussion of love and its actual shoulder-popping-back-in-the-joint sensation: to get clobbered in the middle of the sidewalk by the sight of a hazy sliver of moon while everyone else walks by.