A gift from the garage
By CHRISTINE TAILER
’T was the week before Christmas, and ... I had to go down to the city. It was really something that I did not want to do.
It was just one of those things that I had to do, for every two years, every lawyer has to attend a certain number of continuing education courses, and with less than two weeks left in the year, my time was running short.
So, I drove down the creek road in the pre-dawn darkness to get to the downtown seminar on time.
I passed by country houses with their colorful Christmas lights still shining. The decorations certainly made the drive pass quicker, but as darkness grew into dawn, and families headed off to work and school, the lights dimmed and the day began.
It was fully daylight as I headed across the bridge into the heart of the city. I was one of many in the slow flow of the cities’ morning rush-hour traffic.
I had not really decided where I should park, but as I neared the hotel where the seminar was to be held, I realized that it was close to the garage where I used to park when the children were young and we would head downtown to see the holiday train display and tour the department stores’ decorated windows.
I drove up the ramp into the garage, marveling that that the street side sign posted an hourly rate that was well over twice what I remembered. I had also noticed that the lettering on sign was streaked and dirty.
The inside of the garage was dark and gloomy and the cement pillars were cracked with age. Large chunks of cement had even broken loose from the corners of the garage walls.
This was not quite the garage that I remembered.
I did recall that the garage had six or seven parking levels, and when I rounded the turn onto the third floor, I was surprised to see countless empty parking spaces stretching out ahead of me.
I parked, but before I walked away, I turned to look back at my little mud-streaked car sitting at the edge of the empty expanse of dingy cement.
I walked down the ramp to the elevators, my heels clicking on the oil stained floor, and pulled open the dusty door to the elevator vestibule. It had occurred to me to simply walk down the stairs to the street below, but I was somehow skeptical of what I would find in the stairwell. The elevator seemed to be my best bet, but I was not surprised to find that the elevator buttons were actually indented with wear, and that the small descending box
creaked as it lowered to street level.
I looked over at my sole fellow passenger, a businessman. “I have not been downtown for a while,” I smiled. “Things certainly seem to have changed.”
He agreed that the price of parking was now outrageous.
I wondered if he saw what I saw, or if his city glasses shaded the garage’s dusty dinge.
I left the elevator and walked down the sidewalk towards the hotel. The entire block across the street was under construction. The crew was in the process of raising a large beam to the top of second story pillars. I wondered if this new structure was going to be an office building or would perhaps become what I thought was a sorely needed new garage. I stopped to ponder, and as I stood there watching, I noticed a small flock of pigeons, scratching through a ground level pile of loose dirt. One was a solid dark, almost charcoal, gray bird.
Another was a piebald light grey, with white tips to his wings and a white ring around his neck, and there was a perfectly matching pair of slate gray birds with green iridescent chests and blue shoulders. They were all perfectly beautiful.
As I watched the birds, it occurred to me that I was seeing them through newly appreciative eyes. Living in the country and tending to the details of marking and the distinct personalities of my own small flock of pigeons, had led me to watch these city birds as I had never watched city pigeons before.
The fat charcoal gray bird appeared to be dominant, the others moved away as he drew near. The piebald bird appeared to be a female, or at least she caused the large gray male to swell his chest and bobble his head as he cooed a low courtship song to her. She bobbed her head back at him and continued to peck at the ground. I now know that such is the way of pigeons.
I looked back at the old garage. Did it always look this way, even when I lived in the city, or had my eyes somehow been washed clean by the clear creek air? I honestly do not know, but I do know that I can say with certainly that I was proud to look down at my shoes under the seminar table and see some of the morning’s clean creek mud still clinging to my heels.
And at the end of the day, I was ever so happy to join the flow of traffic that was leaving the city. I smiled to think that on Christmas morning, I would wake up at the creek, knowing without a doubt that this would be one of the greatest gifts of all.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.