The Lady of Big Pine Way

Jim Gustafson

Visitors: 150

There is a place in my town where you can choose between fried chicken, hamburgers, and tacos. You can get your nails done, do your banking, get stuff for your beyond and your bath, and eat a faux Australian steak. It’s all at the intersection of the six-lane US 41 and a little street called Big Pine Way.

I travel US 41 each morning on my way to my office. As I do, I am fascinated by those who I see walking. I don’t mean people who walk for recreation. I mean those for whom walking is there only means of transportation. One such person is the elderly woman whom I have dubbed “The Lady of Big Pine Way. " I see her at least once each week, as she crosses US 41 at Big Pine Way. The light turns green and she begins her long journey across the six lanes. She takes small steps befitting her age, the short strides symptomatic of limited flexibility and maximum patience. It is dark in the morning, the lights from signs, street lamps and headlights illuminate her path. She shuffles her way with determination and daring. By the time the light changes she has forge only halfway through the intersection. Then her safety depends on us drivers who wait for her to finish crossing. She marches on in her slow way. Her movements carry a touch of defiance as if to say, “I have a right to be here, too. "

In the dim early morning, she has always seemed to me a tragic and lonely figure. I have imagined that she is returning home alone from some undemanding graveyard shift. Her shuffle extenuated by her fatigue. I have seen her to be a survivor, carving out a lonely life, alone, old, and sad. But on this day The Lady of Big Pine Way is transformed….

For as she crossed with her stumbling pace
There was a broad smile across her face.
Clearly happy with where she was going
Her face was bright, shiny and glowing.
Those waiting to accelerate
Smiled as they watched her shuffled gate
For on this morning, upon her head
She’d placed a Santa Cap White and Red.

Tis the Season


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