Flashback Friday – Mine Eyes Have Seen

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/8/07 at Exit 51

Mine Eyes Have Seen

I was watching the movie Notting Hill the other day. Total chick flick. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always get weepy at the end. There’s a scene where Julia Roberts gives Hugh Grant a painting. She says something about how it makes here think about what love feels like.

We all have our own ideas about what love feels like. Maybe it’s a touch on the back of the neck. Or the warmth of a hand in yours. But what does love look like? And how does that change over a lifetime?

There is one day I clearly recall being in the presence of a lifetime of love. I was coming home from work on the bus after a tragically ordinary day. The ride held nothing unusual and I took on my usual mass transit demeanor; I sat staring out the window, blocking out the noise and people around me. It must have been early spring because I remember being weighed down by the heaviness of my sweater and coat and the light fading early, long before I got home.

To gaze out the window facing me on the other side of the bus, I had to stare through an elderly couple that occupied the seats in front of it. I paid them no mind. To be truthful, I was oblivious to them until they signaled for the bus to stop. Hearing the ringing of the bell, I looked at the hand that slowly lowered to resume its place in the woman’s lap.

As the bus pulled up to the corner, the couple raised themselves from the seats. Once the doors opened, it took them a few moments to descend the steps. She exited the bus before he did and as he navigated those three steps, he practiced a routine that must have been familiar to him. Grab the rail, place the cane on the step, lower one foot, lower the other, place the cane on the next step, and so on.

My attention was riveted on them while most everyone else looked at the traffic light, probably hoping that we didn’t miss the green light and have to sit there longer. Once the elderly man reached the sidewalk, he reached over to his waiting companion, took her left hand, and quietly placed it just above his right elbow. Supporting one another, they walked down the street and out of my life, unaware of my interest in them.

I’ve never forgotten the feeling I took away from seeing that. To this day, it remains one of the sweetest gestures I have ever seen. In that one action I heard unspoken words of trust and respect, support and endurance. Watching that corner scene, I almost felt as though I was spying on the couple. It was no more than a moment and yet it was one that struck me as intimate and personal, not for public display.

I’ll never know who those people were. But if I could, I’d thank them for giving me hope that love can be present in the quiet moments of everyday life even after a lifetime together.

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8 Responses to Flashback Friday – Mine Eyes Have Seen

  1. What a lovely story! I love that they propped each other up, moved as one.

  2. this story made me a little teary eyed.

    and I always cry at the end of Notting Hill.

    • Wendi says:

      Beth, I’m a huge sucker for Notting Hill. And who would have thought that I’d ever see something so beautiful on the bus? It was definitely not my usual MTA experience.

  3. Emily Revere says:

    Your post reminds me of the couple I saw on my first trip abroad in 1999. I hit the ground in England armed with an instiable appetite for history and a 35mm camera.

    It was a glorious Saturday morning in the park on High Street. Kensington Palace fairly shone in the sun. I was soaking up local color and listening to the myriad of accents swirling round me.

    Children were painting on the sidewalk or feeding the pigeons. The ubiquitous Brits were walking the ubiquitous British dogs.

    There was an elderly couple seated on a park bench in the sunlight. They were well up in years and dressed as some English people do, in both hat and coat. her hat was fashionably out of fashion. Obviously, this was an occasion for them.

    Occasionally, the gent would bend his head towards the white haired woman and gesture with his cane at some far off sight that he did not want her to miss.

    She would tug affectionately on his coatsleeve to draw his attention to another sight to be seen. They were enjoying both one another’s company the English sunshine and the impromptu entertainment..

    I realized that they had seen so much of life and history. They had survived the War, seen the devastation of their city, lost loved ones in the rubble and experienced Hitler’s hate up close and personal. They were survivors, still comfortable and even pleased with one another’s company some 70+ years later.

    As I watched them for a while, I suddenly realized that amidst all the other goings on in the park, this was the one scene I was MEANT to see.

    Here was the picture that defined the whole experience for me. When I snapped the shutter I KNEW that wonderful as the shot was it lacked SOMETHING. I quickly blew on the lens to fog it ( it IS England after all) I waited while the haze cleared from the center of the lens outward. then I snapped again.

    Since this was still film territory for me I had to wait until I got back home to see the results.

    The result is the most fabulous picture I have ever taken, both from a technical standpoint and an aesthetic one. The lens is cleared jsut enough to see the subjects ( the couple) clearly. The rest is a hazy watercolor fantasy.

    It still hangs in my living room on the England Wall. This is a testament to unconditional love.

    I understand your perspective!

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