A Distant Wave

One of my favorite traditions growing up was “The Stoughton Wave”. After family or friends would come for a visit, we would all gather outside upon their departure to wave goodbye. But this was no ordinary wave. We would head to the sidewalk for maximum viewing distance. We would begin waving madly as they came out of the driveway, and continue as they drove down the street. We would not stop waving until they were completely out of sight. Repeat visitors knew this, and would roll their windows down and extend hands, arms, handkerchiefs and hats to return our waves until they could no longer see us.

We were optimizing every moment “together”.

This tradition has followed me into my adult life, and even my grandson knows to look out of his open window and wave as my daughter and her family head home. During a recent visit, he got a “boo-boo” on the top of his right middle finger and was delighted to discover I had Batman bandages. At the end of their visit, I stood by the curb on our busy street, watching as their car made its way down the driveway.  As it slowly passed by, my darling 4-year old grandson shoved his middle finger out of the window and yelled, “Kiki look!”, and waved it at me the whole way down the street.  God I love that kid!

So now we are in week three of isolation. Dire news mixed with cold wet weather have made self-quarantine difficult. Last Thursday, the sun made a three-hour appearance, so I took that opportunity to tear myself away from Facebook and visit the townhome community I manage in the hopes of getting a little work done.

As luck would have it (I am typing in my sarcastic voice), an underground pipe burst, and my Maintenance Supervisor scrambled to make the repairs before the sun went down. Storm clouds threatened to darken the skies before sunset, and I walked back toward my office to get a message to my residents that they would be without water for the night. I anticipated stressed responses, and braced for the worst.

Coming out of my office, I noticed one of my residents standing in the field watching over his two young sons as they played. I made my way toward him, but stopped much shorter than I would have two weeks ago. We exchanged pleasantries and then discussed the topic on everyone’s mind… the recent news of the pandemic, how tough it was to be stuck at home with small children, and how happy we were to have a few hours of nice weather. As we talked, I noticed other residents outside as well. Three people (separately and distantly) walking their dogs. A man going for a jog. Two women standing behind their gates, chatting with each other while keeping their distance. Two more people at another building, having a conversation while standing on opposite sides of a car. A man unloading groceries, and a young couple standing behind their vehicle simply gazing at the sky.

Except for the social distancing, this is typical of a city like New York. But in my small Texas town, it is rare to see so many people outside in the middle of the day. It felt different… nice … warm … surreal.

They could all now see the flow of muddy water pouring into the parking lot. They had all seen the Maintenance Supervisor digging in the courtyard. They all saw the threatening skies and knew that our weather was about to take a turn. And by now, most had received the message that they would be without water overnight.

I would find out later that not a single one of them had responded to my message with anything less than kindness and understanding.

As I turned to look at these people across the field, parking lot, sidewalks and cars, one by one they waved.

And I waved back.

For as long as I could.


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