John Howell Sr. Editorial 12/31/2014

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Expectation in child’s face after night spent in car leaves me wondering

Walked on a Mississippi winter morning in my hometown. Not a winter postcard morning with snow or frost but mud and standing water from heavy rains that arrived with a cold front whose northerly wind yet pushed lingering rain droplets against my face.

The clinging gloom resisted daylight’s encroachment. Gunshots echoed from the river bottom. Some determined hunter claimed venison or perhaps venison with trophy attached.

Maybe if trophy enough we will see the photo later entered into the big buck contest. They will measure the antlers and count points and such to determine a winner.

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Will they notice of the antlers how no two sets are alike? How each set is the naturally-sculpted signature of the individual buck? And he grew them only for this season after shedding an equally unique but perhaps smaller pair the season before?

It troubled me that the car that was parked at the walking space when I arrived was still there as I made my rounds on the trail. I had expected to have the place entirely to myself on this wintry day. Instead, I found a small auto with its engine running and no occupants immediately visible.
When I parked, I walked around the car, not staring — just glancing into the space long enough to spot what I thought was the form of human occupancy. Walking on, I pondered what.

I thought during my first round on the far side of the asphalt trail, when the car went out of my sight, that the driver might decide to move on and avoid further intrusion. But it was there after the first course and still there when I had completed my usual rounds. By the time my walking ended I had decided that I would at least make contact with the occupant before I drove off.

As I neared the two parked cars, I spotted a head that had popped up in the mystery car, a small head that closer inspection revealed belonging to a beautiful child of perhaps one year, peering out with expectation about what a new day would bring.

A woman — the child’s mother — was slumped down in the driver’s seat asleep. I rapped on the window and asked if they were alright. She roused, slightly startled at the nuisance I had forced into her space. She assured me that they were alright and did not need anything.

I drove away wondering what sad story lay behind the mother and child sleeping in their parked car that wintry morning. I hoped that the day that finally dawned yet under clouds somehow lived up to the expectation with which that child had first greeted it, peering from the car’s window.