Dust Yourself Off

little turtles all in a row“I can’t look!”  Margaret pulled the hem of her apron up to shield her eyes.  “Don’t tell me what he’s saying.  I can’t listen to any more.”

Gladys laughed.  “Margaret, what are you talking about?”

Margaret let go of her apron with one hand, squinched her eyes shut and pointed.  “Over there.  That fellow on the bench.  He made some kind of mistake, and now he’s mad at himself.  Why must they do that?”

Gladys turned to look in the direction of the bench, as Basil approached.  “Good afternoon, ladies.  What am I missing?”

“Margaret is worried about that fella on the bench.  She seems to think he’s being harsh on himself for some sort of transgression.”

Jon hopped off his skateboard and said, “Trans – what?  What’s going on?”

Margaret spun around to face away from the bench.  Wiping her hands on her apron she said, “Don’t they understand?  That’s the point.  That’s what their time is all about – trying and making mistakes, and trying again.”


Jon walked over to stand next to Margaret.  “I don’t get it.  What did he do?”

“It doesn’t matter, dear.”  Margaret shook her head.  “Whatever he’s done, he ought to apologize, if necessary, learn from the mistake, and get ready to try again.  That’s much more productive than wallowing in the after-effects of the mistake.”  Margaret took a step forward and stopped.  “Oh, no!  There’s another one.  I can’t bear to watch.”

Basil reached over to pat Margaret on the shoulder.  “There, there, Margaret.  It’s what they do.”

Gladys said, “Yes, and they do it well.  Some make a full-time career out of beating themselves up.  It can be quite entertaining.”


Jon walked over to a woman standing under an oak tree.  Her head was bent over her cell phone as she reread texts in an effort to understand what she’d said that had caused an apparent problem.  Jon looked back at Gladys, “Looks to me like she could be having a lot more fun.”

“That’s the other thing they do, or I might say, don’t do.”  Gladys lit a cigarette.  “They forget that they are supposed to be having fun.  I never forgot to have fun.”

Margaret smiled, “Yes, dear.  We know.”

“In all seriousness, Margaret, why have they convinced themselves that life is supposed to be some sort of chore?  They make it more so by continually reliving their mistakes.”

Basil nodded his head.  “For once I agree with you, Gladys.  They ought to dust themselves off, and get back out there.”

With a filtered cigarette poised between the first and second fingers of her right hand, Gladys cupped her hands around her mouth to yell.  “Dust yourself off!  Get back out there!”  Gladys turned to Basil.  “Do you think he heard me?”  Just then, the man on the bench looked over his shoulder.

Basil smiled.  “I think he wants to hear you, Gladys, but he can’t.”


Jon walked back to where Margaret was standing, and bent to pluck some blossoms from a forget-me-not next to his board.  “I never did understand that.  They get older and they forget to have fun.”

Margaret knelt down and picked some blossoms, handing them to Jon.  “Do you remember what it was like?  As we got older, we started to bend under the judgments and criticisms of others.  Depending on how much we listened, we started trimming away the parts of ourselves that met with the most criticisms.  If we made a mistake, and it was viewed harshly, well, we became hesitant to try again.  It’s a shame.  I wish we could find a way to tell them to quit taking those judgments to heart.”

Gladys looked at her reflection in her compact as she reapplied her lipstick.  “Well if I’d listened to all the criticisms I’d gotten over the years, I would never have had any fun.”

Basil laughed and said, “You certainly could teach them the finer points of having fun, Gladys.  For that matter, so could you, Jon.”


Jon approached the woman who was still flipping through her texts.  He laid the bouquet of forget-me-nots at her feet.  Margaret smiled, “You know, dear, she’s far too preoccupied with her ‘mistake’ to notice that lovely bunch of flowers.”

He walked back to grab his skateboard and said, “I guess that’s another one of those things that they have to learn the hard way.”


Basil, Gladys, Jon and Margaret are wise spirits who observe our follies, eat scrumptious pie and reminisce about their own stories from their time on this side.

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  1. Thank you! Moving on is so much harder than the decision to. Then you think you are strong enough and all of a sudden you feel wobbly. That little purse string hangs on even though you swear you cut it for good and you keep looking at it wondering what you did wrong. Should I have cut it sooner? Should I be more persistent? All that pondering leads to 2 things…. Let it be. Look up.

  2. Z,

    I’ve been absent from the blog…. Dealing with the wobbly, and looking up. A lot. I think I’m getting a handle on it.

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